This article examines the figures of life and death as rhetorical and material conditions for self-consciousness and mutual recognition, notoriously described in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. It turns to Hegel's treatment of life and death, concepts that—according to Hegel's mature system—anticipate and prefigure the struggle for recognition and its master-slave dialectic. Part 1 analyzes the Philosophy of Nature, with attention to how the sex relation, species-life, and the diseased body “pathologically” figure the life and death of the nonhuman (animal) organism. Part 2 takes up Hegel's “Anthropology,” which opens his Philosophy of Mind, exploring the problematic relationship between (reproductive) sex and love as an incipient politics of woman, family, civil society, and state. Part 3 brings Hegel's world-historical system into dialogue with contemporary biopolitics, arguing that recognition today is driven by a world-historical discourse on bios and that Hegel's “pathological” figures might occasion a productive critique of affirmative biopolitics.

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