MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655

Does Axel Honneth succeed in combining explanation and evaluation in his theory of recognition?

The essay is structured as follows: (1) a descriptive 'exposition' of Honneth's arguments in The Struggle for Recognition, giving a basic account of his views and introducing his reading of Hegel and Mead; (2) a look at the 'explanatory' side of his theory, which I – like Anderson1 – interpret primarily in terms of Honneth's Habermasian overcoming of the Marxian 'production paradigm'. (3) a section on the 'evaluative task', looking at whether Honneth's recognition order can account for the political claims made by contemporary (progressive) social movements; (4) an analysis, where I reconstruct the complex interrelationship between the various levels of argument in Honneth's theory, and contextualize his work in terms of the philosophical traditions of the Frankfurt School (the animating feature of which, it could easily be said, was always the refusal to follow positivism into the separation of the realms of explanation and evaluation in social theory.2); (5) here I advance my main criticisms of Honneth; and, finally, (6) a conclusion.

Honneth's Social Theory: The Struggle for Recognition

Honneth, unhappy in many ways with Kojève's famous account3, turns back to Hegel's earlier 'Jena' writings, namely the System of Ethical Life (1802) and the Realphilosophie (1805/6), as a model for his struggle for recognition. Hegel's real innovation, Honneth argues, is the overcoming of the Hobbesian model of social conflict (as criticised by American sociologist Talcott Parsons), which reduces social conflict to a utilitarian struggle over interests, through a conception of social struggle that is ethical in nature. That is, subjects must be understood as interacting with each other on the basis of what can be called an intersubjective moral developmental logic. Hegel reaches this idea in his attempt to justify his theory of ethical community, which he does by explaining its internal ethical cohesion in terms of the intersubjective obligations that serve as “quasi-natural precondition[s] for every process of human socialization”4. The result is a “virtually epochmaking new version of the conception of social struggle”, where “practical conflict between subjects can be understood as an ethical moment in a movement occurring within a collective social life”5.

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655

In the System of Ethical Life Hegel has the task of grounding his theory of a form of ethical life, as constituted in a concrete community, through an explanation of its emergence as the result of a transition from what Hegel calls 'natural ethical life' to a final stage of 'absolute ethical life' (that is, the “reorganization and expansion of embryonic forms of community into more encompassing relations of social interaction”6). This narrative becomes more detailed in the Realphilosophie, where – in what is important for us - Hegel develops the idea of 'crime' into something of an explanation for the transition from one 'stage' of mutual recognition to another (where 'crime' is conceived as the 'break' of the current forms of recognition, the initiation of renewed conflict, which thereby allows for mutual reconciliation at a new level of recognition). Hegel does this by looking at the effects the institutionalization of (family) private property has on social life.

This enclosure of common land by the family is experienced by the excluded as a disruption of intersubjective obligations towards them; those excluded feel the disappointment of positive expectations visa-vis the partner to interaction. In response, Hegel argues, the socially ignored individuals in question attempt to damage the other's possession, in order to draw attention to themselves. This initiates directly a struggle for recognition, along the lines of the master-slave dialectic in the Phenomenology, whereby the property owner now feels himself injured by the outsider's misinterpretation of his actions, and seeks to rectify the damage. The solution comes with the construction of a minimum set of legal relations - meaning, firstly, the acknowledgement of the existence of natural law (pace Hobbes) that consists of a basic mutual normative affirmation that 'makes society work', and the codification of this discovery in collective political institutions of positive law. Hegel argues that legal recognition is formalised in civil society through property and exchange relations, the functional preconditions for the system of social labour, which is codified in the contract. What interests Hegel here about the contract is the potential for a mismatch between the formal assurance given that the promised dead will be completed, and the actual completion of the deed itself. In the breaking of a contract, there is a separation of the individual and the collective will, and the destroyed relationship of intersubjective recognition is re-established - by the universal will of society – through the punishment of the transgressor as a criminal. The criminal here experiences the application of legal force to enforce the terms of the contract as an injury against his person because – as Honneth himself tries to argue, since it is by no means clear in Hegel's text itself – he feels unrecognized as an individual in his

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 particularity. This is because the law is here applied indiscriminately, without any concern for the cause of crime (by which Honneth thinks Hegel means something like a feeling of a lack of recognition on the part of the universal will). The conclusion of this being, as Honneth succinctly puts it, that “respect for the 'will' of the individual person, as it is demanded by the criminal deed, can only be realized completely in a relationship of recognition that, unlike the one based on law, is supported by feelings of social concern”7.

While Hegel can be said to have provided the original programmatic idea of conceiving social conflict in terms of a struggle for recognition, what he is missing – as the above account of 'crime' shows – is a properly grounded explanation of why this occurs (and not simply showing that it does, and how it does). Given the nature of Hegelian metaphysics, the underlying teleology here takes on a self-justifying character, and the question of what motivates the struggle for recognition is sidelined. This gap is what Honneth aims to fill through an “empirically supported phenomenology”, which leads to the reinterpretation of the work of George Herbert Mead8.

