In this pathbreaking study, Axel Honneth argues that "the struggle for recognition" is, and should be, at the center of social conflicts. Moving smoothly between moral philosophy and social theory, Honneth offers insights into such issues as the social forms of recognition and nonrecognition, the moral basis of interaction in human conflicts, the relation between the recognition model and conceptions of modernity, the normative basis of social theory, and the possibility of mediating between Hegel and Kant.
The theory of justice is one of the most intensely debated areas of contemporary philosophy. Most theories of justice, however, have only attained their high level of justification at great cost. By focusing on purely normative, abstract principles, they become detached from the sphere that constitutes their “field of application” - namely, social reality. Axel Honneth proposes a different approach. He seeks to derive the currently definitive criteria of social justice directly from the normative claims that have developed within Western (...) liberal democratic societies. These criteria and these claims together make up what he terms “democratic ethical life”: a system of morally legitimate norms that are not only legally anchored, but also institutionally established. Honneth justifies this far-reaching endeavour by demonstrating that all essential spheres of action in Western societies share a single feature, as they all claim to realize a specific aspect of individual freedom. In the spirit of Hegel’s _Philosophy of Right_ and guided by the theory of recognition, Honneth shows how principles of individual freedom are generated which constitute the standard of justice in various concrete social spheres: personal relationships, economic activity in the market, and the political public sphere. Honneth seeks thereby to realize a very ambitious aim: to renew the theory of justice as an analysis of society. (shrink)
Over the last decade, Axel Honneth has established himself as one of the leading social and political philosophers in the world today. Rooted in the tradition of critical theory, his writings have been central to the revitalization of critical theory and have become increasingly influential. His theory of recognition has gained worldwide attention and is seen by some as the principal counterpart to Habermass theory of discourse ethics. In this important new volume, Honneth pursues his path-breaking work on recognition by (...) exploring the moral experiences of disrespect that underpin the conduct of social and political critique. What we might conceive of as a striving for social recognition initially appears in a negative form as the experience of humiliation or disrespect. Honneth argues that disrespect constitutes the systematic key to a comprehensive theory of recognition that seeks to clarify the sense in which institutionalized patterns of social recognition generate justified demands on the way subjects treat each other. This new book by one of the leading social and political philosophers of our time will be of particular interest to students and scholars in social and political theory and philosophy. (shrink)
Die Theorie der Gerechtigkeit gehört zu den am intensivsten bestellten Feldern der zeitgenössischen Philosophie. Allerdings haben die meisten Gerechtigkeitstheorien ihr hohes Begründungsniveau nur um den Preis eines schweren Defizits erreicht, denn mit ihrer Fixierung auf rein normative, abstrakte Prinzipien geraten sie in beträchtliche Distanz zu jener Sphäre, die ihr”Anwendungsbereich“ist: der gesellschaftlichen Wirklichkeit. Zur Begründung dieses weitreichenden Unterfangens weist Honneth zunächst nach, daß alle wesentlichen Handlungssphären westlicher Gesellschaften ein Merkmal teilen: Sie haben den Anspruch, einen jeweils besonderen Aspekt von individueller Freiheit (...) zu verwirklichen. Im Geiste von Hegels Rechtsphilosophie und unter anerkennungstheoretischen Vorzeichen zeigt das zentrale Kapitel, wie in konkreten gesellschaftlichen Bereichen - in persönlichen Beziehungen, im marktvermittelten Wirtschaftshandeln und in der politischen Öffentlichkeit - die Prinzipien individueller Freiheit generiert werden, die die Richtschnur für Gerechtigkeit bilden. Das Ziel des Buches ist ein höchst anspruchsvolles: die Gerechtigkeitstheorie als Gesellschaftsanalyse neu zu begründen. (shrink)
In the early 20th century, Marxist theory was enriched and rejuvenated by adopting the concept of reification, introduced by the Hungarian theorist Georg Lukács to identify and denounce the transformation of historical processes into ahistorical entities, human actions into things that seemed part of an immutable "second nature." For a variety of reasons, both theoretical and practical, the hopes placed in de-reification as a tool of revolutionary emancipation proved vain. In these original and imaginative essays, delivered as the Tanner Lectures (...) at the University of California, Berkeley in 2005, the distinguished third-generation Frankfurt School philosopher Axel Honneth attempts to rescue the concept of reification by recasting it in terms of the philosophy of recognition he has been developing over the past two decades. Three distinguished political and social theorists: Judith Butler, Raymond Geuss, and Jonathan Lear, respond with hard questions about the central anthropological premise of his argument, the assumption that prior to cognition there is a fundamental experience of intersubjective recognition that can provide a normative standard by which current social relations can be judged wanted. Honneth listens carefully to their criticism and provides a powerful defense of his position. (shrink)
