Honneth, Axel Anerkennung. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Honneth, Axel Die Idee des Sozialismus. Versuch einer Aktualisierung. Honneth, Axel Vivisektionen eines Zeitalters. Berlin: edition suhrkamp.

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Andy Blunden December Part I. This is true. According to Honneth: 1. The System of Ethical Life is based on an Aristotlean conception of natural ethical life; i. This is supplanted in the later works by a philosophy of consciousness.

Here Spirit thus replaces Nature, giving much greater scope for the development of cognitive and moral distinctions, but losing touch with the roots of civilisation in the natural life of human beings. In the System of Ethical Life the formation of ethical life is an agonistic process, where development arises out of intersubjective conflict, but in the later works social development is directly the self-formation of spirit, through the mediation of language, tools and family property.

Only in the System of Ethical Life is the struggle for recognition a medium of individualisation and increasing ego-competence. The use of a philosophy of Spirit distances Hegel from the explication of a process of simultaneous emancipation and individuation and growing awareness of one another as individuals, driven by the struggle for recognition. Whereas the System of Ethical Life begins with people living in communities in which individualism and private property are unknown, in a philosophy of spirit, communicative relations between subjects can no longer be conceived as something that in principle precedes individuals.

Elementary relations of communicative action strong intersubjectivism are replaced by a confrontation of individuals with their social environment — the relation of each isolated person to the State. Conflict between individuals no longer represents a medium of consciousness formation, but merely a medium for integration into the community.

Hegel never carried through the opportunity to elaborate the formation of the state as a third phase of the struggle for recognition. As a result, unlike burgers, citoyens are not conceived as social persons who owe their capacities and qualities to successful interaction with individuals who know themselves to be citoyens. The categories with which Hegel operates refer not to interactions among citoyens, but rather only to the relation of citoyens to the State as the embodiment of Spirit, which is, moreover, a state of an authoritarian type.

Whereas in the System of Ethical Life, crime is driving force for the creation of property and law, in the later works, Hegel makes no mention of progress that would affect the content or structure of legal recognition as a result of challenges to the law. Instead the universal will responds by re-establishing its power over the breakaway individual.

He thus fails to fulfil the suggestion that the development of legal relations is itself once again subject to the normative pressure of a struggle for recognition. Ethical life has become a monologically self-developing Spirit, rather than a demanding form of intersubjectivity.

Even though Hegel wanted to understand the constitution of both the legal person and social reality as stages of a formative process of Spirit, that did not prevent him from making, within the framework of a philosophy of consciousness, the relationships of interaction between subjects the media of these formative processes of the Spirit. Accordingly, in the later works, one finds only traces of the earlier programme. A Response I now want to respond to these observations, and the drift of my response is that Honneth has correctly identified the particular value of the young Hegel and what was lost in the move to his mature works, though some qualifications need to be made.

However, attention needs to be given to what Honneth describes as the methodological advantage of the philosophy of consciousness as against the intersubjectivist methodology. As a result, what I propose as the basis for further development is a partial return to the mature Hegel in order to successfully merge the intersubjective vitality of the young Hegel with the centrality of mediation in the mature Hegel. But is it entirely true that it was only after writing the System of Ethical Life that Hegel seized upon the idea of giving his ideas the shape of a philosophy of consciousness?

But if this identity is to be actually known, it must be thought as a made adequacy. He saw that the theoretical problems of analysis and the practical problems of social life were aspects of one and the same process. Further, he intends from the outset to tackle the disconnection between the daily life of the people and the intellectual life of the political elite in the very terms of the deep-seated problems of Western philosophy which had so far barred the way to a comprehension and solution of the problem of the state.

So not only was the project of explicating the construction of human life by means of intersubjective conflict left unfinished, so was the elaboration of a philosophy of consciousness.

However, it is not a philosophy of self-forming Spirit which steps into the place of intersubjective conflict, but the mediation of conflict. What is so uncharacteristic about the master-slave dialectic, for example, is the metaphor of a direct, i.

It is as if a man stepped between two opponents, only to have one of them immediately step between the mediator and the other opponent.

