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"Recognition and Identity: A Hegelian Response to Contemporary Critics"

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Speaker(s) / Presenter(s):
Michael Monahan (Marquette University)

Starting in the early 1990’s with the publication of Axel Honneth’s landmark book The Struggle for Recognition and Charles Taylor’s seminal essay “The Politics of Recognition”, there has been a resurgence of interest in what might broadly be called “recognition theory,” a tradition with roots in Fichte and Hegel. It is my contention, however, that there are some important and recurring weaknesses in much of this recent literature on recognition that causes it to provide what is ultimately a flawed account of oppression and liberation. Patchen Markell’s Bound by Recognition, in particular, stands as an excellent exemplar of this general trend in the recent literature.  Using his work as a paradigm case, this paper will articulate a response to Markell’s critique of recognition theory that I believe is representative of general weaknesses in much of the contemporary discussions of the topic. I will argue that these contemporary critics are working with a deep, yet common, misreading of the Hegelian roots of recognition theory, and that a return to Hegel's texts will allow for an account of recognition that holds more promise for the theorization of oppression and liberation.