One of liberalism’s core commitments is to safeguarding individuals’ autonomy. And a central aspect of liberal social justice is the commitment to protecting the vulnerable. Taken together, and combined with an understanding of autonomy as an acquired set of capacities to lead one’s own life, these commitments suggest that liberal societies should be especially concerned to address vulnerabilities of individuals regarding the development and maintenance of their autonomy. In this chapter, we develop an account of what it would mean for (...) a society to take seriously the obligation to reduce individuals’ autonomy-related vulnerabilities to an acceptable minimum. In particular, we argue that standard liberal accounts underestimate the scope of this obligation because they fail to appreciate various threats to autonomy. (shrink)
Axel Honneth has been instrumental in advancing the work of the Frankfurt School of critical theorists, rebuilding their effort to combine radical social and political analysis with rigorous philosophical inquiry.
In this volume Axel Honneth deepens and develops his highly influential theory of recognition, showing how it enables us both to rethink the concept of justice and to offer a compelling account of the relationship between social reproduction and individual identity formation. Drawing on his reassessment of Hegel’s practical philosophy, Honneth argues that our conception of social justice should be redirected from a preoccupation with the principles of distributing goods to a focus on the measures for creating symmetrical relations of (...) recognition. This theoretical reorientation has far-reaching implications for the theory of justice, as it obliges this theory to engage directly with problems concerning the organization of work and with the ideologies that stabilize relations of domination. In the final part of this volume Honneth shows how the theory of recognition provides a fruitful and illuminating way of exploring the relation between social reproduction and identity formation. Rather than seeing groups as regressive social forms that threaten the autonomy of the individual, Honneth argues that the ‘I’ is dependent on forms of social recognition embodied in groups, since neither self-respect nor self-esteem can be maintained without the supportive experience of practising shared values in the group. This important new book by one of the leading social philosophers of our time will be of great interest to students and scholars in philosophy, sociology, politics and the humanities and social sciences generally. (shrink)
In this paper, Axel Honneth replies to the five critical accounts of Freedom's Right contained in this issue of Critical Horizons. He first discusses the methodological and systematic objections raised by Schaub and Freyenhagen, and then defends his approach vis-à-vis the other three critical accounts with reference to two social spheres – the sphere of personal relationships in the case of McNeill and McNay, and the market sphere in the case of Jütten. Among the significant clarifications of his account, Honneth (...) accepts that he should allow for the possibility of institutional revolutions and that there could be social pathologies in the spheres of social freedom. He also distinguishes more explicitly between capitalism and market societies, suggesting that market socialism might be more institutionally suited to realize social freedom in the social spheres of production and consumption than capitalism is. He insists on the distinctiveness of modern friendships; the moral superiority of modern societies based on social freedom; and the need for a teleological orientation in our critical engagement with social phenomena such as gender inequality. (shrink)
The essays in this book weave together insights and arguments from such diverse traditions as German critical theory, French philosophy and social theory, and recent Anglo-American moral and political theory, offering a unique approach to the political and theoretical consequences of the modernism/postmodernism discussion. Through an analysis of central themes in classical Marxism and early critical theory, the author shows how recent work in a variety of traditions converges on the need to question familiar distinctions between material production and culture, (...) the public and the private, and the political and the social, and to reconsider the conceptions of agency and power that have informed them. (shrink)
