Thursday, August 02, 2012

Honneth on the Brutalization of the Social Conflict

"Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory" (2012 no, 1) features a paper by Axel Honneth and an interview:

* "Brutalization of the Social Conflict: Struggles for Recognition in the Early 21st Century" [free access]

In several of his analyses, Talcott Parsons describes the establishment of modern societies as a differentiation process across spheres of mutual recognition. In this paper, I use Parsons’ social theory of recognition to examine features of recent social conflicts. I begin with Parsons’ description of the struggles for recognition that took place during his lifetime in the highly industrialized societies of the West (I). I then use Parsons’ view of normatively ordered recognition conflicts to point out societal trends that led, in the final third of the twentieth century, to a gradual undermining of the pacification structures postulated by Parsons (II). An initial outcome of this apparent disintegration I describe as a ‘brutalization’ of social conflict. By this I mean a state of society where struggles for social recognition escalate and become anomic because resolution can no longer be found in the existing systemic spheres of negotiation (III). This paper shows the importance of the term recognition to social theory by following Parsons' theory in analyzing structural transformations that are currently emerging in response to social conflicts.

[German version: "Verwilderungen des soziales Konflikts" (2011, pdf)]

* "Grammatology of Modern Recognition Orders: An Interview with Axel Honneth" [free access]

Axel Honneth has recently published a major book entitled Das Recht der Freiheit. Grundriß einer demokratischen Sittlichkeit, where he, inspired by Hegel's philosophy of right, develops a theory of justice in the form of an analysis of modern Western society. The interview, which was conducted by email in the summer of 2011, is about the new book. Honneth presents the notion of ‘democratic ethical life’ (demokratische Sittlichkeit), a core concept in the book, before moving on to explain how the work relates to recent social trends, contemporary theories of justice, and Habermas’ book Between facts and norms. Further, Honneth discusses his intellectual development in comparison with his book The struggle for recognition in order to elaborate on conceptual distinctions in ‘recognition’.

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