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Rethinking misrecognition and struggles for recognition: critical theory beyond Honneth

Giles, Douglas (2017) Rethinking misrecognition and struggles for recognition: critical theory beyond Honneth. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This thesis critically analyzes Axel Honneth’s theories of misrecognition and struggles for recognition and argues for two main conceptualizations to address shortcomings in his theories. The first conceptualization is that recognition and misrecognition behaviors are better understood along three dimensions of engagement—norms, individuals, and actions. We can use this multidimensional view to identify misrecognitions in which the problems are in vertical recognition, either disengagement from norms or engagement with problematic norms, and misrecognitions in which the problems are in horizontal recognition, during which there is insufficient or improper engagement with other individuals. The multidimensional view of misrecognition overcomes Honneth’s overly positive picture of recognition and lack of a robust account of misrecognition and shows how negative recognition fits into the normative structure of social life while acknowledging the positive value of recognition. The second conceptualization is an expanded view of struggles for recognition that takes such struggles beyond group political conflicts into everyday social experiences. I identify two problems in Honneth’s formulation of struggles for recognition: his premise that emotional experiences of disrespect motivate struggles for recognition is contradictory without an account of individual agency, and his theoretical reliance on political resistance movements neglects other paths responses to injustice can take. To address these problems, I argue that there are two types of struggles for recognition, affirmational (related to practical identity) and rectificatory (related to efforts to change social circumstances), and that individuals’ familiarity with affirmational struggles enables them to engage in rectificatory struggles against injustice. Individuals respond to injustice in varied ways other than organized political action, and this is significant for critical theory. The common thread in these two conceptualizations is the importance of individuals’ normative experiences in ethical life and social change. Power structures shape social relations, but individuals actively instigate many instances of injustice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: critical theory, recognition, injustice, social justice, political theory, continental philosophy, Honneth, agency
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Douglas Giles
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2017 14:35
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2017 14:35

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