The concept of recognition in contemporary social philosophy: a critical perspective on the connection between the struggle for recognition and emancipation in Axel Honneth and Judith Butler



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Tartu Ülikool


The concept of recognition has attracted wide-spread interest in social and political philosophy during the last decades. This thesis critically examines the notion of recognition in social and political theory concentrating on the works of Axel Honneth, the author who has, arguably, presented the most comprehensive social theory of recognition to date. The thesis reconstructs Honneth’s theory of recognition in light of the connection between recognition and social change, which, for him, is understood as driven by the struggle for recognition. Drawing from the works of Judith Butler, I emphasize the ambivalent character of recognition through its connection to subject formation. Following Butler, it is argued that before a person can enjoy recognition, they must first become recognizable, which in turn is conditioned by the existent dynamics of power. As a result, I conclude that particular expressions of the desire for recognition are significantly limited in their emancipatory potential.



philosophy, social philosophy, political philosophy