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Reconnaissance, identité et intégration sociale

 | 
Christian Lazzeri
, 
Soraya Nour

Le concept de reconnaissance

Inclusion and Recognition in Post-traditional Societies. On the Developmental Logic of Normative Structures

Thorsten Fath

Texte intégral

1The world of the social is fragmented and fragile. Conflicting tendencies in contemporary highly-advanced societies exhibit the ambiguous status of our own modernity. Notwithstanding this, an incontestable progress in the normative realm has offered the members of modern societies unparalleled prospects for individual autonomy and social participation. This article presents and discusses some aspects of the internal developmental logic of normative structures that govern modern societies as they appear when we adopt the framework of Axel Honneth’s social theory of recognition. I want to elucidate the systematic link between inclusion and recognition by focusing on the broader setting of the progressive logic of normative claims in the process of social life.

2First, I will outline some principle aspects of the notion of inclusion in terms of Honneth’s theory of recognition. The aim is to show that “inclusion” can be better understood in the overarching perspective of a struggle for recognition and thus in the historical dimension of increasing chances for participation in relationships of mutual recognition. A special emphasis is given to the breakthrough of our societies to a fully-differentiated set of the three principle forms of recognition, namely love, legal respect and social esteem (Liebe, Respekt, Wertschätzung). I will then focus on the relation between anthropology and recognition. The central question here concerns whether (and how far) the three spheres of recognition can be considered as the result of an historical process, on the one hand, or rather as trans-historical constituents of personhood, on the other. In a further step (III), I attempt to explore the critics’ double task to identify the elements that transcendent the status quo our current interpretation praxis of legitimate demands for recognition, on the one hand and to preserve the general level of recognition-relations, on the other; a particular stress on the latter aspect is given by focusing on the issue of boundary shifts between the demarcation lines of the various recognition spheres. Recognition-relations that have to be conceived as transformations in the structure of a system of social interactions possess their own internal logic. What guaranties normative progress in the moral structures of recognition? I will argue that it is precisely the existence of clearly differentiated recognition claims that underpins and simultaneously locks in attained level of progress, accentuating thereby an implicit motive in recognition-theory.

Inclusion and recognition

  • 1 Honneth Axel,“Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions”, in Inquiry, Vol. 45, No. (...)
  • 2 Taylor Charles, “The Politics of Recognition”, in Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognitio (...)
  • 3 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)

3Honneth explicitly understands his theory of recognition as a theoretical insight which could only have become available on the basis of our own modernity—to which “we, the children of modernity”,1 commit ourselves strongly. Yet, he refutes the idea that “recognition” points to the existence of a specific new constellation in the current political discourse. Honneth’s theoretical endeavor is to refute Charles Taylor’s idea of “identity politics”2 by demystifying its suggestive linear “historical stylization”:3 Instead of reducing recognition to today’s publicly articulated claims of cultural and sub-cultural groups for the acknowledgment of their specific difference and characterizing this type of struggle for recognition as superseding all former types of social conflicts, historical evidence indicates that the struggle for recognition extends well beyond the current issue of so-called identity politics. While I cannot go into further detail regarding the complex debate about struggles for recognition of collective-identities as a new form of cultural politics, I will allow myself a short presentation of Honneth’s major insight that we can best understand the developmental logic of (pluralistic) modern societies as a struggle for recognition, and follow it up with an out-line of how Honneth integrates the concept of inclusion into his idea of historical progress in relationships of recognition.

  • 4 Honneth Axel, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, Cambridge, MA, (...)
  • 5 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)

