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The Political Theory of Recognition: A Critical Introduction



The Political Theory of Recognition: A Critical Introduction

Simon Thompson

ISBN: 978-0-745-62762-5 October 2006 Polity 224 Pages

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In recent years the political landscape has changed: established ideas about class, economy, nation and equality have been challenged by a new politics of identity, culture, ethnicity and difference. The political theory of recognition is a response to these challenges.

In this, the first introductory book on the subject, Simon Thompson analyses the argument that a just society is one that shows all its members due recognition. Focusing on the work on Charles Taylor, Axel Honneth and Nancy Fraser, he discusses how political theorists have conceptualised recognition, the different accounts they have given and the criticisms made of the very idea of a politics of recognition. Through the political theory of recognition, Thompson argues, we gain a better understanding of identity and difference. Practically, the concept of recognition can serve as a basis for determining which individual rights should be protected, whether cultures ought to be valued, and whether a case can be made for group representation.

This clear and accessible book provides an excellent guide through the ongoing and increasingly significant debate between multiculturalism and its critics.


1 Introduction.

1. 1 The Rise of Recognition.

1. 2 The Politics of Recognition.

1. 3 Three Theories of Recognition.

1. 4 A Plan of the Argument.

2 Recognition as Love.

2. 1 Introduction.

2. 2 Charles Taylor: The Dialogical Self.

2. 3 Axel Honneth: A Philosophical Anthropology.

2. 4 Nancy Fraser: The Discursive Subject.

2. 5 The Critique of Psychologization.

2. 6 Conclusions.

3 Recognition as Respect.

3. 1 Introduction.

3. 2 Charles Taylor: The Politics of Universalism.

3. 3 Axel Honneth: Legal Recognition.

3. 4 Nancy Fraser: Parity of Participation.

3. 5 A Critical Comparison.

3. 6 Conclusions.

4 Recognition as Esteem.

4. 1 Introduction.

4. 2 Charles Taylor: The Politics of Difference.

4. 3 Axel Honneth: The Principle of Achievement.

4. 4 Nancy Fraser: The Revaluation of Values.

4. 5 A Critical Comparison.

4. 6 Conclusions.

5 Recognition and Redistribution.

5. 1 Introduction.

5. 2 Nancy Fraser: Redistribution, Recognition and Participation.

5. 3 Axel Honneth: Redistribution as Recognition.

5. 4 A Critical Comparison.

5. 5 Conclusions.

6 Recognition and Democracy.

6. 1 Introduction.

6. 2 Charles Taylor: Participatory Self-rule.

6. 3 Axel Honneth: Reflexive Cooperation.

6. 4 Nancy Fraser: Radical Democracy.

6. 5 A Critical Comparison.

6. 6 Conclusions.

7 Struggles for Recognition.

7. 1 Introduction.

7. 2 Axel Honneth: Struggles for Recognition.

7. 3 Criticisms of Honneth.

7. 4 Conclusions.

8 Conclusion.




"Thompson provides the most comprehensive overview to date of the recognition debates – scrupulously fair and bursting with insights."

Nancy Fraser, New School for Social Research, New York

"The politics of recognition plays a central role in discussions of identity, equality and democratic inclusions in contemporary social and political thought, yet until this book there has been no comprehensive and authoritative guide to the literature on recognition. Thompson displays a mastery of the material and provides a sure-footed guide to the intricacies of the work of the main theorists of recognition – Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser and Charles Taylor. This book will be required reading for those working on democratic inclusion, identity politics and equality, and serves as a first-rate contribution to the literature on social and political theory."

Paul Kelly, London School of Economics and Political Science

The first book-length introduction to an increasingly central topic in political theory and social theory

  • In-depth discussion of the work of Charles Taylor, Axel Honneth and Nancy Fraser

  • Clear explanation of the ideas of recognition, identity, culture, ethnicity and difference

  • Provides a practical account of recognition as a way of understanding individual rights, cultural politics and representation