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Cillian McBride

ISBN: 978-0-745-67086-7 January 2014 Polity 224 Pages




A tension between the desire to be respected as an equal and the desire to distinguish oneself as a unique person lies at the heart of the modern social order. Everyone cares about recognition: no one wants to be treated with disrespect, insulted, humiliated, or simply ignored. This basic motivation drives the ‘politics of recognition’ which we see in those struggles for inclusion and equality in relation to gender, ethnicity, race and sexuality and which seek to affirm the public value of these particular identities.

In this compelling new book Cillian McBride argues that the notion of recognition is not merely confined to these struggles, but has a long history, from ancient ethical ideals centred on the achievement of honour and glory, to Enlightenment ideals of human dignity and equality. He explores the politics of cultural rights and recognition, the conflict between dignity and esteem, the role of shame and stigma in systems of social control and punishment, the prospects for a just society in which everyone receives the recognition they deserve, and the way in which we come to be independent, self-determining persons through negotiating the networks of social recognition we inhabit.

Recognition will be essential reading for students in philosophy and political theory, and any general readers interested in trying to understand and evaluate the role of recognition in the modern world.

Acknowledgements vii

Introduction 1

1 The Politics of Recognition 9

2 Respect 42

3 Esteem and Social Distinction 72

4 Justice and Recognition 103

5 The Struggle for Recognition 134

Notes 164

References 171

Index 180

"McBride is a sure-footed guide to the recognition literature and a clear-eyed judge of the claims to be found there. This is a very fine book."
Philip Pettit, Princeton University

"Cillian McBride's penetrating and broad-ranging study gives a sympathetic hearing to the claims of recognition but also exposes a multitude of errors and false assumptions in the thinking that has dominated the subject. His insightful analysis and acute criticism deliver a radical reappraisal of how we should respond to demands for recognition."
Peter Jones, Newcastle University

"In this book, McBride successfully performs a difficult feat: he gives a wide-ranging and insightful account of the various philosophical, political and sociological aspects of the idea of recognition, while at the same time presenting and providing a persuasive defence of his own 'interactive' conception of recognition."
Simon Thompson, University of the West of England
  • Everyone cares about recognition: no one wants to be treated with disrespect, insulted, humiliated, or simply ignored.
  • In this compelling new book, McBride examines how a basic need for recognition is the motivation behind struggles for inclusion and equality in contemporary society.
  • He also investigates the long history of the concept, from ancient ethical ideals to the Enlightenment, and how the notion of recognition has been at the heart of political thought.
  • This will be essential reading for undergraduate students of politics, political theory and philosophy.