Journal Article

Recognizing the Limitations of the Political Theory of Recognition: Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser and Social Work

Paul Michael Garrett

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 5, pages 1517-1533
Published in print July 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcp044
Recognizing the Limitations of the Political Theory of Recognition: Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser and Social Work

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A number of writers, located within the field of social work, have suggested that the ethics and politics of recognition provide a body of theorization that can assist social workers in their day-to-day encounters with the users of social services. However, within social and political theory, the literature on recognition has generated a rich and complex critical literature, which, to date, has been neglected within this emerging social work discourse on the theme. This article, therefore, will seek to extend the existing theoretical parameters by drawing attention to some of the contemporary critiques directed at recognition theorists. In this context, it will be maintained that the contributions of Axel Honneth, whose theorization is being promoted with social work, is problematic because it is prone to what is termed ‘psychologization’. In contrast, the feminist theorist, Nancy Fraser, has provided a more convincing articulation of recognition that also gels, in part, with the more persuasive accounts of the multifaceted nature of oppression and subjugation present in the discourse of social work. In conclusion, however, it will be maintained that recognition theory, tending to focus too exclusively on micro encounters and interactions, pays insufficient attention to the role of the neo-liberal state.

Keywords: Theory; psychologicalization; perspectival dualism; the state

Journal Article.  6746 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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