Recognition is one of the most debated concepts in contemporary social and political thought. Its proponents, such as Axel Honneth, hold that to be recognized by others is a basic human need that is central to forming an identity, and the denial of recognition deprives individuals and communities of something essential for their flourishing. Yet critics including Judith Butler have questioned whether recognition is implicated in structures of domination, arguing that the desire to be recognized can motivative individuals to accept (...) their assigned place in the social order by conforming to oppressive norms or obeying repressive institutions. Is there a way to break this impasse? -/- Recognition and Ambivalence brings together leading scholars in social and political philosophy to develop new perspectives on recognition and its role in social life. It begins with a debate between Honneth and Butler, the first sustained engagement between these two major thinkers on this subject. Contributions from both proponents and critics of theories of recognition further reflect upon and clarify the problems and challenges involved in theorizing the concept and its normative desirability. Together, they explore different routes toward a critical theory of recognition, departing from wholly positive or negative views to ask whether it is an essentially ambivalent phenomenon. Featuring original, systematic work in the philosophy of recognition, this book also provides a useful orientation to the key debates on this important topic. (shrink)
ABSTRACTIn this article I examine Axel Honneth’s positive theory of recognition. While commentators agree that Honneth’s theory qualifies as a positive theory of recognition, I believe that the deeper reason for why this is an apt characterisation is not yet fully understood. I argue that, instead of considering only what it is to recognise another person and what it means for a person to be recognised, we need to focus our attention on how Honneth pictures the practice of recognition as (...) a whole, which according to him works to make societies into places of greater freedom. This conception of recognition as a freedom-enhancing practice is supposed to provide a solution to a key problem of Frankfurt School critical theory, namely of how to determine the emancipatory practice in which critical theory is rooted, which becomes apparent as soon as one turns to the context in which Honneth originally develops his theory of recognition. At the end of the article, I offer a few reasons for doubting the overly positive picture of the practice of recognition that Honneth provides us with. (shrink)
Judith Butler is often referred to as a thinker who disputes the positive view of recognition shared by many social and political philosophers today and advances a more "ambivalent" account of recognition. While I agree with this general characterization of Butler’s account, I think that it is not yet adequately understood what precisely makes recognition ambivalent for Butler. Usually, Butler is read as providing an ethical critique of recognition. According to this reading, Butler believes that it is important for persons (...) to be recognized but that recognition is at the same time experienced as oppressive and hence is ethically ambivalent. Against this reading, I advance the view that Butler does not develop an ethical critique but rather an ideology critique of recognition. What makes recognition ambivalent for Butler is, as I will argue, that it can serve social functions behind the backs of the participants and be implicated in the reproduction of problematic social orders. I elaborate this argument by drawing on Butler’s analyses of the violent exclusion of genders that are not unambiguously male or female from the social realm, which, on my reading, is directly connected to the recognition of persons as male or female in everyday life. (shrink)
Bringing together leading scholars in contemporary social and political philosophy, this volume takes up the central themes of Axel Honneth’s work as a starting point for debating the present and future of critical theory, as a form of socially grounded philosophy for analyzing and critiquing society today.
Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition has recently been criticised on the grounds that it conceives of the relationship between recognition and power in terms of an opposition. According to Honneth’s critics, this is too simple because recognition and power are often intertwined. My aim in this article is twofold: On the one hand, I seek to understand why Honneth conceives of recognition and power as opposed. As I will argue, this is not the result of bad theorising; rather, there are (...) important methodological considerations that account for this conception – specifically, the idea that one can develop an immanent critique of power in line with the tradition of the Frankfurt School only by adopting the participant perspective. On the other hand, I agree with the gist of what Honneth’s critics say and want to make a systematic proposal as to why opposing recognition and power is too simple. This proposal will build on the argument developed in the first part and will consist in the claim that to treat recognition and power as opposed is to consider recognition relations exclusively from the participant perspective in contrast to the observer perspective. As a result, the potential entanglement of recognition with problematic social arrangements cannot come into view. (shrink)