Asymmetrical reciprocity

From recognition to responsibility and back

Steffen Herrmann

pp. 73-87

In this article, I argue that Hegel’s concept of recognition and Levinas’ concept of responsibility complement each other and lead to the idea of an asymmetrical reciprocity in which the origin of our social relations is not mutual equality, but rather mutual inequality. I will unfold this argument in three steps. I will first work out a fundamental asymmetry of recognition in Hegel by means of the figure of the bondsman before elucidating in a second step the asymmetry of responsibility in Levinas by means of the figure of the hostage. In the last and third step, I will correlate both asymmetries and show how far the asymmetry of recognition and the asymmetry of responsibility constantly develop from and transition into one another in our social relationships.

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