It is always great good fortune for an author to have his writings meet with a receptive circle of readers who take them up in their own work and clarify them further. Indeed, it may even be the secret of all theoretical productivity that one reaches an opportune point in one's own creative process when others' queries, suggestions, and criticisms give one no peace, until one has been forced to come up with new answers and solutions. The four essays collected (...) here, in any event, jointly represent an ideal form of such a challenge: I am now compelled to make further theoretical developments and clarifications that lead me to a whole new stage of my own endeavours, well beyond what I initially had in mind in The Struggle for Recognition . For this reason, I will not concentrate here on interpretative issues regarding my earlier work but will instead take up the problems and challenges that have occasioned several revisions on my part. For this reason, it makes sense to begin (in section I) with the points that Carl-Göran Heidegren makes, in terms of a history of social theory, regarding my proposed theory of recognition. The issues that still motivate me today can best be expressed via an engagement with the conscientious interpretations he offers. The core of this rejoinder is based on Heikki Ikäheimo's and Arto Laitinen's suggestions and corrections, which they have used to develop my initial approach further, to the point where the theoretical outlines of a precise and general concept of recognition come into view. It is primarily these two contributions that helped me develop a productive elaboration of my originally vague intuitions (section II). By way of conclusion (in section III), I take up the penetrating questions raised by Antti Kauppinen regarding the use of the concept of recognition in the broader context of social criticism; he has compelled me to take on several extremely helpful clarifications, and they give me the opportunity, in conclusion, to summarize my overarching intentions. (shrink)
The idea that we are mutually dependent on the recognition of our peers is at least as old as modernity. Across Europe, this idea has been understood in different ways from the very beginning, according to each country's different cultural and political conditions. This stimulating study explores the complex history and multiple associations of the idea of 'Recognition' in Britain, France and Germany. Demonstrating the role of 'recognition' in the production of important political ideas, Axel Honneth explores how our dependence (...) on the recognition of others is sometimes viewed as the source of all modern, egalitarian morality, sometimes as a means for fostering socially beneficial behavior, and sometimes as a threat to 'true' individuality. By exploring this fundamental concept in our modern political and social self-understanding, Honneth thus offers an alternative view of the philosophical discourse of modernity. (shrink)
Despite the fact that the sociological notion ‘individualization’ contains the most heterogeneous phenomena, the article develops an interpretation of the fate of individualization in Western capitalism today. After having differentiated three different meanings of that notion with the help of Georg Simmel, the position is defended that the claims to individual self-realization, which have rapidly multiplied in the Western societies of thirty or forty years ago, have become so much a feature of the institutionalized expectations inherent in social reproduction that (...) the particular goals of such claims are lost and they are transmuted into a support of the system’s legitimacy. The result of this paradoxical reversal, where the processes which once promised an increase of qualitative freedom are henceforth altered into an ideology of de-institutionalization, is the emergence in individuals of a number of symptoms of inner emptiness, of feeling oneself to be superfluous, and of absence of purpose. (shrink)
One of the dominating themes in the first part is the negative treatment that Marx’s concept of labor has received by late critical theorists, particularly Habermas. While supportive of the rejection of Marx’s economic functionalism entailed by Habermas’s adoption of communicative action as the basic category of critical theory, Honneth worries about the indifference towards the normative potential of labor that he sees in most twentieth-century social theory. Honneth agrees with critics of reductionism that labor is neither the only form (...) of social reproduction, nor a primary source of emancipatory consciousness, as the fragmentation and depolitization of a working class that has suffered the effects of Taylorism clearly manifests. But Honneth is still convinced that the experience of recognition is to a large extent associated with work, and that Habermas tends to understand interaction in terms of instrumental action, making the concept of interaction inadequate to capture the sort of normative claims expressed by workers who do not see themselves sufficiently recognized in the labor they do. Although Honneth acknowledges that he has not settled how to navigate between these competing interests, the clarity of the call for a more complex concept of labor justifies the inclusion of these papers in the volume. (shrink)
Edited by Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch & Christopher Zurn. This volume collects original, cutting-edge essays on the philosophy of recognition by international scholars eminent in the field. By considering the topic of recognition as addressed by both classical and contemporary authors, the volume explores the connections between historical and contemporary recognition research and makes substantive contributions to the further development of contemporary theories of recognition.
