Axel Honneth’s The Struggle for Recognition develops an empirically anchored theory of social conflict based on Hegel’s theory of recognition. In this book, he. Axel Honneth has produced a useful and convincing account of the “struggle for recognition.” Honneth comes from a study of Habermas rather than Kojève, but. View Axel Honneth, Honneth, the Struggle for Recognition Research Papers on for free.

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Recognition has both a normative and a psychological dimension.

Arguably, if you recognize another person with regard to a certain feature, as an autonomous agent, for example, you do not only admit that she has this feature but you embrace a positive attitude towards her for having this feature.

Such recognition implies that you bear obligations to treat her in a certain way, that is, you recognize a specific normative status of the other person, e. But recognition does not only matter normatively. It is also of psychological importance.

Most theories of recognition assume that in order to develop a practical identity, persons fundamentally depend on the feedback of other subjects and of society as a whole. According to this view, those who fail to experience adequate recognition, i.

Misrecognition thereby hinders or destroys persons’ successful relationship to their selves. It has been poignantly described how the victims of racism and colonialism have suffered severe psychological harm by being demeaned as inferior humans Fanon Recognition theory is thought to be especially well-equipped to illuminate the psychological mechanisms of social and political resistance.

They promise to illuminate a variety of new social movements—be it the struggles of ethnic or religious minorities, of gays and lesbians or of people with disabilities. None of these groups primarily fight for a more favorable distribution of goods. This entry will first discuss some controversies surrounding the very concept of recognition 1 before reviewing four dimensions of what is recognized by whom and on what grounds that have been highlighted by different theories of recognition 2.

However, even in light of these differentiations some authors have expressed the fear that concentrating on the issue of recognition might supplant the central problem of re distribution on the political agenda 3. Finally, the often rather sanguine descriptions of recognition and its potential for emancipation 4 have been fundamentally challenged: The concern is that because the need for recognition renders persons utterly dependent on the dominating societal norms it may undermine the identity of any critic.

Thus, some worry that struggles for recognition may lead to conformism and a strengthening of ideological formations 5. Recognition presupposes a subject of recognition the recognizer and an object the recognized. Before asking what kind of subjects and objects of recognition are possible 1. Whereas we identify an X as an X without necessarily affirming it as and because of Xrecognition requires a positive evaluation of X.

However, it is the meaning of mutual recognition that lies at the heart of the contemporary discussion. Mutuality has always served as the explanatory and normative core of the concept of recognition.

Most theories draw on G. Hegel who was, in turn, heavily influenced by Johann Gottlieb Fichte for their common roots in Jean-Jacques Rousseau see Neuhouser According to Fichte we become conscious of our own autonomy by being challenged—or as Fichte would characterize it: Only by understanding that the other’s actions are intentional can we also grasp our own actions and utterances as expressions of an intentional self.

This thought is most famously expressed in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit where this interpersonal encounter logically culminates in a struggle of life and death see esp.

Within the Phenomenology this idea is first and foremost a thesis about how we can gain self-consciousness as autonomous agents, namely only by interacting with other autonomous subjects see in more detail 2. However, this idea also leads Hegel to consider the importance of differing forms of mutual recognition.

In Hegel’s story of the state of nature social relationships are a perhaps forgotten given: A person who attacks your property does not primarily want to gain material goods. Rather, she wishes to remind you, the first possessor, that she is a person with moral standing as well who has been neglected by the act of taking first possession Siep39; Honneth44— As becomes especially clear in the Phenomenology: By fighting against the other the subject wants to affirm her own freedom by proving that her normative status is of more importance to her than any of her animal desires, including—at an extreme—her desire to live.

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However, such fighting, expressive of autonomy, must lead to an impasse as it cannot achieve mutual recognition: Thus, adequate recognition can only be achieved within an institutionalized order of rights that secures genuinely mutual recognition Williams59— Hegel develops this latter thought most systematically in his mature Philosophy of Right. It has been argued that focusing on the idea of mutuality may limit the scope of recognition too much.

Rather, we should distinguish between a narrow understanding of recognition based on the feature of mutuality and a wide understanding grounded in the idea of adequate regard Laitinen The latter reading emphasizes that by affirming a valuable feature of any entity i.

Thus, the wide understanding allows for many objects of recognition that cannot themselves be subjects of recognition. However, so far this constitutes a minority position. By contrast, because most theorists of recognition argue that recognition is a genuinely interpersonal endeavor, they conclude that only subjects of recognition can be proper objects of recognition. At its margins, this narrow understanding of mutual recognition between persons raises the question from which point onward children can start to be subjects of recognition and whether at least some animals can qualify as such.

Most theories of recognition—drawing, for example, on psychoanalytic object-relations theory see in more detail 2.

This suggests, of course, that human babies face the surrounding world differently than even the most developed animals do see in more detail 2. When it comes to the question of collective agency, there is still considerable uncertainty within the literature. In the following, this entry distinguishes between i groups, ii corporations or states and iii institutions more generally. Recently, there have been attempts to introduce the notion of recognition into the field of International Relations, beyond the common usage of a legal recognition of states.

Certainly, citizens frequently speak as if their state was disrespected by another state but it remains to be seen whether these citizens are in fact merely indignant about their government being disrespected or they themselves as members of the state. In both cases the recognition of states presumably simply denotes a metaphorical usage.

