Perspectives and ideologies: A pragmatic use for recognition theory

Philosophy and Social Criticism 38 (2):215-226 (2012)
Abstract
‘Recognition’ is a normative concept denoting the ascription of positive status to a group or an individual by (an) other(s). In its larger meaning, it carries the implication that when a group or an individual can justifiably expect such a positive status-ascription, its denial (misrecognition) is unjustified and unethical. I discuss the role that the concept of recognition can play at the intersection of two philosophies, pragmatism and contemporary critical theory. My perspective is one that embraces the ‘pragmatic turn’ in critical theory and sees the possibility of reciprocal benefit for pragmatism in how critical theory handles issues of material culture, alienation and networks of power. I argue that a critical social theory incorporating pragmatist presuppositions ought to bring the concept of recognition to bear in how it isolates and treats the ‘real interests’ of groups and individuals who have suffered and continue to suffer from broad social ascriptions of negative status, or who, through lack of voice and access to the public sphere, remain paralysed to participation in a thriving liberal democracy. In doing so, I do not construe recognition primarily as ‘positive tolerance’ or understanding of cultural, ethnic, or gender identity, but as a minimally substantive tool for understanding, and potentially correcting, how misrecognition impacts the collective and individual agency of the historically oppressed
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