We will at last be breaking open the most notoriously obscure, fantabulous work of philosophy ever: Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.This is the early Hegel: anti-metaphysical and historicist, as opposed to the later Hegel previously discussed in our philosophy of history episode and ripped on by Kierkegaard and Schopenhauer. It's a frickin' acid trip, this book is.
We'll focus on the most famous portion of the work: Part B on Self-Consciousness, though I can't see how we'll entirely avoid talking about earlier sections of the book. (The Introduction is an easier point of entry if you're reading along than the Preface.)
We tend to think of people as basically selfish, which implies that we are fully formed, autonomous individuals by nature with certain needs. Hegel argues that instead, "the self" is an achievement. We only gain a sense of who we are, or even that we're a being distinct from other beings, by interacting with other people, and it's really their treatment of us that determines what we initially take ourselves to be. So far from being these balls of greed that Hobbes makes us out to be, we are initially not all that differentiated from our surroundings and have to build ourselves up to be individuals and figure out what we really want.
The most famous part of the text is on the "master and slave" relationship. This is Hegel's substitute for the idea of the Social Contract: instead of people forming together to make a deal of some sort, when people recognize each other as more than just objects, they perceive a threat: society starts with someone enslaving someone else. But as far as development of the self goes, the resistance the slave encounters actually allows the slave to develop a real "self" (in opposition to the master's will), whereas the master has no reason to be reflective and so doesn't develop a self. So ha, master! Bite it!
Buy the book,or you can look at this alternate translation by Terry Pinkard online.