In Mead's pragmatist psychology, crucially, it is the failure of attempted communication in socially interactive behaviour that forces the cognitive reassessment of ones's own situation and self-understanding (whereas incomplete instrumental interaction with nature only causes one to reassess one's understanding of objective reality). Here social agents are caused to “reflect on their own subjective conduct at the moment of the disturbance”9. That is, unsuccessful communication with another leads one to turn back and question one's own subjectivity – the increase in self-knowledge can only come through an increased consciousness of the social meaning of one's actions. With the establishment of this kind of insight, Mead moves on from the cognitive relation-to-self to the practical relation-to-self, which is I think already implicit in the theory: it should be clear that this deals not merely with abstract problem solving but with the negotiation of moral relationships with others.

Honneth then introduces Mead's distinction between the 'I' and the 'me'. The 'me' is this internalised collective will, whereas the 'I' is something like the Freudian unconscious, what Mead calls a “reservoir of psychical energies”10 that provides the site (always below the surface, irreducible to the 'me') for creative potential within the individual. It is the conflictual dynamic between the 'I' and the 'me' that provides for a

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 'struggle for recognition'. The 'I', being concerned only with the increasing capacity for its own individuality, is never satisfied by the societal relations of recognition that currently constitute the 'me', and this 'surplus' provides the impetus for continuing conflict over the norms that are embodied in the self-understanding off the community. Thus, in a crucial shift that Honneth convincingly reconstructs, the 'generalized other' is replaced as the opposing partner in the dynamic with the 'I' by what can be described as an idealized 'me'': instead of looking to uncritically internalize what may be the rigid norms of the current community, a future society is hypothesized in which all ones possible claims for recognition are accepted.

So, as well as adding social scientific support to Hegelian philosophy, we should note the two vitally important propositions that Mead adds onto Hegel's structure, without which Honneth's whole theory would be impossible: first, I am arguing that the cognitive role of the failure of mutual communication within the context of Mead's theory, provides the very rough structure for what Honneth conceptualises as the psychological motivation behind the struggle to get oneself recognised (and to renegotiate new interpretations of existing forms of recognition), that being what Honneth calls 'feelings of disrespect'; and, second, the introduction of what I understand as a 'quasi-transcendental' normative structure, in the developmental logic of the increasingly complex practical relations-to-self required for healthy human identity formation, by which historical change and existing social-political institutions can be judged (a postmetaphysical theory of social progression that avoids being a philosophy of history).

Finally, with all this established, we can look at the three patterns of recognition that Honneth delineates:

The first and most elementary form of recognition concerns 'primary relationships' - for example, romantic love, familial love, and friendship. These relationships provide the subject with the fulfilment of its most basic emotional needs, or we might say, the fundamental human need for intimacy with another. The practical relation-to-self that is made possible through this form of recognition is termed by Honneth 'basic selfconfidence'. This is characterised by the feeling that one will be cared for by a loved one unconditionally, by which one becomes confident in oneself in ones own identity, or in ones own independence. Here we can see the first example of this kind of intersubjective reasoning: that since (at least as I understand it) the subject can only become independent by 'passing-through' a relationship of dependence, that relationship of

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 dependence to the other must hold without condition, that is, without the chance of it being revoked11. Honneth's primary and most plausible example here is the 'mother'-child relationship12.

The second form of recognition comes via the medium of legal institutions, through the granting of human rights to all individual persons, universally, and without prejudice. This has a crucial cognitive aspect for Honneth, meaning that there is an essential and indivisible relationship between the political forms that legal recognition takes and the recognition of the subject's own moral responsibility or autonomy. This is evidently the retained Kantian element in Honneth's conception, both in the sense that legal recognition is supposed to provide for individual autonomy13, conceived here precisely as the moment of abstraction inherent in liberal political philosophy (it is important, for example, that the individual can choose to withdraw from society altogether, or less drastically, from primary relationships that have become toxic); and, secondly, legal recognition is required for that deontological aspect of the person required for the proper working of political 'discourse'14, within the public sphere15, that the above quotes allude to. Honneth is keen to stress the historicist nature of legal recognition, i.e. that the full meaning of recognition here undergoes renewed interpretation in each historical epoch, by pointing to the historical movement (described by T.H. Marshall16) from the recognition of civil rights in the eighteenth century, political rights in the nineteenth century, and social rights in the twentieth.