4Drawing upon a weak philosophy of history, Honneth’s recognition-the-ory combines the two aspects of diachronicity and synchronicity in order to highlight the fact that relationships of recognition are processual and dynamic. I will focus on the latter aspect first. According to Honneth’s chief work The Struggle for Recognition,4 the members of post-traditional societies demand recognition in three different spheres each of which contributes to the formation of intact relations-to-self. The claims at issue are societal in the sense that they exhibit “normative expectations of society considered justified by those concerned”;5 their normative core is—ex negativo—centered around the individual’s expectation not to be disrespected or harmed. The morally and psychologically damaging effects of withheld recognition inform us of the vital importance of being recognized by others. We have distinct expectations regarding the quality of our relationship with our social interaction partner. These expectations articulate themselves in a threefold manner: In the sphere of intimacy, individuals expect to be recognized as needy beings. Their identity-formation relies on the recognition of their singular needs by loving partners. The recognition principle of legal respect grounds itself on the expectation to be treated as free and equal by every other member of society. Unlike in traditional societies, subjects in post-traditional societies expect to be treated in the figure of the “generalized other”, as Honneth says, drawing on Georg Herbert Mead’s social psychology, and not according to their respective social roles. The institution of modern law guaranties this form of recognition. Thirdly, the formation of undistorted self-identity is dependent on social esteem (Wertschätzung): Subjects as members of communities of shared value desire recognition of their specific contributions to the common good of those communities. Simultaneously, they seek to be recognized in their singularity, in what distinguishes them from every other member of society. And furthermore they expect recognition for their achievements with respect to the societal division of labor as defined by the “achievement principle” that governs modern societies.

  • 6 On the historical differentiation of the three types of recognition see: Fraser Nancy and Honneth (...)

5To turn now to the historical perspective, it is important to note that Honneth conceptualizes his tripolar model of recognition as the result of the historic transformation that took place in the passage from traditional to post-traditional societies.6 The transition to modern capitalist societies was accompanied by the dissolution of the concept of “honor” that existed in traditional societies. Hierarchies associated with mere provenance were flattened, instead “achievement” or “merit” was installed as a normative principle in the new moral order of post-traditional societies. Likewise, the amalgamation of legal respect and social esteem broke up with the emergence of the capitalist social order, leading to the institutionalization of the idea of legal equality. As for the sphere of intimacy, the recognition principle of love emerged alongside with the subjects’ newly gained freedoms in the social and economic sphere.

  • 7 See the famous programmatic essay of Horkheimer Max, “Traditionelle und kritische Theorie”, in Zei (...)
  • 8 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)

6On both the diachronic or the synchronic view, negative experiences of unjust suffering are conceived as the motivational basis of social conflicts. The evolution of the moral order of societies proceeds, according to Honneth´s main thesis, as a struggle motivated by feelings of discontent resulting from denied recognition. Therefore, an understanding of the dynamics of relationships of recognition can be seen as a moral grammar of social conflict. Most importantly, there can be no extra-mundane position for the critic to judge particular social relations or society as a whole, a formulation with which Honneth subscribes himself explicitly to the Left-Hegelian tradition and to Early Frankfurt School.7 In presenting the intuitive case that the theorist has to take up the pre-theoretical (and pre-political) language in which claims are made by individuals and members of groups, Honneth corroborates his own standpoint of an internal critique of society. Based on his reconstruction of past and present struggles for recognition and guided by the conviction of the “superiority of modernity”8 he elaborates his idea of an expansion of ethical life as a directed development of recognition relations linking the past with the present—and the future. Love, respect and merit act as a matrix for subjects to make their claims for intact relations-to-self in highly stratified plural societies.

  • 9 Cf. Beck Ulrich, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, London, Sage, 1992.
  • 10 Habermas Jürgen, “Individuation through Socialization: On George Herbert Mead’s Theory of Subjecti (...)
  • 11 On Honneth’s critique of Habermas see: Honneth Axel, “The Social Dynamics of Disrespect: Situating (...)

7One result of the social responses to the challenges of modernity is a new fragility of social bonds in general and the individual’s process of identity-formation in particular. In contrast to Ulrich Beck’s diagnosis that individual self-realization is thwarted in post-traditional societies by an increased dependence on sub-systems,9 Honneth follows Habermas in asserting the chances for a positive individualization in the process of contemporary social change—sub-systems tend to disburden individuals, thus facilitating enhanced possibilities for the subject’s identity-formation.10 Honneth parts company with Habermas regarding the details of processes of individualization, given that he does not want to restrict his perspective exclusively on communicative rationality11 when trying to ground and to extend the communicative paradigm by shifting the focus to recognition. While seeing (with Habermas) the increasing power of legal rights as one of the major sources of positive individualization, Honneth’s idea of a progress in the quality of individualization is, in addition to this, associated very strongly with the recognition order of social esteem: Aside from legal respect, persons need their distinctiveness from every other member of society recognized in order to successfully develop a self-identity. Respect and social esteem together with the principle of love span across a space of justified normative expectations that endow the individuals in modern societies with the capacity to develop intact relations-to-self and—consequently— to be increasingly included as members of that society. In sum, the recognition paradigm might be understood as a positive answer to the dangers of disintegration under the condition of modernity.

