Brutalization of the social conflict: struggles for recognition in the early 21st century

by cominsitu


by Axel Honneth (2012)

In several of his analyses, Talcott Parsons describes the establishment of modern societies as a differentiation process across spheres of mutual recognition. In this paper, I use Parsons’ social theory of recognition to examine features of recent social conflicts. I begin with Parsons’ description of the struggles for recognition that took place during his lifetime in the highly industrialized societies of the West (I). I then use Parsons’ view of normatively ordered recognition conflicts to point out societal trends that led, in the final third of the twentieth century, to a gradual undermining of the pacification structures postulated by Parsons (II). An initial outcome of this apparent disintegration I describe as a ‘brutalization’ of social conflict. By this I mean a state of society where struggles for social recognition escalate and become anomic because resolution can no longer be found in the existing systemic spheres of negotiation (III). This paper shows the importance of the term recognition to social theory by following Parsons’ theory in analyzing structural transformations that are currently emerging in response to social conflicts. [READ PDF]