The third form of recognition is termed social esteem, which takes the form of 'solidarity' with others, and is determined by the 'community of value' of the society one lives in – that is, by those predominant societal norms through which members seek to understand each other, 'judge' or esteem each other (their talents and abilities), and through which the society as a whole understands itself, its purposes and aims etc. The form of practical relation-to-self – self-esteem – is achieved when “the individual is recognized as a person whose capabilities are of constitutive value to a concrete community”17. This is the culmination of the Hegelian 'dialectic' of universal and particular: from the particular form of recognition in intimate primary relationships, recognition undergoes a process of universalization in legal rights (everyone is recognized as an equal, that is, as precisely the same, as absolutely indistinguishable from any other person), leaving selfesteem, as the end of this process, as the recognition of particular talents, abilities or other 'self-expressions' of each individual in turn (recognition of everyone individually equally in their difference, that is, in their

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 particularity).

Honneth and Explanation: Toward a Conception of Social Evolution

In this section, I want to argue, Axel Honneth prepares the ground for his social theory through a contextually engaged critique of Jürgen Habermas's reconstruction of historical materialism, on which he could build his conception of the tripartite moral recognition order of modern society (which I look at in the next section). It is in Honneth's critique of Habermas that “the initial contours of the idea of a model of social conflict grounded in a theory of communication begin to emerge”18.

In the final two essays of Critique of Power, Honneth develops an argument that identifies two diverging strands of explanation within Habermas's theory. In the first predominant approach, Habermas opens-up a second developmental logic within traditional historical materialism, now distinguishing between those forms of social praxis - 'labour' - concerned with the human domestication and cultivation of nature, operating according to subject-object rationality; and, now, a form of social praxis – 'interaction' – concerned with 'communicative' actions between members of a society, operating according to an opposed intersubjective rationality. Honneth 'maps' this onto what is now considered mechanistic or 'vulgar' orthodox Marxism, where the development of the productive forces is conceived as the sole 'motor' of history, etc. In Habermas's reformulation, the development of instrumental rationality, though the expansion in scientific and technical knowledge and the increasingly important and prominent role that the socio-political institutions that embody this form of rationality assume for the reproduction of the society, forces the 'communicative' relations to develop along after it, albeit according to its own social developmental logic.

In the second divergent approach Honneth identifies in Habermas's theory, the movement of societal evolution is understood instead in terms of a struggle that takes place between embedded groups over the continual revision and reworking of a mutual normative understanding19. The explanation of societal reproduction would concentrate not on the development of instrumental rationality and the social subsystems that operate according to this rationality, and on the way these developments might damage the progressive possibility of communicative understanding (leading to, in Habermas's language, the 'colonization the

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 lifeworld' in late-capitalism20) as in the first approach; but, rather, can now be understood as a social struggle between actors for the organizational form that purposive-rational action will take. Honneth similarly 'maps' this conception again to the Marxist tradition, here looking at those thinkers – mentioning Georges Sorel and Antonio Gramsci21 - who emphasised class struggle as the constitutive dynamic of history (that is, the proletariat and bourgeoisie fight over the economic class relations that structure society). It is through the communicative interaction of integrated groups over the principles that inform the organization of the processes of social reproduction that explain how the species as a whole evolves

By identifying these two strands, Honneth aims to sketch a potential new direction for understanding social struggle from the possibility that emerged from the second more “promising” approach, where “social development is explained not with reference to a logic of rationalization, but with reference to a dynamic of social struggle that is structurally located within the moral space of social interactions”22. He does this through an opposition, by looking at the problems and explanatory difficulties inherent in the first approach. A summary of Honneth's objection can be as follows: he dislikes what he sees as the unhelpful 'cutting-up' of the social into two distinct communicative and purposive-rational action spheres, which obey completely distinct processes of social rationalization. The connection between the two appears as if 'external', like in orthodox Marxism, where the precise nature of the interactive dynamic between the productive forces and relations of production is never made clear (and whether it is supposed to be a reciprocal interaction, rather than with the first simply progressing through its own logic and the other reacting, responding in a passive way). Honneth wishes to pursue a much whole holistic conception for his theory, where the advance of technical rationalization is explained through the intersubjective stages of a 'dialectic' of moral struggle. A proper explanation of historical change must include a look at how social actors strive and negotiate for more adequate forms of communicative understanding with each other, and by struggle for more favourable integrative norms23.

To recap my aim in going into this, I am arguing that Honneth uses a reworked version of Habermas's theory of social evolution – what is, essentially, a proposal for the renewed sociological investigation into the processes that structure historical change24 - as a base on which to construct, firstly, a theory of social conflict in terms of a moral struggle for recognition, and, secondly, a formal 'recognition order' of society,

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 meaning an account of those prevalent normative principles which structure the mutual understanding of subjects within society, and which are used to evaluate the progressive value or validity of new claims proposed by social actors within the public sphere. If this is the case, then the subsequent turn to a workingout of a social philosophy, which must be said to comprise the core of Honneth's theory, means Honneth must inevitably sideline the sociological aspect of his programme – suggesting, already, a strain in Honneth's attempt to cover both 'explanation' and 'evaluation' in his theory in equal measure.