8If we understand “inclusion” departing from the concept of recognition, we open up a new way of grasping the moral quality of social integration. The transformation that leads up to the three fully-fledged types of recognition can be seen as the hallmark of modernity if we follow Honneth’s contention that

  • 12 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)

it seems justified to understand the breakthrough to the modern, liberal-capitalist social order as a moral progress, since the differentiation of the three recognition spheres of love, legal equality, and the achievement principle went along with an increase in the social possibilities for individualization as well as a rise in social inclusion.12

9This theoretical perspective integrates both the process of individualization and the process of inclusion in one and the same theoretical framework. Even more significantly, Honneth suggests that social inclusion and individualization must be seen as the two integral dimensions of a concept of progress on the basis of a theory of recognition:

  • 13 Ibid., p. 186.

either new parts of the personality are opened up to mutual recognition, so that the extent of socially confirmed individuality rises; or more persons are included into existing recognition relations, so that the circle of subjects who recognize one another grows.13

  • 14 Ibid., p. 156.

10This three-fold conception of recognition omits the deficiencies of a theoretical perspectivism by assimilating the two basic forms of social integration, namely social integration and system integration, into one and the same moral theory of society—an important point at issue in Honneth’s argument against Nancy Fraser’s dualistic proposal in Recognition or Redistribution.14 Instead of demanding wide-ranging social transformation, the recognition-theoretical approach pleads for more participation in existing relationships of recognition. This leads to the implicit conclusion that we can probably best understand social exclusion ex negativo as a correlate of a not-fully-realized potential of recognition-relations.

  • 15 See Honneth Axel, “Posttraditionale Gemeinschaften. Ein konzeptioneller Vorschlag”, in Das Andere (...)
  • 16 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)
  • 17 Ibid., p. 170.

11Honneth integrates F. Tönnies’ basic distinction between the two types of social groupings of community (Gemeinschaft) and society (Gesellschaft) when he understands social integration on the basis of his theoretical frame-work by referring to different patterns of mutual recognition: whereas the integration of a community is characterized by the reciprocal recognition of specific attributes that members share as distinct subjects or a distinct group of persons, integration with respect to society involves the shared recognition of those values that are mutually shared by all members.15 The theory of recognition is able to address both issues by drawing on a minimal conception of the good life. In doing so, it is avoiding the ill-conceived alternative between universalism and communitarism. This intermediate position becomes particularly apparent in Honneth’s critical stance on identity-political demands. He points to at their “hidden individualistic character”16 and to the fact that most claims for cultural identity or group-specific distinctiveness “can be meaningfully grasped only as expressions of an expanded struggle for legal recognition”.17 In other words, the two recognition principles of legal respect and social esteem suffice to cover the need for more social participation and consequently a better quality of ethical life.

  • 18 Cf. Honneth Axel, “Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions”, in Inquiry, Vol. 45, (...)

12The linkage between recognition and inclusion applies specifically to Honneth’s understanding of a general progress towards a non-distorted social reality. A joint increase in individuality and social inclusion are the constituents of moral progress18—an advancement that gradually widens our perspective on the individual’s capacities, because

  • 19 Ibid., p. 510 ff.

every new evaluative quality, whose confirmation through recognition increases a human subject’s capacity for autonomy must be viewed as a progressive step in the historical process of cultural transformation.19

  • 20 Ibid., p. 511.
  • 21 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)
  • 22 Cf. Honneth, Axel, “Pathologies of the Social: The Past and Present of Social Philosophy”, in The (...)
  • 23 Honneth Axel, “Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions”, op. cit., p. 511 [emphas (...)

