Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Olson, Kevin. "Review of Bert van den Brink, et al., eds. RECOGNITION AND POWER." NDPR January 19, 2008.
van den Brink, Bert, and David Owen, eds. Recognition and Power: Axel Honneth and the Tradition of Critical Social Theory. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. In its best moments, academic dialogue brings together the right people at the right time to push a fertile research program to new levels. In this volume we have a carefully focused snapshot of such a moment. The research program in question is Axel Honneth's sustained, increasingly influential attempt to develop a social theory of recognition. The right people are a diverse group of philosophers and social scientists who have contributed to the broader understanding of recognition and its socio-political functions. Here, editors Bert van den Brink and David Owen bring the right people together in a carefully assembled volume focusing on a crucial and underdeveloped aspect of Honneth's theory: its relation to power. This book is made up of carefully worked out papers, but retains the energy of their original conference presentation at Utrecht University. It further captures the dialogical character of this event by including two detailed responses from Axel Honneth. The issue under consideration lies at the heart of Honneth's conception of recognition: the problem of power relations within the very practices of recognition. Honneth's theory is particularly vulnerable to such problems. It is realistic and comprehensive enough to consider recognition in many domains in which power is endemic, from intimate relations and domestic spheres to the institutional realms of law, politics, and the market economy. When we think of these domains as making vital contributions to the full development of individual subjects, we must ask whether power can at the same time exercise a hidden influence. In such circumstances, even normatively positive practices of recognition might produce effects that a critique of power -- a focus of Honneth's earlier work -- would find objectionable. This poses a further challenge for the theory: how can it separate out power-laden forms of recognition from those that are not distorted by power? Absent some such normative means, we may have to conclude that there is a problematic complicity between recognition and power. In this case both would be technologies for producing selves, equally dangerous in their capacity to create docile and useful subjects. . . . Read the rest here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=12203.