Honneth and Evaluation: On the Morality of Recognition

I now want to look at how Honneth proposes to deal with the question of how moral progress can be evaluated within societies. It is clear that what is 'just' must be referred to the 'recognition order' of the society, meaning that it must refer to all three forms of recognition, each providing its own criteria for what is 'just' in turn. In terms of social recognition, progress is measured along two dimensions: individualization and inclusion. Firstly, recognition is continually extended 'internally' to aspects of the personality that needs to find outward expression; and, secondly, recognition is extended to include more people within the society.

This leads to Honneth's account of the emergence of modernity, which is explained through the de-coupling of legal recognition from the community of value. This has two effects. It means, firstly, that in previous historical forms such as feudalism, legal recognition is based not on liberal universalistic logic, but is tied to the forms of caste that one belongs to. The idea of individual rights – rights we have as persons, without condition – is thus a recent development, one that Honneth explains through this decoupling. This is the process of inclusion. It also means, secondly, that the primary method for apportioning social esteem has to be separated from the social expectations of the particular ethical communities one belongs to. One is not esteemed for how well one fulfils the social role assigned to one, and concomitantly, one is not esteemed as part of a collective. This is the process of individualization. This means, in liberal-capitalist society, that the form that social esteem takes is governed by what Honneth labels the 'achievement' principle - a meritocratic valuation on the basis of one's individual contribution in the industrially organized division of labour.

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 Honneth is of course well aware of the problematic 'ideological' character of this principle – that it expresses the early normative self-understanding of the rising bourgeoisie. But using it, we can now look at how Honneth attempts to account for the emergence of the social-welfare state, which takes place through the redrawing of the boundaries between legal recognition and social esteem, whereby the reinterpretation of 'achievement' results in the 'reassignment' of part of its recognition 'value' to the sphere of legal rights. In this highly novel idea, the development of the welfare state (what we need to read for our purposes as the recognition order's 'evaluation' of the claims made in labour struggles, and later, in feminist struggles) comes when the request for the recognition of the equal autonomy for all, embedded in legal recognition, entails an expansion of rights to include the socio-economic preconditions for its realization, restricting claims of recognition in terms of achievement. As Honneth writes: “The development of social-welfare measures can be understood such that individual members of society should be guaranteed a minimum of social status and hence economic resources independently of the meritocratic recognition principle by transforming these claims into social rights”25. Through increased legal recognition, members of society can receive a certain level of self-esteem through the exercise of their social rights, irrespective of their 'achievement' in the division of labour: “the emergence of the welfare state can best be understood as the penetration of the principle of equal legal treatment into the previously autonomous sphere of social esteem”26.

Honneth's account here, notable for its originality, is nevertheless unconvincing. It doesn't seem to acknowledge those claims made by social actors that fundamentally question the legitimacy of achievement principle itself, rather than simply wanting a renewed social interpretation of its scope and meaning. Historically, this refers to the impulse of the communist hypothesis, but the problem also shows through Honneth's subscription to numerous feminist claims for the need to recognize housework and child-rearing as significant contributions to society and societal reproduction, and therefore equally worthy of social esteem. The idea that unpaid housework, in order to get recognised, should become paid housework, seems to entirely miss the point that it is the patriarchal division of labour that is the root problem27. Women doing housework feel bored or unfulfilled, not 'unrecognised'. It also points to the inadequacy of the achievement principle within this social sphere: child-rearing and 'family-work' is not carried out by those involved as a contribution to the reproduction of society, it is done rather through a particularistic love of a specific individual. When taking care of one's children or one's elderly relatives, one does so without the desire that it

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 will be reciprocated in the form of mutual recognition. It is an asymmetrical relationship, an unconditional “love's labor”28. A society where achievement is not measured through productivity, but through one's asymmetrical regard for other human beings, and where the artificial separation of the principles of affection and achievement is not structurally necessary, is a society without a gendered division of labour - something that probably cannot be comprehended within the horizon of Honneth's theory.

To end this section I want to look at what can plausibly be considered the 'ethics' of recognition; or, rather, the ethical problems that might arise through the somewhat paradoxical 'ethical' structure of recognition: for, if it is to be 'effective', recognition must be mutual and reciprocal: one cannot have the power to recognise unless one has not been recognised oneself, and one cannot be recognised without the power to recognise others. This logic strongly suggests that the act of recognition must be instantaneous: it must take place, in this sense, 'outside of time'. Yet it seems obvious that any realistic historical narrative of the emergence of new forms of recognition must of necessity be staggered, or include a 'time-lag' (recognition of achievement inspired by bourgeois self-understanding, is universalized as the standard for all working men, then is expanded to housework, etc.). Recognition is necessarily dialogical, and not monological29. This interpretation has in effect be made by Patchen Markell, who is concerned that Honneth's recognition theory entails not the whole-scale revaluation of forms of recognition by society collectively, but rather the 'granting' or 'bestowing' of recognition as a sort of prize to the previously unrecognised claimants by those social classes and group in power. This is not simply patronising – where the evaluation of newly articulated claims is seen as a 'judging' of the disenfranchised by power, much like recent critiques of political 'toleration' - but also seems to leave unquestioned the very power structures that 'grant' such recognition30.