13In sum, a higher level of individuality and social inclusion “jointly indicate progress in social acts of recognition”.20 It is important to note that the recognition-theoretical conception of progress is not class-specific insofar as the chances increase “for all members of the new type of society to achieve a higher degree of individuality”.21 This being the case, Honneth situates his conception of progress and social critique within a weak formal anthropology.22 At the same time he is pointing to the fact that the historical differentiation of spheres of recognition must not be misunderstood “as an historical given but rather as the result of a directional process”.23

Anthropology

  • 24 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)
  • 25 “These preconditions are ‘formal’ in the sense that they, and the types of recognition on which th (...)

14In order to understand the highly differentiated forms of recognition in modern societies it cannot be sufficient to merely trace the formation process of the various patterns of recognition in a purely phenomenological way. Love, respect and social esteem hint at deep-rooted dispositions in human nature. Though Honneth’s proposal to “interpret bourgeois-capitalist society as an institutionalized recognition order”24 stresses the fact that the process of capitalism and the formation of fully-differentiated patterns of recognition are to some extent indissoluble, still the major insights of his recognition-theory do virtually transcend the liberal-capitalist order and its institutions. Honneth refers to the three patterns of recognition as being of a merely formal character in the sense that they do not fix the exact form of their institutional realization;25 even though Honneth concedes that the patterns of recognition always rely on an institutional backing, love, legal respect and esteem refer to the quality of the basic structure of the moral infrastructure of modern societies, not to the specific modes of their implementation. This formulation allows him to corroborate his basic thesis that recognition is deep-rooted in human nature.

15Although the full articulation of the basic structures of recognition-patterns only became transparent in the socio-historic process which led to the breakthrough of post-traditional societies, the patterns of recognition are still based on the anthropology of man as a social being. Notwithstanding this, the forms of recognition cannot be derived methodologically from an anthropology of the person, as Honneth stresses:

  • 26 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)

To the contrary, it is the most highly differentiated recognition spheres that provide the key for retrospective speculation on the peculiarity of the intersubjective ‘nature’ of human beings.26

16Accordingly it is not astonishing when Honneth concedes that totally new forms of recognition might arise in the future—an assertion which is based on his belief that recognition is something which—paradoxically enough—must be conceived as a product of the course of social development and yet also as a deep-rooted condition of human life in society in general. Therefore, an insolvable tension prevails between the anthropological and the socio-historical motive always present in recognition-theory.

  • 27 Honneth Axel, Verdinglichung: Eine anerkennungstheoretische Studie, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2 (...)

17One might interpret Honneth’s Tanner Lectures on the notion of reification—his more recent study Verdinglichung27—exactly with regard to the above-mentioned problem, i.e., as an attempt to clarify the complex relationship between the invariability and the historical change of social acts of recognition. As Honneth points out in his attempt to reformulate and revivify George Lukács’ term “reification”, there is a basic form of recognition called “vorgängige Anerkennung” which must be seen as fundamental and prior to the differentiation of the various recognition patterns.

18It might be useful to recall Honneth’s argument against Jean-Paul Sartre in Struggle for Recognition in this context. If Sartre presupposes that we are inclined to objectivate our interaction partners with necessity, Honneth argues, we contaminate our perspective on society with an unduly moment of inevitability. He is aware that reifying acts in personal interaction in general occur very rarely and must therefore be regarded as a special case of disruption of interpersonal relations cannot be situated on the same theoretical level as common forms of denial of due respect. Contra Sartre, he argues:

  • 28 Honneth Axel, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, op. cit., p. 15

These dynamics of reciprocal reification introduce an element of conflict into all forms of social interaction, so that the prospect of a state of interpersonal reconciliation is, as it were, ontologically excluded.28

  • 29 Cf. Honneth Axel, Verdinglichung: Eine anerkennungstheoretische Studie, op. cit., p. 65.

19As a logical consequence, Honneth therefore introduces “reification” as the non-acknowledgment of the other’s personhood on a deeper level, antecedent to our social interaction. He defines the phenomenon of reification as a forgetting of the personhood of one’s partners of interaction, i.e., as treating another person as a non-subject by “forgetting” the fundamental acts of recognition. This basic level of a quasi-apriori that shapes our emotional, intellectual and voluntative behavior is deep-seated in our nature as humans.29 It is a primordial form of recognition situated on a level deeper than the recognition spheres of love, respect and esteem. Honneth is concerned to show in the first place that recognition is a pre-condition for any social interaction. Moreover he contends that the dialectics of invariance and historical determinations of our recognitional behavior might be considered to some extent also as the dialectics between an anthropology of the person and a sociological view of the formation of recognition relations in the sphere of society; his two-layered conception of recognition allows us to differentiate a grave and rare form of misrecognition, namely “reification” as the strongest act of denying the other, and the common forms of denied recognition as characterized by withheld recognition of justified claims concerning love, legal respect and merit in one and the same socio-theoretical setting.

