In Gottfried Schweiger (ed.), Poverty, Inequality and the Critical Theory of Recognition (2020)

David Ingram
Loyola University, Chicago
This essay proposes recognition theory as a preferred approach to explaining poor women’s puzzling preference for patriarchal subordination even after they have accessed an ostensibly empowering asset: microfinance. Neither the standard account of adaptive preference offered by Martha Nussbaum nor the competing account of constrained rational choice offered by Harriet Baber satisfactorily explains an important variation of what Serene Khader, in discussing microfinance, dubs the self-subordination social recognition paradox. The variation in question involves women who, refusing to reject the combined socio-economic benefits of patriarchal recognition and empowering microfinance, dissemble their subordination to men. In this situation, women experience a genuine form of divided consciousness which recognition theory frames as an identity crisis. Understanding the pathological nature of deceit as a way of life that blurs the boundaries between rational choice and rationalization, recognition theory shows how dissemblance itself is constrained by conflicting recognition orders in ways that prevent women who live such a life from successfully emancipating themselves. In this respect, recognition theory provides an important ---albeit, from the standpoint of recent feminist and intersectional research on identity and autonomy, inadequately qualified---norm of personal integrity and genuine agency requisite for conceptualizing adaptive preferences.
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