Analysis: On Honneth's Method

The explication of Honneth's theory in terms of the two questions that are being asked of it – to both explain and evaluate social conflict – actually masks, in a certain sense, that there are three distinguishable components working alongside each other that make the theory work as a whole. I want now to reconstruct the interrelationship between these three elements, based on approaching the matter in question through the varying 'perspectives' of theories with different social-scientific backgrounds . These are, I want to argue:

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(1) a sociological theory of explanation, based on a reworking of Habermas's sociology, that aims to conceptualise historical development in terms of moral struggle (including a theory of modernity, and a sketch for a theory of capitalism) (2) a social philosophy, based on Hegel's political writings31, that aims to explain the normative structure of society through which members of the society are integrated into an ethical community, in terms of forms of recognition (and whereby this 'recognition order' provides the principles for appraising new claims for recognition) (3) a moral psychology, based principally on Mead's pragmatist psychological theory, that provides the empirical grounding of a normative standpoint by which to criticise society (a quasi-transcendental theory of moral progress), as well as providing an account of the motivation for struggle itself

There is obviously much overlap with these three components, with each interacting with the other in various interlocking ways (modernity, as the result of a period of historical change, is explained in terms of the differentiation of recognition in legal relations from the form of recognition in social esteem, and justified in terms of inclusion and individuation that refers to moral psychology; the emergence of the welfare state is explained through the reinterpretation of the meaning of self-respect, embodied in legal recognition, etc.) Most importantly here, I think, is the 'mapping' of the social forms of recognition to the practical relations-toself, resulting in Honneth's notable intersubjective conclusion: personal development requires social progress.

We also have to explain the role that 'feelings of disrespect' play within this process: I think we can make sense of them in terms of their being in a 'constellation' with the forms of recognition, whereby they reciprocally support, and are mutually derived from, each other. Principally, the feelings of disrespect as experiences are 'reconstructed' into the formal types of recognition, making sense of them conceptually; and, in turn, the formal kinds of recognition can appeal to the existence of feelings of disrespect as an empirical manifestation of the (absence) of mutual recognition. This coupling is then supported by the developmental logic of moral psychology that underlies it, through their 'mapping' to the practical relations-to-self.

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 We can understand this now in terms of a continuation of the model of critical social theory that informed the programme of the original Frankfurt School. As Honneth argues, the fundamental tenet of 'Left-Hegelianism' is its central methodological assumption that a critical or normative viewpoint on society must be anchored extratheoretically in an empirical interest or moral experience within society. This need for grounding is the moment of immanence in Critical Theory. Considering the historical discrediting of the proletariat as a potential revolutionary force, and the (Habermasian) overcoming of the philosophy of consciousness (in which the proletariat is erroneously conceived as the macro-subject of history), it is now the 'feeling of disrespect' in individual experience that is now supposed to provide this extratheoretical grounding of the normative viewpoint. This normative standard itself – the corresponding moment of transcendence in Critical Theory – is now justified not through Hegelian Reason but by the psychological developmental logic of forms of practical relation-to-self provided by Mead.

Criticising Honneth

Honneth's social theory has proved itself extremely resilient against the various criticisms that have been levelled against it, yet there are nevertheless what I would want to characterize as 'tensions at the seams' of the theory, originating in the sheer (ultimately unrealistic) scope and ambition of Honneth's project. This general observation can be taken as the principle that groups together the following specific criticisms of Honneth:

Honneth's insistence on the need for a strict combination of normative, 'evaluative' considerations and social explanatory considerations, within the same space, results in a general sociological deficit in his theory. The debate over whether the claims made in distribution struggles can be reduced to claims for recognition – with Honneth's appealing to the socio-historical work of E.P. Thompson32 and Barrington Moore – seems to ignore those socio-economic mechanisms and institutional imperatives that structure the environment within which such claims are made, and that – despite their often horrific moral impact – are in fact best explained functionally, and not through any such heightened moral awareness. Honneth's account desperately needs (and does not, I think, exclude) a return to the original Frankfurt School interest in the problems of instrumental reason, a Habermasian concern with the impact of system integration on the lifeworld, or even

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 much more traditional Marxist political economy

