Volume 2, 2006
Social and Political Philosophy
Hegel and the Dialectic of Racism
The modern conception of an atomistic subject constituting itself by excluding and dominating its other(s) remains insufficient for rethinking a "postcolonial subject" despite its merits in explaining the historical relationship between the Western subject and the Oriental other. Hegel seems to offer a promising alternative to this model. For Hegel, the construction of the subject does not take place in terms of the exclusion and oppression of, but in terms of a dialectical relationship to, its other, hence Hegel's model of subjectivity appears to be useful in rethinking the relation between the colonizer and the colonized in terms of mutual recognition and interdependent constitution. However, this appearance is misleading. In fact, the Hegelian model of the subject is the source of problems concerning the relation between self and other in general, and between the colonizer and the colonized in particular. Not only does Hegel attribute the possibility of the dialectical movement to a particular kind of subject (European), but his model of subjectivity reduces difference to opposition, and thereby obviates the possibility of rethinking a difference between the colonizer and the colonized. This paper tries to justify this observation through a discussion of Hegel's understanding of race as articulated in the third section of the Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften. I argue that Hegel's understanding of race in the context of the natural soul allows one to draw inferences concerning his general conception of subjectivity and dialectics. Accordingly, this paper claims that rather than providing an alternative model for postcolonial subjectivity, Hegel's notion of the subject grounds the colonial model itself.