In the Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, Kojève develops the master–slave dialectic. Here, the origin of history and the origin of human relationships is raised. History begins when two thinking desires are connected. The desire of one human desires the desire of the other. Humans want the other humans to recognise them and submit to them.
Humans want desires. The animal wants things and eats them. The conscience of human is desire, it is not an interiority, humans are thrown outward wanting things. The two desiring consciences present a fight to death, it is resolved when one of the two consciences is afraid to die and submits. The one who is afraid of dying puts the fear of death before the desire.
The dominant figure is the master, the other figure with fear of dying is the slave.
The master depends on death. The slave depends on life.
This is the beginning of human history. The master does not kill the slave, the master allows the slave to live and only destroys the slave’s autonomy. The master needs the slave to stay alive and to be recognised. The master must subdue the slave.
The slave does not risk life anymore, and the master becomes lazy.
The master is totally dissatisfied. The master risked their life to get recognition, but the recognition has lost all value. The one who recognises the master as a master is a slave, someone who is no longer autonomous.
The slave works for the master, the master is paralysed in passivity, leisure and enjoyment. The master receives what the slave gives and becomes an idle being. The slave works the matter. The slave begins to build the culture because the culture is the work that the human exerts transforming the matter.
The slave creates and feels more human than the master. Working with matter the slave discovers humanity and creates history. The slave transforms nature, owns nature, masters nature. The master stays passive, and the slave becomes active. The master only consumes what the slave makes, the master destroys what the slave has made.
The slave develops the culture. The slave rejects its instinct to consume right away the raw material, the slave transforms nature. Work is the negation of desire, it is formation and education. When forming the object to be consumed by the master, the slave educates themselves.
The slave denies the master by taking power over the culture.
The revolutionary transformation done by the slave negates the given nature, negates the matter by transforming it, and negates the given world by not accepting it. The origin of this negation happens because of the terror the slave feels when they are afraid to die under the hands of the master. The master unintentionally ferments the slave’s freedom. At the same time, the only way for the master to experience freedom is dying. Death must take place in combat.
This is the master-slave dialectic.
Later in history appears god, and both slave and master become slaves of god. It is equality in the servitude of the divine. The religious human is slave and master at the same time, master of the universe but slave of god. Slave to the capital, but not to their own capital. The unhappy religious humans believe their actions belong to god. Sad lonely workers serving the divine. The religious humans do not know that they are reaffirming their individuality through the action of work, transforming the matter.
The church is the seed of the state.
The human must forget the misery of the awaiting and become active in the state. The slave is now the citizen of the state, and voluntarily chooses to work. The real bürger is the citizen, the synthesis of master and slave, the soldier that works and the worker ready for war, the private owner.
Hegel expresses the triumph of the bourgeoisie, and the appearance of a new historical subject. Marx, develops a philosophical thought that starts from matter to express this new historical subject. The proletariat works with matter in the factory of the aristocrat/bourgeois. The proletariat is based on the slave of Hegel who works the matter.