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Tag: recognition

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


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]

Towards a Conflict Theory of Recognition

Image: A protester prepares to hit riot police with a stick during clashes at Syntagma squar

by Georg W. Bertram and Robin Celikates (2013)

In this paper, we develop an understanding of recognition in terms of individuals’ capacity for conflict. Our goal is to overcome various shortcomings that can be found in both the positive and negative conceptions of recognition. We start by analyzing paradigmatic instances of such conceptions—namely, those put forward by Axel Honneth and Judith Butler. We do so in order to show how both positions are inadequate in their elaborations of recognition in an analogous way: Both fail to make intelligible the fundamental nexus between relations of recognition and individuals’ capacity for conflict. We then move on to reconsider aspects of Hegel’s view of recognition—ones that, from our viewpoint, have been unjustly neglected in the debate about recognition: his focus on the constitution of relations of recognition in conflict and on the status of being an author of acts of recognition. On this basis, we then spell out in a more systematic way what we take to be a more convincing conception of recognition. This puts us in the position to gesture at some consequences of this conception in practical contexts, above all with regard to the justification, role and structure of political institutions… [READ PDF]

Omnipotence or Fusion? A Conversation between Axel Honneth and Joel Whitebook


Madonna Lita – Leonardo da Vinci 1490

Constellations Issue 23. Number 2 – 2016

Joel Whitebook: This discussion has a long history. In fact, it’s almost twenty years old now. It goes back to the academic year of 1995–1996, when I was teaching in the philosophy department in the psychoanalytic studies program at the New School, and Axel [Honneth] was the Theodor Heuss Professor for the year. Axel’s book The Struggle for Recognition had been translated into English and was being widely discussed. And in psychoanalysis, this was the heyday of the relational movement. “Relationality” had become the hot topic. Steve Mitchell and Jay Greenberg’s text had become something of a basic text of psychoanalysis which everybody was using. In The Struggle for Recognition, Axel drew on material from the relational psychoanalysts, from infant research, and from Donald Winnicott, and tried to integrate that into his analysis of the young Hegel and Aristotle. But the use he was making of analysis, the analysis he was appropriating at the time, was from this very lively world of relational psychoanalysis and infant research. Jessica Benjamin had tried to do something similar before that with her synthesis of Winnicott and Hegel around the theory of recognition. . .  [Read PDF]


The Failure of the Recognition Paradigm in Critical Theory


by Michael J. Thompson (PDF)

Critical theory has been decidedly transformed over the past thirty years by the influence of ideas that, in many basic ways, run counter to the initial set of ideas and propositions that defined and shaped the first generation of critical theorists. Now, critical theorists deal with questions of human rights, dignity, justification, and theories of democracy. They have broken with a more robust, more insightful, and more radical project of understanding the mechanisms of social domination, the deformation of character and the deformations of cognitive and epistemic powers that explain the increasing acceptance of the prevailing social order and the increasing integration and legitimacy of pathological forms of social life. The break was effected with a move toward pragmatist themes on the one hand and toward a concern with neo-Idealist ideas rooted in Kant and Hegel. This reworking of critical theory has been centered on the elimination of ideas rooted in Marxism and into a kind of system building that champions the supposed self-transforming powers of intersubjective social action. Indeed, whereas Habermas has been highly successful at promoting a Kantian-pragmatist paradigm based in discourse, Axel Honneth’s work has been premised on a neo-Idealist return to Hegelian themes fused to pragmatist ideas about social action and self- and social transformation. I believe that this move has been lethal for the actual political relevance of critical theory, that it has drained it of its potency even as it has allowed for more professionalized success within mainstream intellectual and academic circles. The price paid for winning this acceptance, however, has been dear and it has compromised the very methodological and philosophical commitments of critical theory . . . [continue]

