Rereading Honneth Exodus Politics and the Paradox of Recognition

Is Honneth's theory sufficiently sensitive to practices of recognition that have historically emerged? This article answers in the negative by revisiting his ground-breaking study The Struggle for Recognition. The first two sections of this article reconstruct the connection he draws between the practices of recognition, the psychological damage experienced in its absence and the motivation for social conflict that results. In doing so, we discover the paradox of recognition: Honneth makes psychological and moral development depend on precisely the `legally' instantiated system that is the source of disrespect in the first instance. Correspondingly, the paradox of recognition denies other alternative ways oppressed groups have achieved and sustained psychological and moral development. The third section offers the contrasting example of how black Americans used their religious imagination to overcome the effects of slavery. In doing so, they developed structures of mutuality to affirm self and community against misrecognition
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