  • 30 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)
  • 31 Heidegren Carl-Göran, “Anthropology, Social Theory, and Politics: Axel Honneth’s Theory of Recogni (...)
  • 32 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)

20This short excursion should have made clear the double character of recognition as an historical invariant and a socially constituted principle. Even if Honneth stresses the fact that concrete recognition relations are historical constituents, he decidedly opts for an anthropological underpinning of his social theory, linking this request systematically to his own view of internal or immanent critique: As critical theorists we cannot base our standpoint solely on present conflicts and their contingent character; instead we have to follow the demand for inner-worldly transcendence by identifying “unmet demands of humanity at large”.30 Breaking with the Marxist production paradigm, Honneth anchors this overarching interest in the progress of humanity in what may be called with Carl-Göran Heidegren an “anthropology of transcendence”.31 It would be a further task to discuss the extent to which the theory of recognition draws on a weak or a more substantial anthropology, which cannot be gone into here in sufficient detail; nevertheless there can be no doubt that enduring claims to personal identity and a ceaseless struggle for more participation in relations of recognition are grounded in human nature, i.e., in the pre-social condition of man. Notwithstanding this, Honneth situates the real dialectics in his theory of recognition in a specific “surplus of validity” in each of the three specific recognition spheres that govern our life in society: recognition claims transcend the praxis of their social interpretation in each given moment of social life in accordance with a “moral dialectic of the general and the particular”32, hinting at unmet demands for recognition.

On the “division of labor” between the three recognition spheres

  • 33 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exch (...)

21This theoretical assumption sheds light on the fragility not only of the social fabric as a whole but, more specifically, on the complex process of the formation and development of the three basic principles of recognition. Honneth assumes what he calls a “division of labor”33 between the basic types of recognition as dispositions to develop expectations of society. According to him, the three forms of recognition-claims directed to society are irreducible. Honneth points to the delicate balance between the three modes of recognition when he points out that:

  • 34 Ibid., p. 189.

We must always reflexively examine the boundaries that have been established between the domains of the different recognition principles, since we can never rule out the suspicion that the existing division of labor between the moral spheres impairs the opportunities for individual-identity.34

  • 35 Ibid., p. 188.
  • 36 Ibid., p. 189.

22Accordingly, moral progress can be achieved “by drawing new borders between the individual spheres of recognition”.35 Moreover, Honneth stresses the importance of what he calls a “preservative function” of the critical spirit, “since there will always be a need to maintain the separation of spheres, all the moral legitimation for boundary-shifting notwithstanding”.36

23Still, a couple of questions remain open. How does the relationship between the differentiation of spheres of recognition on the one side and the differentiation of the spheres of society as a whole on the other articulate itself? What role does the struggle for recognition play in the historical development of the three patterns of recognition? Furthermore, is there a genuine motive to struggle for more inclusion apart from the various kinds of recognition? Honneth admits that the role played by the social process through which patterns of recognition are historically differentiated cannot be situated on the same level as the general struggle for recognition. As we read in Struggle for Recognition:

  • 37 Honneth Axel, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, op. cit., p. 16 (...)

Although the differentiation of patterns of recognition stems from social struggles that involve demands for recognition only in the very broad sense of releasing potentials for subjectivity, the result of this process marks the attainment of a socio-cultural level at which each of these structures, with its own internal logic, can become effective.37

  • 38 Ibid., p. 168.
  • 39 Ibid., p. 169.
  • 40 Ibid., p. 168. This constitutes a strong parallel with the first generation of Critical Theory and (...)

