W. E. B. Du Bois, double consciousness and the ‘spirit’ of recognition

Nasar Meer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this article is to unpick and explore Du Boisian ideas of minority consciousness and double consciousness, to elaborate why they are of value and worth redeeming, and to situate them in relation to the Hegelian phenomenology. The article shows that while an understanding of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic is helpful in grasping how Du Bois conceives of the power held by a dominant group to afford status, Du Bois was keenly aware that no less important was the ability to invoke complicity or use coercion in denying recognition. To this end the article refuses the view that Du Bois straightforwardly adopted a Hegelian approach in a manner that minimises how this aspect of Du Bois’ work also reflected remarkable intellectual originality that overcame Hegel’s weaknesses. The article goes on to demonstrate how Du Bois’ concept presents sociology with something of normative category that captures the dual character of unrecognised minority subjectivities and their transformative potential, alongside the conditions of impaired status that are allocated to racial minorities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-62
Number of pages16
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number1
Early online date19 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Du Bois
  • Hegel
  • consciousness
  • race
  • recognition
  • phenomenology


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