This is a penetrating reinterpretation and defense of Hegel's social theory as an alternative to reigning liberal notions of social justice. The eminent German philosopher Axel Honneth rereads Hegel's Philosophy of Right to show how it diagnoses the pathologies of the overcommitment to individual freedom that Honneth says underlies the ideas of Rawls and Habermas alike. Honneth argues that Hegel's theory contains an account of the psychological damage caused by placing too much emphasis on personal and moral freedom. Although these (...) freedoms are crucial to the achievement of justice, they are insufficient and in themselves leave people vulnerable to loneliness, emptiness, and depression. Hegel argues that people must also find their freedom or "self-realization" through shared projects. Such projects involve the three institutions of ethical life--family, civil society, and the state--and provide the arena of a crucial third kind of freedom, which Honneth calls "communicative" freedom. A society is just only if it gives all of its members sufficient and equal opportunity to realize communicative freedom as well as personal and moral freedom. (shrink)
Moral-theoretical categories have almost disappeared from the theoretical vocabulary of sociology. Neither perceptions of legitimacy nor perceptions of injustice, neither moral argument nor normative consensus now play a significant role in explaining the social order. Instead the object of sociological inquiry is understood either according to the pattern of anonymous self-organization processes or as the result of cooperation among strategically-oriented actors; accordingly, the disciplinary role models are biology or economics, whose conceptual models appear suited to explain such a complex process (...) as the reproduction of societies. One may easily get the impression that current sociology wishes to finally bid farewell to the generation of its founding fathers; since from Weber and Durkheim to Talcott Parsons, it was a settled matter that an adequate basic conception of the social world could only be derived using the concepts, models, or hypotheses of moral theory – practical philosophy was, so to speak, the foundation and guiding discipline for classical sociology. After the “Theory of Communicative Action”– the last grand sketch of a complete social theory based on the sources of practical philosophy – all this seems to have been forgotten. In any event, it could until recently appear that with Habermas’ book the tradition of a normatively oriented sociology has come to an end. It is mostly due to the efforts of a small group of researchers in France – which assembled around Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot – that there continues to be a strand within social theory that employs sources of moral philosophy. Having emerged from an internal critique of Pierre Bourdieu's sociology, the works of this highly productive circle, probing ever new directions, seek to explain the integration of our societies through the interplay of different moral convictions.1 The foundational text of this sociological school is the study On Justification, originally published in 1991.2 This book, which has meanwhile also been published in German,3 deserves careful consideration not least because it represents the most interesting attempt of the more recent past to give sociology a basis in moral philosophy. (shrink)
ABSTRACT In his recent book, Recognition: A Chapter in the History of European ideas, Honneth has explained how he understands the French concept of recognition. This article places Honneth's latest interpretation in the context of his long-standing and evolving engagement with French theory over several decades. Honneth acknowledges his significant debt to a French tendency to view recognition as a problem for self-realisation. Bourdieu's and Boltanski's account of how ambitions become limited by the availability of capital and the internalisation of (...) class was a major breakthrough in Honneth's intellectual development. Other formative French influences included the articulation of denigration in existentialist phenomenology, and the idea of regulative power in Foucault, with “deconstructive” asymmetrical care presented as productive but comparatively less important. The discussion also reveals why Honneth presents the “German” concept of recognition as having basic explanatory force, and why he resists what he views as a French-influenced tendency to depict recognition as ambivalent. The discussion reveals, on one hand, how working across perceived divides can be immensely productive, and, on the other hand, why a French-German divide remains entrenched in contemporary thinking. (shrink)