Although these two trajectories overlap, there are important differences between them.
Acts of recognition infuse many aspects of our lives such as receiving a round of applause from a rapt audience, being spotted in a crowded street by a long-forgotten friend, having an application for a job rejected because of your criminal record, enjoying some words of praise by a respected philosophy professor, getting pulled over by the police because you are a black man driving an expensive car, and fighting to have your same-sex marriage officially sanctioned in order to enjoy the same benefits as hetero-sexual marriages.
Evidently the various ways we are recognised (and recognise others) play an important role in shaping our quality of life.
Recognition theorists go further than this, arguing that recognition can help form, or even determine, our sense of who we are and the value accorded to us as individuals.
Political theories of recognition, which attempt to reconfigure the concept of justice in terms of due or withheld recognition, can be contrasted with (but set alongside) the rise of multiculturalism, which has produced an array of literature focused on recognising, accommodating and respecting difference.
It presents the main similarities and differences between these authors before examining some important criticisms levelled at concept of recognition.
The conclusion is a reflection upon the increasing influence of recognition and how it may develop in the future.
The term ‘recognition’ has several distinct meanings: (1) an act of intellectual apprehension, such as when we ‘recognise’ we have made a mistake or we ‘recognise’ the influence of religion on American politics; (2) a form of identification, such as when we ‘recognise’ a friend in the street; and (3) the act of acknowledging or respecting another being, such as when we ‘recognise’ someone’s status, achievements or rights (upon the different meanings of recognition, see Inwood, 1992: 245-47; Margalit, 2001: 128-129).
These focus on the role played by recognition in individual identity formation and the normative foundation this can provide to theories of justice.
Despite its brief history as an explicitly political concept, philosophical interest in the idea of recognition can be traced to the work of Hegel, who first coined the phrase ‘struggle for recognition’ ().
This article begins by clarifying the specific political and philosophical meaning of recognition.
It will provides an overview of Hegel’s remarks on recognition before proceeding to identify the contemporary advocates of recognition.