Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview with Honneth: Social Critique between Anthropology and Reconstruction

Jonas Jakobsen has uploaded an interview with Axel Honneth:

"Social Critique between Anthropology and Reconstruction: An Interview with Axel Honneth"

The interview was conducted by Odin Lysaker & Jonas Jakobsen and published in "Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift" 2010 no. 3.

Q: Yesterday you held a lecture here in Oslo in which you criticized «procedural» and «constructivist» theories of justice. We would like to know a little more about your own understanding of justice and whether you understand your theory of recognition as a theory of justice too? Can the three principles of recognition – love, legal respect and social esteem – be understood as three principles of justice?

A: Well, in that lecture I tried to use my own concept of recognition, and my understanding of modern society as composed of different «spheres of recognition», in order to develop an alternative concept of justice. The main intuition behind this alternative is that there is a certain tendency in contemporary theories of justice to reduce everything – in the name of individual autonomy – to only one dimension, namely the dimension we could call «respect» or «legal respect». This means that they all care mainly or only about the possibility of mutual respect through deliberative or discursive autonomy. Here I think there is a huge similarity between all contemporary concepts of justice which also include some other components, for example that the main reference point of all these theories is the legal sphere, and that the main actor in this sphere is the legal state. My intuition is that, with this reduction, two other dimensions are completely ignored, both of which are equally necessary for developing and establishing individual autonomy. So, my own aim is, if I should put it into one sentence, to readdress these two principles, which contemporary theories of justice have lost sight of, and to make them the reference point of a broader conception of justice. The first principle is the principle of love, which is enormously important for our whole understanding of the intimate sphere of personal relations; we would not even be able to explain what we mean with this sphere, with friendship, sexual relations or families, if we didn’t have a normative concept of love. The other principle, which is more disputed, is the concept of contribution or social esteem. I believe this principle to be absolutely fundamental for our understanding of the whole sphere of work. The sphere of organized work is totally downplayed by the procedural theories of justice because of their narrow focus on political citizens. Therefore I want to readdress these other components. I should mention that, with this approach I am very close to another political philosopher; not Michael Walzer, who also writes about «spheres of justice», but David Miller, who, in his book Social Justice (1976), also plays with the idea that we have to deal with three different principles of justice. I call this approach a pluralistic approach.

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