So, do we care how well the master/slave dialectic applies to our relationship to companies? We might be able to figure that out by working through our Mom & Pop’s Tops example.
Mom & Pop’s Tops sells handmade hats. Pop sews, Mom builds the website and does the accounting.
I buy hats. I wear hats. Hats make me feel whole.
If Mom & Pop’s Tops didn’t make their hats (and, trust me, I can only really buy their hats), then I wouldn’t have a hat. If I didn’t have a hat, I wouldn’t feel very good about myself. But what about if I didn’t need a hat to feel good about myself? This is where we start to see an issue with the one-to-one relationship in the master/slave dialectic. But here’s how I think we can work through that: let’s skip right to the antithesis. That is, let’s assume there was a struggle between my hat-needing-self and Mom & Pop’s Tops’s hat production. They won: I need a hat more than they need me, specifically, to buy them. I’ve submitted to them.
It’s a common misconception that Hegel’s master/slave dialectic was an influence on Marx’s arguments about class struggle, but it is worth considering that even Marx’s focus was on the struggle between the individual capitalist and many workers. But I want to talk about the individual capitalist entity, made up of many workers and the struggle by the many consumers. How is that going to work?