A lot depends on one’s definition of institutions, which can be part of a state for example, a state’s constitution or transcend state borders as the institution of the free global market.

Institutions cannot as easily be described as collective actors. Still, given that they are human products, there is broad agreement that an institution say, a constitution can disrespect persons because institutions, besides effectively regulating behavior, always express—as well as reinforce—underlying attitudes of those who designed or keep on reproducing them. In distinguishing between a civilized society where individuals do not humiliate each other and a decent society where at least the institutions do not do so, Avishai Margalit1—2 explicitly affirms this point.

Furthermore, political resistance as a moral endeavor would prove to be unintelligible if we did not assume that political institutions and not only the agents acting within them could be subjects of misrecognition.

But can institutions themselves be misrecognized? We can differentiate the concept of recognition according to the kind of features a person is recognized for. Most agree that only in a formal sense is recognition a vital human need or an anthropological constant.

New demands of recognition always owe themselves to the historically established and changing ideas of what kind of recognition we deserve. This is illustrated by the rather recent historical development in which the premodern concept of honor which was assigned to persons as members of a group within a hierarchical social structure was divided into two parts: Whereas the former now guarantees a basic level of recognition for everyone, the latter creates a hitherto unknown insecurity with regard to the question of what kind of recognition one deserves Taylor34—35 ; an insecurity which, according to some authors, has led to the growing importance of intimate love and friendship within the private sphere.

Kantians—and liberals more generally—usually concentrate on the first dimension of the modern recognition order, i. Hegelian theories of recognition, by contrast, embrace a more encompassing view of recognition attempting to cover all spheres of recognition within modernity.

Finally, Taylor thematizes the recognition of concrete individuality in contexts of loving care that are of utmost importance to subjects. However, because love as well as friendship is, according to him, a purely private phenomenon, it does not constitute a sensible subject of public contestation and politics Taylor It is these three dimensions of the modern recognition order—which reach back to Hegel’s treatment of the subject—that have been primarily analyzed in the discussion critical Fraser b, — They have even been interpreted as genealogically distinct stages along which individual persons gain self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem Honnethch.


Hegel’s famous idea that we gain self-consciousness only through a process of mutual recognition see 1. Only mutual recognition that grants others the status of an epistemic authority allows us to construct a normative space of reasons: I know that the truth of my judgment depends on you being able to share it Brandom Thus, such accounts try to explain how reason can enter the world in the first place—and therefore this kind of elementary recognition does not seem to depend on values or norms but rather be a source thereof.

However, human beings never create their world or the reasons they use from scratch. Rather, they are embedded in holistic webs of meanings which they jointly reproduce and may hereby also redo. Theories of recognition hereby provide the ground for a critique of atomistic views of subjectivity especially in Taylorpart I. Some have even argued that only empathy with other persons allows us to take over their perspective Cavell which, again, seems to be a prerequisite for sharing their evaluative reasons: These ideas have gained additional currency by psychological findings suggesting that the child’s brain can indeed only develop cognitively if she is able to be emotionally attached to her primary care-givers.

Axel Honneth

Only by being interested in sharing experiences with other autonomous beings does the child gain access to the world of meaning TomaselloHobson In this vein it has been argued that people come to recognize others as persons very early on.

Already the baby learns to recognize her attachment figures as intelligible beings, i. Quite automatically, so the argument goes, the child then later perceives all other humans as humans. In sum, this elementary form shows that recognition is not only needed for the creation and preservation of a subject’s identity, but that it also denotes a basic normative attitude.

Whereas Brandom concentrates on rather basic normative ascriptions, all phenomena of recognition can be described as inherently normative. In particular, there is one specific form of recognition in modernity that seems to flow quite naturally from our basic capacity of recognizing each other in the elementary form sketched so far, namely equal respect.

Ever since the idea of universal human honnrth has been established in modernity, assigning equal dignity or respect is commonly thought to be the central dimension of recognition. Nearly every moral philosopher writing today accepts this Kantian idea, even if not all embrace it in the terminology of recognition. One of the authors who explicitly does so is Thomas Scanlon.

Recognition (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

This relation […] might be called a relation of mutual recognition. For Scanlon, therefore, moral blame is especially relevant because it signifies a disturbance of this basic relationship Scanloncritical Wallace What is valued here, again, is autonomous agency, the capacity to respond to reasons.

Most discussions in moral and political philosophy can be seen as disputes over what it means to recognize the other as equal, foor. Appraisal respect resembles esteem see 2.

As we face a continuum fod severe degradation to phenomena of which it is hotly contested whether they are disrespectful, quite a few theories of recognition have focused on the negative experiences of clear disrespect. In fact, the normative expectation of being treated with respect is most obvious when we look at extreme forms of humiliation in which specific groups of humans are symbolically and consequently also materially excluded from humanity, are treated like animals or mere objects.

In response to such extreme forms of humiliation, Margalit has concluded that our primary political aim should be to strive for a decent society instead of a fully just one Margalit— and there has been some discussion about whether recognition theory has a natural affinity with minimal or negative theories of morality Allen Being faced with extreme humiliation, the interplay between normative and psychological aspects becomes especially salient.

Even if the victims know that their degradation is unjustified, they cannot but feel humiliated all the same. Any trust in being able to control their lives is stripped away from them. In the course of mistreatment, torture and rape the perpetrators do not only intentionally inflict pain and injury on their victims but honjeth deride the agency of the latter.