Recognition, Constitutive Domination, and Emancipation

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The claim that recognition is ambivalent is best understood as meaning that social recognition is both a precondition for individual freedom and a source of freedom-undermining domination. The first part of the claim entails that we can only be truly autonomous or realize ourselves once we receive a certain kind of recognition from other people. The second part of the claim — at least on what I view as the dominant reading — entails that recognition (necessarily or at least potentially) constrains our freedom as we need to seek recognition not on our terms but on those of others. Recognition can therefore also be a source of domination.

As I will argue, there are multiple versions of the ambivalence claim. A simple version of that claim merely holds that subjects need recognition but that such recognition is only available on terms defined by others and that the domination that this implies undermines the freedom that recognition is to secure. As I will show, this simple claim is not enough to make the case
for a thoroughgoing ambivalence, as the Hegelian tradition can respond to it by means of a theory of immanent critique of forms of life. The resulting idea of ambivalence is not pernicious but rather an acknowledgment that recognition and freedom are linked by a process which is more complex than one might initially assume.

There are also more nuanced and more threatening versions of the ambivalence claim, however. In particular, in the work of Louis Althusser and Judith Butler we find resources for thinking about the link between recognition and domination in a way that preempts the immanent critique response. These radical versions of the ambivalence claim point towards a specific form of domination — which I will term “constitutive domination” — and thereby
pose a genuine challenge to the Hegelian tradition. However, I will argue that the Hegelian model of emancipation, once it is suitably extended, can acknowledge the power of these arguments.
Originele taal-2English
TitelRecognition and Ambivalence
RedacteurenHeikki Ikäheimo, Kristina Lepold, Titus Stahl
Plaats van productieNew York
UitgeverijColumbia University Press
Pagina's161-190
ISBN van elektronische versie9780231544214
ISBN van geprinte versie9780231177610, 9780231177603
StatusPublished - jul-2021

Publicatie series

NaamNew Directions in Critical Theory
UitgeverijColumbia University Press

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