Next, we should look at the Hegelian combination of both ethical and moral concerns in Honneth's theory of recognition – that is, at the way that it attempts to combine both a liberal theory of justice and a (weak) conception of 'the good life'. Honneth deliberately places his theory half-way between Kant and Hegel, sharing with Kant “the interest in the most general norms possible, norms which are understood as conditions for specific possibilities” and with communitarianism “the orientation towards human selfrealization as an end”. Honneth pre-empts the concerns that emerge with the latter, by insisting that this 'end' ”should not be conceived as the expression of substantive values that constitute the ethos of a concrete tradition-based community”33. Yet despite this, there is general feeling that Nancy Fraser's accusation of 'ethical sectarianism' doesn't fall short of its mark. This is a preview of the many problems Frankfurt School theory will run up against when – it originating in Western Marxism and the attempt to understand the European experience – it is used to theorize the 21st century issues of globalization and multiculturalism. This is a general danger here that Honneth's work is still unavoidably Eurocentric.

Lastly, I believe the straight linkage that is effectively being drawn from the individual's moral experiences (feelings of disrespect) and the construction of the three forms of recognition, is not fully convincing. In one of Honneth's important earlier pieces, 'Moral Consciousness and Class Domination'34, he discusses so-called 'hidden morality', being interested here with reinscribing the moral consciousness of the working class that gets left out of Habermas's theory because it cannot be expressed at the level of elaborated value judgements (through formalistic procedural discourse). Given the strongly Habermasian reading of Honneth presented in this essay, I think this formulation is of much more than biographical interest. While Honneth's 'anthropomorphizing' of Habermas's theory is in many respects an important advancement, it is possible to argue that his exposition of feelings of disrespect, which are really just indeterminate feelings of a somethingis-wrong-here nature, into formalized patterns of recognition, commits again the same kind of error: it would prevent and suppress these moral experiences from being articulated when they cannot be expressed in terms of a lack of recognition. Their nature as a 'surplus' or 'pool' of moral feeling, providing the motivation for historical progress, means they must ultimately be of indeterminate conceptual status, or else there is a danger of stifling further social progression when the usefulness of conceptualising these feelings in terms of

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655 a lack of recognition, is exhausted35 Honneth must find a way of using 'recognition' in a minimalistic, formal sense, rather than as a 'thick' ethical concept, if he is to avoid such criticism.

Conclusion: A Future for Critical Theory?

I want to conclude with a few remarks on the possible future of Frankfurt School critical theory, given what has been said about the limitations of Honneth's efforts. It is I think productive to understand Honneth's increasingly sympathetic treatment of the canon of Critical Theory as of late – with essays on Adorno, Benjamin, Nenmann36 - as representing a deliberate return to the tradition, suggests – I would argue – a slipping in confidence on Honneth's own part that his Habermasian model can provide all the answers required of it by the programmatic aim of Critical Theory. In Pathologies of Reason, Honneth directly tackles the question of the continuing legacy of critical theory today, and leaves us in no uncertain terms of his verdict: “I am among those who want to leave no doubt that the basic historical-philosophical and sociological assumptions of the Frankfurt School can no longer be defended”37. Honneth insists that the addition of Nietzschean genealogy into his Hegelian model is essential to avoid the problem of ideology, whereby one can decipher whether the immanent normative ideals one appeals to in critique still have the same meaning in social practice that originally distinguished them. He asserts that it is “no longer possible to have social criticism that does not also use genealogical research as a detector to ferret out the social shifts of meaning of its leading ideals”38.

The final word here can be that despite Honneth's impressive efforts, Critical Theory - both through our heightened awareness of the lack of 'given' human psychology or self-identical personhood, through poststructuralist theorising39, and of the general sociological deficit in Left-Hegelian social theory, already identified by Honneth in his reading of the Dialectic Enlightenment – is in dire-straits, and that the positivist separation of 'evaluation' and 'explanation' in social theory may be inevitable, and not fully lamentable either

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MA Social and Political Thought – Theorising the Social (949M1) – 50655