It is like the story of the man and wife who quarrelled and the doctor who wished to mediate between them, whereupon the wife soon had to step between the doctor and her husband, and then the husband between his wife and the doctor.

Moreover, it is precisely through these mediating elements, such as tools, language, property, the State, that Spirit is formed. There can in fact never be such a thing as direct i. Honneth claims that only in the System of Ethical Life is the struggle for recognition a medium of individualisation and increasing ego-competence. I question this.

In the System of Ethical Life, the media of individualisation and personal development are already the mediating ideal elements of products of labour, language, property and so on.

Recognition functions as the immediate initiating moment. Hegel introduces the idea of negativity in the development of society with a metaphor about the relation of sense perception and concepts, continuing his theme of a philosophy of consciousness as the means to clarify the nature of social life. In that sense then the attack comes from an outsider or stranger; the assailant maybe human, but their action is in the same category as a natural disaster or attack by a wild animal, and they are not recognised, for their part, as human beings.

That is, the criminal sees no property or right, no personality, in the injured party. But the injured party will exact revenge.

It also manifests itself externally as avenging justice However, the concept of crime is to break a law, and in the instance we are looking at there is no law to be broken. Hegel looks at three forms of the negation, viz. Revenge, reverses the form, i. The indifference of the justice which lies in revenge, but as something material and external, enters the individuals as a like consciousness of the emerging negation, and therefore the reality of this emergence is alike too on both sides.

Right is on the side that has been injured. All that matters when two parties go to war is their relative strength. The act of revenge therefore is a necessary measure to engender in the assailant party recognition of personhood at pain of death.

Those who feel that they are not recognised within a given social arrangement, who are subject to random incursions against their livelihood and can only carry out random acts of revenge or battle to restore their honour, for whom there is no court to whom appeal could be made — such people, the excluded, could identify with this. Let us assume that the cycle of murder, revenge and war described by Hegel is indicative of the general form of the struggle for recognition.

What sets the process in motion therefore is not necessarily murder, but an injury done by one party to the other through failure of recognition of the other as a human being, or a failure of a recognition of a tie to something objective, such as in the usage of land, etc.

Such a struggle for recognition cannot occur so long as people live in indifference to one another. But material contact brings into question the ties of each party to the material things subject to contact. The point is that mediation is constructed; normally people interact within a social environment in which everything is highly mediated; development happens through conflict and failures in mediation, but it is not normally the case that one self-consciousness confronts another in a life-and-death struggle without mediation.

To what extent can social development, and the human condition generally, be understood in terms of unmediated conflict? Well Hegel of course would have been the last person to propose such a thing.

The whole development is outlined in the first part of System of Ethical Life with very little recourse to the notion of a struggle for recognition at all, and as we know, in his later works, the role of the struggle for recognition underwent further and further attenuation. Honneth points out that in the System of Ethical Life, the struggle for recognition plays a key role in the formation of ties of community and in the formation of property rights, and in the Phenomenology is retained just as a moment in the formation of self-consciousness.

The fact remains of course, that at a certain point in history failure of recognition emerged in far from primeval conditions, but more of this later. Honneth claims that in a philosophy of spirit, communicative relations between subjects can no longer be conceived as something that in principle precedes individuals, and further that instead of shedding light on person-to-person relations, a confrontation of individuals with society and the State is thematised, and that conflict between individuals no longer represents a medium of consciousness formation, but merely a medium for integration into the community.

Hegel was subject to criticism from a number of directions after his death, some of which are not dissimilar to the points made here by Honneth. The real point is whether a theory of communicative action can be rationally developed on the basis of intersubjective relations which lack mediation.

When Honneth claims that elementary relations of communicative action are replaced by Hegel with a confrontation of individuals with their social environment and the State, he is decrying a conception of communicative action which is essentially and necessarily mediated.

So for example, when people talk, can we marginalise the fact that they communicate through language? The questions are meant to be rhetorical. The recognition formerly accorded people through familial and professional relationships is now swamped by external rewards of money and fame.

But the development proceeds at all times on the side of the predicate. I think that the historical character of the exposition in the System of Ethical Life is unmistakable, and outside of the Philosophy of History itself, the historical exposition nowhere else plays such a role as it does here.

