The Experience of Disrespect and the Genesis of the Recognition Paradigm: Empirical Research and Normative Philosophy in Axel Honneth's Critical Theory

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: Booth 63
Oral Presentation
Mariana OLIVEIRA NASCIMENTO TEIXEIRA , Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil
Together with Charles Taylor, Axel Honneth is among the most important proponents of a theoretical paradigm for the social sciences centered on the idea of “recognition.” This notion has, of course, entirely different meanings in the various contexts in which it is called upon. In Honneth’s specific case, it is of decisive importance the fact that his theorizations around the centrality of recognition relations for human self-realization are rooted precisely in the negative experiences of denial of recognition: disrespect or misrecognition. Despite the more than twenty years that separate us from the publication of Honneth’s Struggle for Recognition, however, it seems that the theoretical genesis of this important book has not yet been grasped in its full potential for understanding today’smodern societies and for a revitalization of the social sciences in general, and of Critical Theory in particular. This is due, as I see it, to the misreading of Honneth’s works as much as to the author’s insistence on making the philosophical work of Hegel the logical point of departure of his theory.

In this presentation, I intend to cast light on other motives that animated the formulation of this recognition-theoretical critical model, aside from the Hegelian works from the period of Jena: namely, the sociological and historiographical studies that convinced Honneth of the undeniable moral character of social struggles, that is, the American and especially British Sociology of the Working Classes that flourished in the 1980’s. This influence reveal a closer relation between Honneth’s work and empirical social research than is made visible in his books. I argue, finally, that this connection is a most fruitful one and that Honneth, however, partially abandons it in his recent works – despite its precise meta-theoretical formulation under the name of “normative reconstruction” in his latest book, Das Recht der Freiheit (2011).