24With respect to this, Honneth identifies a “gap between individual processes and an overarching development process”38 that must be bridged. Consequently, he suggests that we distinguish clearly “between the establishment of new levels of recognition and the development of their own internal structures”, adding that “only the second process directly provides the occasion for social struggles”.39 Therefore, we must conclude that the key to understanding the advancement of society as a whole lies not so much in the analysis of the general level of the recognition-order but rather in the analysis of the changes within each of the three demarcated spheres of recognition with their respective normative principles as well as in the interplay between these established boundaries. Honneth’s primary concern is to preserve the attained level of differentiation between the three spheres, on the one side, and their internal structures, on the other. While the latter—as mentioned above—do exhibit a logic of their own, Honneth concedes, at least to some extent, that the network of recognition relations in society as a whole also possesses a logic of its own. From the standpoint of a sociologically-informed psychology, moral feelings “lose their apparent innocence and turn out to be retarding or accelerating moments within an overarching development process”.40

  • 41 Compare the current research project “Strukturwandel der Anerkennung im 21 Jahrhundert” at http:// (...)
  • 42 Hartmann Martin and Honneth Axel, “Paradoxes of Capitalism: A Research Program”, in Constellations(...)

25Honneth introduces in his debate with Fraser the idea of a division of labor between the three recognition spheres. This idea seems to be to some extent reflected in one of the current research projects of Institut für Sozialforschung, which is to explore the division of labor between the three recognition spheres by means of an in-depth historical analysis.41 In comparison to the institute’s program of analyzing the “Paradoxes of Capitalist Modernization”42 which focused for the most part on sphere-specific changes in the principles of recognitioni.e., the unfolding of the sphere-specific surplus of validity in each of the principles of love, respect and achievement—a special focus seems to be given in this more recent research project on the boundary shifts which takes place between the three recognition spheres and which is characterized as a guarantor of the balance between generalized and individualized claims for recognition. Moreover, the historic perspective is broadened considerably, extending its reach into the past and tracing out historic transformations since 1750.

  • 43 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, (...)

26For Honneth it seems vital to safeguard the existent boundaries between the established principles of recognition, to uphold the demarcation lines between the three-dimensional settings of legitimate claims for intact self-identity-formation. At the same time he—paradoxically enough—is aware that the historic differentiation of the threefold setting of recognition patterns is a product exactly of some kind of trade-off between the various recognition spheres. For instance, he observes that the working class historically made concessions on some issues of distributive justice in exchange for a better legal framework of rights concerning working conditions, and thus replaced the recognition claim of “desert” with the demand for legal respect.43 Why should we preserve the status quo of current demarcation lines between the three patterns of love, respect and merit when past struggles of recognition were characterized precisely by such boundary shifting? If we regard these historical trade-offs as necessary preconditions of the process by which today’s fully-fledged recognition patterns were established, it seems hard to see why we should interpret existing cases of boundary shift as a mere coincidences that are disrupting the supposed continuity of the struggle of recognition.

  • 44 See Honneth Axel, “Anerkennung als Ideologie”, in Westend. Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, V (...)

27With respect to this, Honneth’s discussion on an alleged ideological character of recognition is quite telling. In his essay on Anerkennung als Ideologie (Recognition as Ideology) he taps the possibility that recognition claims in the present which seem to exhibit the character of pure ideology might prove in hindsight as emancipatory impulses for the overarching progress of the process of recognition. What makes us so sure that we can simply denounce certain forms of contemporary recognition-demands as being purely functional in nature? Casting doubt on our ability to discriminate legitimate from unjustified claims for recognition, he shows how the fact that various shifts of emphasis have occurred in the past strongly urges us to second-guess our judgment: many allegedly “ideological” demands have opened up untapped possibilities of personal identity-formation and turned out to be integral moments of the process of constant transferrals and reevaluations of “recognition”.44

  • 45 See Fraser Nancy, “Distorted Beyond all Recognition. A Rejoinder to Axel Honneth”, in Redistributi (...)
  • 46 Honneth Axel, “Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions”, in Inquiry, Vol. 45, No. (...)

