(Mis)Recognition, Ressentiment, and Dualism: Challenges for a New Sittlichkeit

Monday, July 14, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: Booth 63
Oral Presentation
Spiros GANGAS , Department of Sociology, Deree-the American College of Greece, Athens, Greece
In this presentation I shall argue that the category of ‘recognition’ (Hegel, Honneth) and its approach to social justice can be enriched if we address two major issues: a) the first problem posed for any theory of recognition is to forge a theory of social institutions embedding social justice. Following Axel Honneth’s recent shift towards the work of Durkheim and Parsons, I shall defend this pattern arguing that a new theory of Sittlichkeit is indeed pressing for an adequate approach to social justice through the lens of recognition. Yet, and this is issue (b), Honneth’s theory leaves largely unaddressed the issue of ressentiment, a powerful index of misrecognition and disrespect. I shall thus attempt to fill this void in Honneth drawing on Max Scheler’s configuration of ressentiment. It seems that ressentiment is pertinent to a theory of just social institutions in many ways. For instance, I shall address Parsons’ inclusion of ‘sour grapes’ pathology in his theory of modern society, extending it to the radicalization of systems theory in Luhmann. Luhmann is important because he locates, perhaps unwittingly, a space in society where ressentiment may be cultivated. This is no other that the inelastic binary code which sets a social system’s self-definition in motion. Rigid, and systemically coded, dualisms give rise to feelings of  ressentiment between categories (‘left-‘right’, ‘progressives’-‘conservatives’, ‘public-private’, ‘pro-globalization-anti-globalization’ advocates) and shipwreck important reforms that would mitigate injustice and would improve patterns of intersubjective recognition. Augmenting the category of ‘misrecognition’ to include the ressentiment problematic can help social theorists to theorize better significant empirical findings (e.g. Wilkinson and Pickett, The Spirit Level) that bear on the issue of contemporary social institutions and their approach to social justice.