Recognition as Passive Power: Attractors of Recognition, Biopower, and Social Power

Constellations 24 (2):192-205 (2017)
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Abstract

In this paper I analyze recognition as a kind of power. I analyze the notion of power in the general sense as some sort of causal capacity, and introduce the distinction between the active power of doing something and the passive power of undergoing something. Such a distinction is needed in order to capture some central features of the phenomenon of recognition, and in particular the way that ‘being recognized’ and ‘recognizing’ are intertwined. I then argue in favor of both the conceptual and genetic priority of the passive power of being recognized over the active power of recognizing. Furthermore, I introduce the notion of ‘attractor’ of recognition as a way to analyze some relevant features of the phenomenon of ‘being-recognized’. My approach to recognition as some kind of power, should here offer some tools not only to bridge the gap between the theory of recognition and the theory of power, but also to get the passive side of both power and recognition right. This could provide a more plausible and phenomenologically adequate understanding of both, and be useful to help capture and read anew within a recognitive grounding of critical theory some aspects of the contemporary debate on biopolitics.

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Italo Testa
University of Parma

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