But Hegel does not of course claim that the System of Ethical Life is a work of history, and nor could he. This raises the question, as valid for all the later works equally as for the early works, of the relation Hegel intends between the logical and historical aspects of his exposition, as well as the ontogenetic and phylogenetic historical expositions within the Phenomenology and the Encyclopedia.

But history poses the question from which logical enquiry begins only at the end of the story. Thus the logical and historical enquiries proceed in opposite directions.

The starting point for a child, for instance, is the adult world into which they are born, which is to be the end point for their own development, or rather its negative, for the world will have changed by the time they grow up and join the world of adults. History on the other hand, always begins with fully competent and independent adults, and winds up with citizens more dependent than ever on their social environment.

More of this later. Honneth points out that while a struggle for recognition was used to describe the basic bonds of love and the constitution of the relations of mutual respect between property-owners, no such struggle for recognition was used in the construction of the state and the formation of political consciousness.

That is to say, Hegel failed to outline the necessary formative intersubjective experiences that would allow people to know themselves as political actors. I think this is a profound observation. In other words, certain kinds of social and political experiences and activities were indeed necessary for this concept to emerge, but the relevant kind of experiences were not known to Hegel.

Until the Chartist uprisings and Parisian street battles of the s, there was no social basis for a concept of solidarity and no basis for building the concept into a philosophy of consciousness or political philosophy. We will return to this extremely important issue later. As a constitutional monarchy it is no more authoritarian than modern day England.

Honneth goes on to point to the absence of a kind of crime which would stimulate the development of social and political mores, and that to the contrary, what Hegel outlines is a system aimed at strengthening the capacity of every citizen to see in the action of the State an expression of their own will.

This view is characterised as one of social conformism. Honneth pointed out that even though Hegel wanted to understand the constitution of both the legal person and social reality as the work of Spirit, that did not prevent him from making, within the framework of a philosophy of consciousness, the relationships of interaction between subjects the media of this work.

With some qualifications, I think Honneth is right on this. What remains is to uncover the nature of the intersubjective experience which constitutes solidarity, and how this relation comes to be mediated, and the specific form of mediation characteristic of solidarity. What transformation took place in the struggle for recognition in the System of Ethical Life and the philosophy of Spirit of the mature Hegel? How can we retain the immediacy of the struggle for recognition in a conception of communicative action which is compatible with a dialectical consideration?

The answer to the riddle as to how two self-consciousnesses may make contact is simply that in the first place, the two self-consciousnesses are not differentiated at all, and in the second place that the objectification of each self-consciousness acts as the middle term for the relation of a self-consciousness with itself. Duplicated Self-consciousness: Thinking of this in terms of individuals or families living in a community or equally well, communities living in proximity without any division of labour, exchange or unifying state, etc.

Each is the mediating term to the other, through which each mediates and unites itself with itself; and each is to itself and to the other an immediate self-existing reality; which at the same time, exists thus only through this mediation.

As soon as the other demonstrates a will of its own, the existence of a self-consciousness is mortally threatened. This mortal crisis can be solved by reduction of the other to an object, its subordination or death.

Viewed from the present, this seems to be an unreasonable overstatement. This phase of the process of self-consciousness described by Hegel ends in the destruction of one or the other or their mutual withdrawal into indifference.


The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts

All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. In this book, he argues for an intersubjective view of identity and a moral interpretation of social conflict. According to Honneth, social struggles may be normatively evaluated by the extent to which they provide the preconditions for self-realization in the form of three distinct types of recognition: love, respect, and social esteem. Although the book has been subject to a variety of criticisms, it provides the most systematic and ambitious social theory of recognition available today.


The Struggle for Recognition

In previous eras, people fought for the recognition of their nations or for the rights of large groups of people. Understanding his theory means understanding our current context. We live in a globalized world surrounded by hypermodernity. According to Zygmunt Bauman , the rigorous social patterns that once marked our path as people are now gone. This is because advances in communications, economics, and technology drive the process.


Axel Honneth, Prof. Dr.



Axel Honneth’s Theory of Recognition


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