‘Lord and Bondsman on the Couch’ by Mladen Dolar

Published in American Journal of Semiotics 9 (2/3):69-90 in 1992. Download link updated on 26. June 2021.

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There is perhaps no other passage in the history of philosophy which has met with such a delirium of interpretations and so much scrutiny as the couple of pages where Hegel deals with the dialectic of lord and bondsman. The passage presents a scene which is both spectacular and overladen with metaphysical hidden meanings and consequences. It has often served mistakenly so—as a touchstone of the Hegelian enterprise as a whole, a clue to his project. Can the Lacanian reading, with this abundance of conflicting views where everything seems to have been said, all the approaches already tried, significantly add to the delirium?


Mladen Dolar is Professor and Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana since 1982 and has served as the Advising Researcher in Theory at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands. He is also Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. His principal areas of research are Psychoanalysis, Modern French Philosophy (Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, Badiou, et. al.), German Idealism, and Art Theory, especially Musicology. With Žižek and others, Dolar was the co-founder of the Ljubljana Society of Theoretical Psychoanalysis, whose main aim is to read late 18th cent. and early 19th cent. German Classical Philosophy through the frame of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. His main field of expertise is the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel, on whom he has written several papers, including a two-volume interpretation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit first published in Slovene between 1990 and 1991. Dolar has lectured extensively across many different Universities in Europe and the United States and is author of hundreds of papers in different scholarly journals and in various collected volumes. Apart from over twelve monograph publications in Slovene, his books published in English most notably include A Voice and Nothing More and Opera’s Second Death, both of which were translated into several languages. His new book The Riskiest Moment is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

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