Bound by Recognition

Bound by Recognition

Patchen Markell
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Bound by Recognition
    Book Description:

    In an era of heightened concern about injustice in relations of identity and difference, political theorists often prescribe equal recognition as a remedy for the ills of subordination. Drawing on the philosophy of Hegel, they envision a system of reciprocal knowledge and esteem, in which the affirming glance of others lets everyone be who they really are. This book challenges the equation of recognition with justice. Patchen Markell mines neglected strands of the concept's genealogy and reconstructs an unorthodox interpretation of Hegel, who, in the unexpected company of Sophocles, Aristotle, Arendt, and others, reveals why recognition's promised satisfactions are bound to disappoint, and even to stifle.

    Written with exceptional clarity, the book develops an alternative account of the nature and sources of identity-based injustice in which the pursuit of recognition is part of the problem rather than the solution. And it articulates an alternative conception of justice rooted not in the recognition of identity of the other but in the acknowledgment of our own finitude in the face of a future thick with surprise. Moving deftly among contemporary political philosophers (including Taylor and Kymlicka), the close interpretation of ancient and modern texts (Hegel'sPhenomenology, Aristotle'sPoetics, and more), and the exploration of rich case studies drawn from literature (Antigone), history (Jewish emancipation in nineteenth-century Prussia), and modern politics (official multiculturalism), Bound by Recognition is at once a sustained treatment of the problem of recognition and a sequence of virtuoso studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2587-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. INTRODUCTION The Problem of Recognition
    (pp. 1-8)

    Walking along a crowded avenue, you see a friend and call out her name: suddenly, a pocket of intimacy forms in an otherwise anonymous public space. Standing in a long line at the immigration office, you find yourself grateful for your Canadian passport, which you know will make it easier for you to extend your employment in the United States. You roll back the metal gates in front of your shop window, which now displays (next to the list of South Asian languages spoken inside) a new assortment of items prominently bearing the American flag. Sitting down with a calculator,...

  5. CHAPTER ONE From Recognition to Acknowledgment
    (pp. 9-38)

    In her classic study of Machiavelli, Hanna Pitkin describes the political theorist’s “special problem of communication” this way: “In order to be understood, he must speak in terms familiar to his audience, from within a conceptual framework and an understanding of the world that they share. Yet he wants not to convey new information to them, but rather to change the terms, the conceptual framework through which they presently organize their information.”¹ Any attempt to overcome the misrecognitions that afflict the politics of recognition as it is conventionally understood faces a version of the same problem. These misrecognitions are not...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Distinguishing Mark: Taylor, Herder, and Sovereignty
    (pp. 39-61)

    In 1992, the eminent Canadian philosopher and political theorist Charles Taylor published an influential essay on the theoretical foundations of identity politics, which moved deftly between the history of European philosophy and late-twentieth-century political controversies over such issues as multiculturalism in higher education and nationalism in Québec. Taylor proposed that many contemporary social and political movements can be understood as struggles for recognition—that is, as attempts to secure forms of respect and esteem that are grounded in, and expressive of, the accurate knowledge of the particular identities borne by people and social groups.¹

    But what, exactly,isrecognition? Taylor’s...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Tragic Recognition: Action and Identity in Antigone and Aristotle
    (pp. 62-89)

    In much contemporary political thought, “recognition” is cast as a kind of good, an object of ethical and political aspiration, capable of emancipating us from the destructive effects of ignorance and prejudice. In the last chapter, we discovered that this thought sometimes finds expression in the narrative forms that theorists of recognition choose to employ. Like Herder before him, for example, Taylor projects the pleasures of successful recognition backward into a mythic past; he diagnoses the failure of recognition in the present; and he anticipates a future of mutual knowledge and respect in which we recover the recognition we have...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Abdication of Independence: On Hegel’s Phenomenology
    (pp. 90-122)

    The preceding chapters have left us with two sharply contrasting views of the significance of the concept of recognition for political thought. On the one hand, the politics of recognition, eloquently defended by Taylor and others, takes recognition to be a crucial human good. On this view, a just social and political order is one in which people mutually recognize each other in all their diversity, thereby overcoming the crippling restrictions on some people’s agency that result from unequal or asymmetrical distributions of recognition. On the other hand, tragedy, with its distinctive understanding of the relationship between action and identity,...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Double Binds: Jewish Emancipation and the Sovereign State
    (pp. 123-151)

    Between the last decades of the eighteenth century and the continentshaking revolutions of 1848, the lives of Jews in Europe’s Germanspeaking lands were fundamentally transformed by a series of measures designed to end or weaken the restrictions that had long excluded Jews from the mainstream of social and political life. Although these measures were gradual and often halting, this period is rightly called the era of emancipation; and the movement for reform had already made substantial progress by 1821, when Hegel, in a famous note to thePhilosophy of Right, declared that the exclusion of Jews from civic life was...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Slippery Slope: Multiculturalism as a Politics of Recognition
    (pp. 152-176)

    When the conservative German politician Friedrich Merz suggested in late 2000 that foreigners should be required to adopt a GermanLeitkultur—a “guiding” or “defining” culture—Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer responded acidly that “the problem is some Christian Democrats like Mr. Merz are still living in the 19th century.”¹ Fischer’s retort suggests one way of thinking about the relevance of the case of Jewish emancipation, and others like it, to contemporary political life: perhaps what such cases show us is not the limits of the politics of recognition as such, but rather the dangers of a specific version of that...

  11. CONCLUSION Toward a Politics of Acknowledgment
    (pp. 177-189)

    The rhythm of the foregoing story about recognition, misrecognition, and acknowledgment is tragic. It is not a story of monstrous or ignorant people. It is a story of people who, understandably, respond to the experience of intersubjective vulnerability in overly ambitious ways—that is, in ways that do not acknowledge but instead try to overcome some of the basic conditions of human activity—and who thereby find themselves working against their own purposes; or achieving some of those purposes but at a substantial and unavowed cost to themselves or others; or both. But if this story is tragic, and if...

  12. AFTERWORD A Note on the Cover
    (pp. 190-194)

    Over the years that I have been writing this book, I have found myself reading and re-reading Aeschylus’sOresteia. At first, it was Hegel who led me back to Aeschylus. Later, I heard echoes of theOresteiain the terms that often framed debates about identity in the 1990s: passionate tribalism versus sober citizenship, fragmentation versus common purpose;pluribusversusunum. Then, just as I was coming to see the concept of recognition as my unifying theme, a provocative day of theater sent me back to Aeschylus’s play, persuaded that theOresteiamight not have “the happiest ending in all...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 195-248)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 249-276)
  15. Index
    (pp. 277-284)