Honneth, Butler and the Ambivalent Effects of Recognition

Res Publica 21 (1):43-60 (2015)
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This paper explores the ambivalent effects of recognition through a critical examination of Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition. I argue that his underlying perfectionist account and his focus on the psychic effects of recognition lead him to overlook important connections between recognition and power. These claims are substantiated through Butler’s theory of gender performativity and recognition; and issues connected to the socio-institutional recognition of transgender identities. I conclude by suggesting that certain problems with Butler’s own position can corrected by drawing more from the Foucauldian aspects of her work. I argue that this is the most promising way to conceptualise recognition and its complex, ambivalent effects.

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