University of Melbourne Summer School 2004

Hegel and Ethical Politics

Friday 20th February 2004
9am-5pm University of Melbourne

Muhammed Kamal, Andy Blunden and Geoff Boucher

The last 30 years has seen a major shift in social conflicts in the industrialised world, from struggles for socio-economic reforms to demands for cultural recognition. In the polarised philosophical debate surrounding this paradigm shift, the “struggle for recognition” is opposed to conceptualisations of politics in terms of “redistributive justice”. This polarisation connects with another debate of crucial importance to the Left, between advocates of the so-called “identity politics” of the new social movements and defenders of class politics. The “recognition debate,” as it has come to be known, therefore concerns the future of left-wing politics in the industrialised democracies.

This seminar explores the notion of “Recognition” from three different angles.

9am: Introduction and Welcome, Andy Blunden;
9:30am: Muhammed Kamal: Hegel's Master-Slave Dialectic.
Muhammed will introduce and explain Hegel’s “Master-Slave dialectic,” in which the notion of Recognition was first formulated, and the interpretation of this idea by Alexander Kojève and others, and ask the question: “Is Recognition really Possible?”

Preparatory Reading: Hegel's Phenomenology, Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness.

11am: Morning break
11:30am: Andy Blunden: Solidarity, Recognition, Subjectivity and Mediation.
The modern world is characterised by multiple and extensive layers of mediation which both engage people in world-wide networks of communication and isolate people from interpersonal relationships. Andy will explore the role of mediation inherent in all forms of recognition and specifically the role of solidarity in history.

Preparatory Reading: For Ethical Politics [incl. free admission to Summer School if book purchased from author at R.R.P.] or the article in Arena Dec '03-Jan '04.

12:45pm: Lunch
1:30pm: Geoff Boucher: Contemporary Struggles for Cultural Recognition

Preparatory Reading: Axel Honneth: Patterns of Intersubjective Recognition.
Nancy Fraser, Justice Interruptus: Reflections on the Post-Socialist Condition chapter on Redistribution versus Recognition.

Axel Honneth’s reworking of the Hegelian notion of recognition in his book, “The Struggle for Recognition,” is one of the most important contributions to the “recognition debate.” Honneth seeks to show how recognition struggles involve political rights and socio-cultural recognition, and how these struggles are a motor force in the moral development of society. Yet, characteristic of the polarised terms of the recognition debate, Honneth separates struggles in defense of material interests from struggles for social recognition. This presentation explains Honneth’s theory in the light of the recognition debate. Then it turns to the recent exchange between Nancy Fraser – advocating redistributive justice – and Axel Honneth – supporting cultural recognition – to clarify the way that the notion of struggles for recognition works in contemporary political debates. Finally, it critically examines the separation between material interests and social recognition that underlies the entire debate, in order to outline an alternative that would not set “new” against “old” social movements, and redistributive justice against cultural recognition.

3pm: Afternoon break
3:30pm: Panel discussion: Ethical Politics and Recognition.


Register with Andy Blunden on nnnn nnnn or by email