I that is We, We that is I


Hegelian Resources for Contemporary Thought

by Italo Testa

The demand for a “contemporary” reading of Hegel, through a translation of his vocabulary, and thus through a theoretical reform of the dialectic, was powerfully voiced in the first half of the twentieth century in Europe by Italian neo-Hegelianism, with the work of Giovanni Gentile and, particularly, of Benedetto Croce. The reform of the Hegelian dialectic championed by Croce—according to the well-known formula of the ‘dialectic of distincts’-lent new centrality to objective spirit, understood in historical, social and intersubjective terms, within a revival of the Hegelian idea of history as a history of freedom. But Croce understands history as an open process, which does not contemplate systematic closure through some form of absolute knowing. On another front, regarding the reading of the Hegelian spirit in an intersubjective vein,the influence of Alexander Kojève’s work is still very great. Kojève, in his lessons on the Phenomenology of Spirit in the 1930s, was the first philosopher to place the concept of ‘recognition’ (Anerkennung) at the center of the interpretation of Hegel, albeit in the context of an eminently anthropological interpretation of the dialectic and, as was the case with Croce, whilst prioritizing the philosophy of history. Kojève’s interpretation left its mark not only on the subsequent tradition of Hegelian studies in France, but also on French philosophical culture of phenomenological, existential and structuralist orientation, becoming an important point of reference for intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and later Judith Butler

But it is in the German tradition that Kojève’s intuition will be liberated from its unilateral aspects dictated by anthropological and existentialMarxism, to be presented as a possible, coherent model for the interpretation of Hegel’s practical philosophy. In this regard the tradition of Frankfurt critical theory, and especially of Jürgen Habermas, was decisive. Habermas begins, on the one hand, with the historical and social approach to the dialectic already matured within the philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno—whose Negative Dialektik (1966) represents another chapter of the twentieth-century theoretical reform of Hegelianism, based on opposition between the open and negative spirit of the dialectic and the positive closure of the system. On the other hand, Habermas reads Hegel also on the basis of the historicist, dialogical and linguistic approach to Geist  formulated by Hans-Georg Gadamer in Wahrheit und Methode (1960), rediscovering and reviving the continental hermeneutic tradition. Accordingly, Habermas, in Arbeit und Interaktion (1967), presents an interpretative model of the Jena conception of spirit as an ensemble of the “middles” of labor, language and recognition. Interweaving historico-philosophical investigation and conceptual analysis, Habermas essay—from which he would draw the ultimate consequences forty years later, precisely in an engagement with the new interpretations of Hegel developed in the 1990s—made it possible to read Hegel for the first time as the philosopher whose youthful intuitions anticipated and prepared the pragmatic and intersubjective turn at the center of the contemporary constellation: an anticipation of future trends, moreover, that for Habermas was immediately negated by the successive subjectivistic closure of Hegel’s mature system. The problem with this reading, however, was that it completely expunged the role of the Phenomenology—the very text that stands at the center of the current Hegelianism—while delivering Hegel to the metaphysically-oriented subjectivist tradition.

It will be, then, from the meeting between the theoretical work of the Frankfurt School and the exegetic and history-of-philosophy current of Hegelian studies—centering, from the 1960s, around the Hegel-Archiv in Bochum—that the Hegelian theory of recognition, thanks to the work of Ludwig Siep, by the late 1970s would enter the German interpretative tradition no longer as a particular aspect but rather as the general principle for the comprehension of Hegel’s practical philosophy. Reconnecting with Habermas’s reading and, in particular, with Siep’s studies on Hegel’s Jena writings, Axel Honneth, from within critical theory, with his Kampf um Anerkennung (1992) would then make a decisive contribution to the affirmation of recognition asa new paradigm of contemporary social and political philosophy; and this, in the same year in which, on the American side, Robert Williams’ first work on the ethics of recognition is published. This paradigm—again, in 1992—would be relaunched by Habermas and Taylor also within the dawning philosophico-political debate on multiculturalism; a debate that, not by chance, was marked by the meeting of a European philosopher with a North American one whose philosophical position was shaped by an intense engagement with the con-temporary legacy of Hegel.Then, 1994, with the simultaneous publication of works by Pinkard, Wood, and Hardimon, and of McDowell and Brandom’s major works, is the year in which American Hegelian studies and the neo-pragmatism of Sellars and Rorty began to forge strong links and to present them-selves jointly as a new model for approaching Hegel. In successive years also the European philosophers would begin to engage with this new American Hegelianism, an engagement whose first important consolidation would come in 1999 with the publication of a monographic section of the European Journal of Philosophy dedicated to the theme of Hegel’s Legacy and then, in 2001, with  a direct moment of wide-ranging and articulated debate on the occasion of the first Venice conference on Contemporary Hegel. . . [read more]