Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialectic Applied to Capitalism | Richard D. Wolff

eorg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)
Written by JoAnn Chateau

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel argued that the slave and master are interdependent. How does this relate to capitalism?

“Economist Richard Wolff draws parallels between Hegel’s master/slave dialectic and modern-day worker/employer relationship. The resemblance is uncanny.” ~ Richard Wolff’s Talking Sense

“Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) is one of the greatest systematic thinkers in the history of Western philosophy. In addition to epitomizing German idealist philosophy, Hegel boldly claimed that his own system of philosophy represented an historical culmination of all previous philosophical thought. Hegel’s overall encyclopedic system is divided into the science of Logic, the philosophy of Nature, and the philosophy of Spirit. Of most enduring interest are his views on history, society, and the state, which fall within the realm of Objective Spirit…” ~ Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

READ MORE: Hegel: Social and Political Thought | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy 

Philosophy and Capitalism



About the author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She sometimes writes fiction about Chester (the Alpha Bichon) and his friends -- with a dash of humor and dab of Poli-Sci. JoAnn's views and insights are tinted by her past profession in Counseling, Christian theological studies, and Library and Information Science training. Retired now, JoAnn enjoys the creative life.


  • Thanks, JoAnn, for the reference to Hegel’s Philosophy of Right–of the relationship and interplay between the subjective and objective. I especially focused on his idea of Abstract Right which I see as relevant to the ever widening political chasm between conservatives (especially “libertarians”) and liberals (as opposed to neoliberals). The relationship between opposing political factions and the employer and employee, I think, are prime examples of the lack of regulatory enforcement of the “imperative of right.”

    The imperative of right is: “Be a person and respect others as persons” (¶ 36). In this formal conception of right, there is no question of particular interests, advantages, motives or intentions, but only the mere idea of the possibility of choosing based on the having of permission, as long as one does not infringe on the right of other persons. Because of the possibilities of infringement, the positive form of commands in this sphere are prohibitions.

    I am reminded that, to me, the most ignored tenet in the Gospels—and one of the most inconsistent tenets with any overall, objective reading of the Bible (especially the OT)—is Luke 6:31 – “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

    The further one is to the religious and political right, the more that tenet fades until it becomes nonexistent to the hard core holders of religious certitude and its effect on politics and the workplace. It is an example of the a breakdown in the proper balance of power between the “free will” and the “imperative of right.”

    In any case, this was my take. The Golden Rule and the logic of a political, Aristotelian Golden Mean (in the sense of social and economic justice) are my core values as outlined in my post:

    • Thanks for your insight, Max. I wonder if altruism often aligns with self-interest. Possible? If so, how can we get on that track as a society? Maybe you address something like that in your book. It looks interesting!

      • Thanks, JoAnn. I recall in philosophy we discussed arguments for and against altruism and, yes, I think any “selfless” act of kindness benefits the actor in some way, but I still consider it altruistic if the only benefit for the actor is self-satisfaction.

        And yes, the novel is basically a means to relate what the world would look like if Benevolent reciprocity and universal empathy, not self-interest, were our primary motivating forces. This subject became something of an obsession to me in college,

        If you like, and have the time, you can read the preface of the book at

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