Bibliography Books Anderson, Sybol S. C. Hegel's Theory of Recognition (2009), Continuum Butler, Judith Giving an Account of Oneself (2005), Fordham University Press Habermas, Jürgen Theory and Practice (1973), Beacon Press Honneth, Axel The Struggle for Recognition (1995), Polity Press Honneth, Axel Disrespect: The Normative Foundations of Critical Theory (2004), Polity Press Honneth, Axel Suffering from Indeterminacy (2000), van Gorcum Honneth, Axel The Critique of Power (1991), MIT Press Honneth, Axel Pathologies of Reason: On the Legacy of Critical Theory (2009), Columbia Honneth, Axel The Fragmented World of the Social: Essays in Social and Political Thought (1995), SUNY Press Honneth, Axel & Fraser, Nancy Redistribution or Recognition? (2003), Verso Kojeve, Alexandre Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (1969), Basic Books Markell, Patchen Bound by Recognition (2003), Princeton McNay, Louis Against Recognition (2008), Polity Press Taylor, Charles et al. Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition (1994), Princeton Thompson, Simon The Political Theory of Recognition (2006), Polity Press van den Brink, Bert & Owen, David (ed.) Recognition and Power: Axel Honneth and the Tradition of Critical Social Theory (2007), Cambridge Articles Alexander, J.& Pia Lara, M. 'Honneth's new critical theory of recognition' (1996) New Left Review 220 Browne, C. 'The end of Immanent Critique?' (2008), European Journal of Social Theory 5(2) Foster, R. 'Recognition and resistance: Axel Honneth's critical social theory' (1999) Radical Philosophy 94 Honneth, Axel & Critchley, Simon 'Philosophy in Germany' (1998), Radical Philosophy 89 Honneth A. et al Symposium on Honneth's theory of recognition (2002) Inquiry 45(4) Honneth, Axel 'An Interview with Axel Honneth: The role of sociology in the theory of recognition' (2002), European Journal of Social Theory 11(5) Honneth, Axel 'Reification: A Recognition-Theoretical View', The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at University of California, Berkeley, March 2005 (avaliable online from Wikipedia – last accessed January 2010)

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1 Joel Anderson writes: “As Honneth argued in Critique of Power... the Frankfurt School suffered from an exclusive focus on the domain of material production as the locus of transformative critique” - SR, p.xi 2 Honneth explains the need for a methodological critique of positivism as the legacy of the de-legitimiation of traditional metaphysical forms of the philosophy of history, resulting in the decoupling of philosophy and the empirical social sciences. Horkheimer and Marcuse therefore needed to argue for theory that was, contra positivism, “constantly aware of its social context of emergence as well as of its practical context of application” -- 'Critical Theory', The Fragmented World of the Social (FWS) p.65 3 Kojève does not challenge Hegel's hyperbolic formulation of the struggle for recognition as a struggle over life-anddeath itself. In his account here, Kojève can be said to have anticipated existentialist lines of thought, but in terms of social explanation, only the fact that the opposing subject in the struggle has moral expectations needs to be demonstrated; for Honneth, “the reference to the existential dimension of death seems to be completely unnecessary” - SR, p.48 4 SR, p.15 5 SR, p.17 6 SR, p.15 7 SR, p.57 8 Honneth talks about the fundamental task in the reconstruction of Hegel's arguments to be the grounding of Hegel's intersubjectivism in a study of “empirical events within the social world”, rather than metaphysically (as a “formative process between singular intelligences” SR p.68 9 SR, p.73 10 SR, p.81 11 This does not mean that once the relationship is established, that it remains static. Simon Thompson writes that “It should be noted that this is not a once-and-for-all event, so that as soon as mother and infant break free from each other, the struggle is over. This would mark the collapse of the relationship, not its maturation. It is necessary, rather, to retain a tension between connection and self-assertion.” (The Political Theory of Recognition, p.27) 12This initial relationship between child and 'mother' is thus again understood as a struggle for recognition, as the child undergoes the difficult process of learning that it in fact constitutes a separate subjectivity to that of mother, and the boundaries between each ego in he relationship is renegotiated and redrawn 13 van den Brink and Owen observe an ambiguity in what Honneth means by 'autonomy', where he talks of autonomy not just in this moral-cognitive sense but also of 'autonomy' generally in intimate relations and social relations RP, p.10, footnote 27 14 See Elgar's entries for 'Discourse' and 'Discourse Ethics' in Key Concepts, p.42-46. 15 Van den Brink note, to support my emphasis here, that “Honneth has always stressed the importance of the public sphere as an arena in which struggles over the interpretation of standards of recognition are to be decided through public deliberation” (p.7), Also useful is Elgar's entry on 'public sphere' in Key Concepts, p.124) 16 Honneth discusses T.H. Marshall in SR p.115-18 17 18 CP p.xvii 19 Here Habermas views “the separation of society into social classes as an institutionally fixed distortion of linguistic interaction” which means, because of this distortion of social communication, “a process of reflection moves along that lets the suppressed class experience the communicative distortion as injustice and strive for practical resistance”. Therefore the “basic conflict of socio-cultural development dwells within the process of communicative action itself as an opposition of social classes brought forth by domination” (CP p.273) 20 See Elgar's Key Concepts, p.17 21 Honneth writes of this second model that here “...the basic conflict through which the developmental process of the species is upset and at the same time driven forward is itself displaced in the process of communicative understanding.” This is compared to the tradition of Marxism “reaching back to Gramsci and Sorel, in which class struggle is always conceived as social struggle over the integrating values and norms of a society.” CP, p.273 Honneth devotes 3 pages to an interpretation of Sorel as a theorist of a rudimentary struggle for recognition in SR chapter 7, 'Traces of a Tradition in Social Philosophy: Marx, Sorel, Sartre' 22 CP p.xvii 23 Evidently Honneth wishes to stress that the struggle over such norms – the struggle for recognition generally – must take place through negotiation in the public sphere. I wish to stress this because my use of comparison with Marxist historical materialism, with the recent political history of Marxism, might give an otherwise impression. Honneth ends his essay 'The Social Dynamics of Disrespect' with the conclusion that Critical Theory needs to give disrespected individuals the means by which they can “articulate their experiences in the democratic public sphere, rather than living them out in a counterculture of violence” (D p.78) (see also endnote 14, above) 24 When I say this I am thinking of Habermas's sympathetic reworking of the some of the canons of sociological thought in particular – Weber, Durkheim, Mead, Parsons (as well as Lukács, Adorno and Horkheimer) in his twovolume Theory of Communicative Action . 25 RR? p.147 26 RR? p.149. Honneth sums up: “For the normative argument which made social welfare guarantees in a certain sense “rationally” unavoidable is essentially the hardly disputable assertion that members of society can only make actual