28This critical thought implies that a prerequisite of understanding the general principle of recognition is the hermeneutical task of a perpetual (re)interpretation of the historically-varying meaning of self-realization (which is itself a function of established patterns of recognition). Assuming this, Honneth contends that possibilities of individuals successively increase in the course of the progress of relationships of recognition in society as a whole. Concerning this point, one may ask whether the subject matter of the three basic claims for love, rights and social esteem (our constant points of reference in the theory of recognition) does not indeed change in a more substantial way: Instead of understanding the historical change as a gradual widening of our integral perspective on the individual’s possibilities of identity-formation we could as well imagine—analogous to the above-mentioned functional change of recognition demands in Honneth’s discussion of the notion of ideology—that the elements which compose the principles of “love”, “respect” and “esteem” not only change over time as regards their content but are also tightly connected with the structure of social life in general. While this touches on the problematic question of whether we can reduce social interaction to relationships of recognition—which recalls Fraser’s accusation that Honneth sets up a “recognition monism”45—I will limit myself here to another issue. It is reasonable to assume that we gradually augment our knowledge of the recognitional needs of persons as our societies advance. Honneth is fully aware that we cannot ground our criticism on an ontological understanding of values, and thus pleads for a “moderate value realism”46 according to which we should not depart in a substantial way from the idea that there exist a finite number of values to be recognized, but which derive from a learning process that is open to the emergence of new values.

29Apart from this justice-theoretical assertion, it can be questioned whether the subsequent forms of articulation through which the anthropology of the person has passed in social life are available as resources for our present claims to identity-formation at any given moment in the process of social life. This would then be a matter of access: How can we be sure that socialized human beings can, at any given moment in the historical development of society, activate and tap into ever increasing possibilities of personal self-realization without running into limits that are, so to speak, structurally built into the anthropological capacities of the person? Can the individual’s potential for self-realization, conceived as a behavioral response to changing realities in the lifeworld, access the full array of possibilities the historical learning process has developed?

Conclusion

30A tentative attempt was made to elucidate the fundamental linkage between recognition and social inclusion. Following Honneth’s proposal, social progress was viewed as an increase in both individuality and inclusion, and it should have become clear that increased participation in differentiated relationships of recognition provides the key to understanding the moral developmental logic of modern societies. If we conceive disintegration and exclusion as correlates of a not-fully-realized potential embedded in existing recognition-relations, it follows that we have to concentrate on the three basic types of recognition-claims of love, respect, and achievement as the three sources of morality and the guarantors of moral progress. A special focus was therefore given to the historical differentiation of fully-fledged spheres of recognition and to the division of labor between them. Today it seems vital to preserve the delicate balance established between the different needs for recognition. In view of recent tendencies towards regression, the task of social criticism extends beyond identifying the normative potential of new recognition demands to the critical function of monitoring the problematic shifts in this fragile balance. Are we fighting a rearguard action?

Notes

1 Honneth Axel,“Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions”, in Inquiry, Vol. 45, No. 4, Dec. 2002, p. 512.

2 Taylor Charles, “The Politics of Recognition”, in Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition”, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1992, p. 25-73.

3 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, London/New York, Verso, 2003, p. 122.

4 Honneth Axel, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press, 1996.

5 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 129.

6 On the historical differentiation of the three types of recognition see: Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 138-150.

7 See the famous programmatic essay of Horkheimer Max, “Traditionelle und kritische Theorie”, in Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, Vol. 6 (l937), Munich, Reprint, 1980, p. 245-292. On the critique of the first generation of Critical Theory see Honneth Axel, The Critique of Power: Reflective Stages in a Critical Social Theory, Cambridge, MA., The MIT Press, 1991.

8 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 184.

9 Cf. Beck Ulrich, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, London, Sage, 1992.

10 Habermas Jürgen, “Individuation through Socialization: On George Herbert Mead’s Theory of Subjectivity”, in Postmetaphysical Thinking: Philosophical Essays, Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press, 1992, p. l49-204.

11 On Honneth’s critique of Habermas see: Honneth Axel, “The Social Dynamics of Disrespect: Situating Critical Theory Today”, in Habermas: A Critical Reader, Dews Peter (ed.), Oxford, Blackwell, 1999, p. 320-337, see also his “Annerkennungsbeziehungen und Moral. Eine Diskussionsbemerkung zur anthro-pologischen Erweiterung der Diskursethik”, in Anthropologie, Ethik und Gesellschaft. Für Helmuth Fahrenbach, Brunner Reinhard and Kelbel Peter (ed.), Frankfurt am Main/New York, Campus, 2000, p. 101-111.

