Overt vs Inconspicuous Enslavement

A friend of mitda’s wondered aloud the other day as to whether her and her Master’s lack of overt protocol meant they were “less” an M/s couple than others with more overt protocol. While I don’t intend to imply the opposite – that those with an overt protocol are “less” M/s, it does seem to me that the use of a slave as part of the Master’s equipmental context, in other words his/her world, is a less conspicuous but no less fundamental type of enslavement than the high protocol type of M/s relationship where the enslavement has to be reiterated constantly by demonstration.

every conceivable entity is nothing less than an item of equipment. No being can be reduced to its presence-at-hand. The most useless flake of stone does not escape the system of tools; the tiniest grain of sand still is what it is, surging into existence, where it throws its weight around. No matter how negligible these entities are, they are not without their significance— even if for most humans this meaning is that of “triviality”. Beneath its indifferent surface, every entity occupies a highly determinate position in the system of significance that forms the world. In short, the analysis of tools is concered only incidentally with the human use of tools. Its real subject matter is the stance of entities themselves in the midst of reality. The bridge is not a bridge due to the fact that Dasein uses it; the reverse is the case. A tool isn’t “used”; it “is”.”

Phenomenology and the Theory of


By Graham Harman

© 1997

demonstrating this thesis in terms of M/s the slave “ is” in the Master’s world, whether noticed or not, whether overt or not. The slave “is” in a more essential and immediate sense than any other part of the Master’s world, since it is the slave’s enslavement and corresponding enownment of the Master that makes the Master who he/she is and defines that Master’s world. The Master is a Master due to the fact that he/she uses the slave, who on his/her part simply “is” and is by virtue of his/her appropriate place in the Master’s world.

2 responses to “Overt vs Inconspicuous Enslavement

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