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use of their legally guaranteed autonomy if they are assured a minimum of economic resources, irrespective of income.” As argued by Beate Rossler in her article in RP, 'Work, Recognition, Emancipation' Iris Marion Young's phrase, used in her article in 'Recognition of Love's Labor: Considering Axel Honneth's Feminism'. She writes: “the dominance of the principle of achievement as the primary interpretation of esteem should be questioned. Through the achievement principle, people deserve esteem when they excel on productivity measures, when they attain to positions culturally coded as high status, or when they win out in a competition where most are losers. A theory of the recognition of love's labor can do more to envision a conception of esteem that does not measure people's achievement in these ways” (RP p.211) See the article by Heikki Ikaheimo and Arto Laitinen for this distinction. They write: “...according to the dialogical conceptions, there is no such thing as one-sided recognition. Hegel's story of the master and the slave is a case in point. In the Hegelian dialogical conception of recognition, recognition is thus what we may call a two-way complex of recognitive attitudes” (RP p.38) This also necessarily presents difficulties for the understanding of the psychology of social actors who are denied esteem for their abilities, or those denied even their civil rights. It suggests that these actors are not merely subject to an unjust political order, but as incomplete in their own psychological independence. In his article on Mead, 'The Potential and the Actual', Markell describes the psychological incapacity of unrecognised actors in Honneth's scheme: In suggesting that “our powers are only 'available' to us when they are recognised by others”, Honneth runs into a crippling paradox: “if the absence of recognition by definition leaves its victims stunted and undeveloped – potential persons only – then it would seem, ironically, that to have a justifiable claim to recognition is also to be unable to demonstrate it, at least without the assistance of those who have already actualized their powers, and so can testify to your equal personhood with unequalled confidence and maturity” RP, p.106 See also Honneth's excellent lectures on Hegel's Philosophy of Right, developing his reading of the Jena writings, in Suffering from Indeterminacy Honneth mentions both authors in both Struggles for Recognition and Redistribution or Recognition? (p.131). E.P. Thompson's conception of Marxism as moral struggle has its limits, however, as can be seen through the ripostes of Perry Anderson in their famous debate. His criticism of E.P. Thompson's “moralism” is relevant to my criticisms of Honneth's sociological deficit SR p.172 Reproduced in both Fragmented World of the Social and Disrespect Bert van den Brink's reading of Adorno produces a somewhat similar conclusion. We could argue that Adorno's notion of recognition, of “non-identitarian openness to the independence, the otherness, the suffering of what is fragile and vulnerable” would be closer suited to the dealing with feeling of disrespect. Essays 4, 5, 6 and 8 of Pathologies of Reason: On the Legacy of Critical Theory. Whereas, to give a contrasting example, in the early published essay collections Fragmented World of the Social, Honneth seems far more concerned with French thought – Lévi-Strauss, Castoriadis, Bourdieu, etc. Pathologies of the Social, p.45. Honneth identifies what he considers the three components of Critical Theory - ”the normative motif as a rational universal, the idea of a social pathology of reason, and the concept of an emancipatory interest” - before concluding of them that “none can still be maintained today in the theoretical form in which the members of the Frankfurt School originally developed it” (p.42) Pathologies of the Social, p.53 Patchen Markell's writings are crucial here. Markell claims that the current dominant conception of recognition focuses too heavily on identity. He seeks instead a 'politics of acknowledgement', that “involves coming to terms with, rather than vainly attempting to overcome, the risk of conflict, hostility, misunderstanding, opacity, and alienation that characterizes life among others” -- Bound by Recognition, p.38

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