12 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 185.

13 Ibid., p. 186.

14 Ibid., p. 156.

15 See Honneth Axel, “Posttraditionale Gemeinschaften. Ein konzeptioneller Vorschlag”, in Das Andere der Gerechtigkeit. Aufsätze zur praktischen Philosophie, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 2000, p. 331.

16 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 163.

17 Ibid., p. 170.

18 Cf. Honneth Axel, “Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions”, in Inquiry, Vol. 45, No. 4, Dec. 2002, p. 511.

19 Ibid., p. 510 ff.

20 Ibid., p. 511.

21 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 184. Cf. Honneth’s discussion on the issue of class in “Moral Consciousness and Class Domination: Some Problems in the Analysis of Hidden Morality”, in Praxis International, Vol. 2, No. l, April 1982, p. 12-25.

22 Cf. Honneth, Axel, “Pathologies of the Social: The Past and Present of Social Philosophy”, in The Handbook of Critical Theory, Rasmussen David (ed.), Cambridge, Blackwell, 1996, p. 369-396.

23 Honneth Axel, “Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions”, op. cit., p. 511 [emphasis in original].

24 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 138.

25 “These preconditions are ‘formal’ in the sense that they, and the types of recognition on which they are based are meant only to distinguish structural features of forms of communication. The do not go as far as to outline the institutional framework in which these forms may be realized.” (Honneth Axel “Integrity and Disrespect. Principles of a Conception of Morality based on the Theory of Recognition”, in Political Theory, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1992, p. 195f).

On the problematic question as to whether we owe recognition not only to persons but also with respect to our relations to institutions see Honneth Axel, “Anerkennung als Ideologie”, in Neue Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2004, p. 51-70, particularly p. 67; see especially Renault Emmanuel, “Reconnaissance, Institutions, Injustice”, in, Revue du Mauss, No. 23, “De la reconnaissance”, Paris 2004, p. 180-195.

26 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 138.

27 Honneth Axel, Verdinglichung: Eine anerkennungstheoretische Studie, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2005.

28 Honneth Axel, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, op. cit., p. 156

29 Cf. Honneth Axel, Verdinglichung: Eine anerkennungstheoretische Studie, op. cit., p. 65.

30 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 244.

31 Heidegren Carl-Göran, “Anthropology, Social Theory, and Politics: Axel Honneth’s Theory of Recognition”, in lnquiry, Vol. 45, No. 4, December 2002, p. 437 ff.

32 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 186 ff., on the “surplus of validity” see also Honneth Axel, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, op. cit.

33 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 189.

34 Ibid., p. 189.

35 Ibid., p. 188.

36 Ibid., p. 189.

37 Honneth Axel, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, op. cit., p. 169.

38 Ibid., p. 168.

39 Ibid., p. 169.

40 Ibid., p. 168. This constitutes a strong parallel with the first generation of Critical Theory and the interest of Erich Fromm and Max Horkheimer in social psychology as a major force that retards or accelerates social progress.

41 Compare the current research project “Strukturwandel der Anerkennung im 21 Jahrhundert” at http://www.ifs.uni-frankfurt.de/forschung/anerkennung.

42 Hartmann Martin and Honneth Axel, “Paradoxes of Capitalism: A Research Program”, in Constellations, Vol. 13, Issue l, 2006, p. 41-58.

43 Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., p. 188.

44 See Honneth Axel, “Anerkennung als Ideologie”, in Westend. Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2004, p. 64.

45 See Fraser Nancy, “Distorted Beyond all Recognition. A Rejoinder to Axel Honneth”, in Redistribution and Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, op. cit., Fraser Nancy and Honneth Axel, 198-236. On this debate see Zurn Christopher F., “Recognition, Redistribution, and Democracy: Dilemmas of Honneth’s Critical Social Theory”, in European Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 13, No. 1, April 2005, p. 89-l26.

46 Honneth Axel, “Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions”, in Inquiry, Vol. 45, No. 4, Dec. 2002, p. 513.

Auteur

Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main

© Presses universitaires de Paris Nanterre, 2009

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540