Recognition, redistribution, and democracy: Dilemmas of Honneth's critical social theory

European Journal of Philosophy 13 (1):89–126 (2005)
Abstract
What does social justice require in contemporary societies? What are the requirements of social democracy? Who and where are the individuals and groups that can carry forward agendas for progressive social transformation? What are we to make of the so-called new social movements of the last thirty years? Is identity politics compatible with egalitarianism? Can cultural misrecognition and economic maldistribution be fought simultaneously? What of the heritage of Western Marxism is alive and dead? And how is current critical social theory to approach these and other questions? Much of the most productive work done in recent social theory has revolved around such issues, in particular, around those concerning the relationship between the politics of recognition and the politics of distribution. After the intense theoretical focus over the last fifteen years or so on the issues of recognition politics—multiculturalism, multi-nationalism, identity politics, group-differentiated rights, the accommodation of difference, and so on—some social theorists have worried that attention has been diverted from important issues of distributive equality—systematic impoverishment, increasing material inequality, ‘structural’ unemployment, the growth of oligarchic power, global economic segmentation, and so on. While some critics seem to have adopted a blunt ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ line of criticism,1 others have attempted to develop an overarching, integrative theoretical framework adequate to the diverse issues concerning both economic and cultural justice. For example, Axel Honneth proposes that a suitably developed and normatively robust theory of intersubjective recognition can adequately integrate an analysis of apparently diverse contemporary struggles: those for a just division of labor and hence, a fair distribution of resources and opportunities, as well as those for a culture free of identity-deforming disrespect and denigration.
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Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch (2013). Introduction. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (4):679-682.
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