Over the past two decades, critical debates and insights within philosophy, sociology and political theory have focused on the concept of recognition. However, while the literature on recognition has had a significant impact within social and political theory delimited to the ‘self-contained’ space of the territorially-bounded state, it has been comparatively neglected in international political theory. Only recently has recognition begun to move from being a marginal concern for theorists of international politics to a more prevalent current of thought. In this chapter, we concentrate, first, on sketching the tradition of Hegelian recognition inaugurated in the early nineteenth century and, second, on some of the main extensions and transformations of this tradition throughout the late twentieth century and the outset of the twenty-first. We then explore why and how bringing the political theory of recognition into dialogue with international political theory can enrich our understanding of a host of issues within international, global or world politics. The final section presents the three core themes explored in this volume, and provides an overview of the essays that follow.
World society has become something of a trope in International Relations (IR) theory to capture a web of relations between diverse actors operating outside the formal rubric of the state. One presupposition of world society and its cosmopolitan iterations is particularly problematic, as it concerns reciprocal, inter-human recognition. Given multiple practices and instances of dehumanization and misrecognition which undermine or deny the rights and status claims of certain ‘types’ of people – or even their claim to being human in the first place – we must turn this assumptive ideal of universal recognition into a question. How, this chapter asks, is recognition cultivated if it is not automatically bestowed? The chapter explores a set of processes that aid in the constitution of inter-human recognition. Because of their socio-political ramifications, these generative processes function as a first-order practice or, in IR theoretical terms, a primary, constitutive institution of world society conceived of as an inter-human society.
Far from being necessarily divisive, recognition is integral to the construction of effective global movements against injustice. I highlight three different sites at which the politics of recognition has important roles to play: within progressive movements, between progressive movements and by progressive movements on the ‘global stage’. At these different sites, I argue, recognition politics serves both integrative and performative functions. By identifying the sites at which recognition can contribute to global struggles and explaining the functions recognition serves, I add to our understanding of ‘regimes of recognition’, offer a new perspective on the nature of and prerequisites for the recognition encounter, and illuminate the importance as well as the limitations of political institutions like the World Social Forum and campaigns like the anti-War protests of 2003.
In Charles Taylor’s seminal writings, the revival of the nineteenth-century concept of ‘recognition’ was closely connected to the birth of ‘multiculturalism’ as a public policy and normative idea. This connection has unfortunately been dissolved by continental political philosophers such as Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth who reject all group-based understandings of recognition which cannot be reduced to aspirations for individual freedom within a given state or society. Yet this individualist bias has proven to be rather unproductive in the field of international political theory. I therefore suggest returning to and clarifying the original conceptual connection between recognition and multiculturalism as a way of rethinking the relations between cultural groups, nations and states from a normative point of view. My argument in this chapter is about the question whether Taylor’s idea can be elaborated with respect to the world community of states and societies.
This chapter articulates the concept of recognition beyond its anthropocentric core. The prevailing conceptualization of recognition in International Relations (IR) relates to the collective endowment with a legal status as a legitimate participant on the world stage. This understanding draws on normative political theories of justice premised on a binary distinction between acts of acknowledgement (‘responsive model of recognition’) and acts of declaration (‘generative model of recognition’). Thus, the mutual collective recognition of and by states becomes the mechanism through which one’s participation in the international domain is validated. However, this conceptualization seems to offer little of value when it comes to IR’s recent strive to offer an inclusive account not just for the human, but also for the non-human interactions in global life. At stake is not simply the need to extend the concept of recognition beyond the agency of the state, but rather the requirement for its radical reframing ‘beyond-the-human’ into a non-anthropocentric notion. This chapter considers critically the potential for a more inclusive and encompassing understanding of recognition embedded in the reciprocity principle. The suggestion is that if the study of IR is to address meaningfully the challenges of climate change through the conceptualization of recognition, it will have to confront and reframe its anthropocentric premise.
Cosmopolitan education pursues global justice through the cultivation of global citizens, fostering understanding and respect through contact with alternative beliefs and customs. However, the critical engagement it promotes tends too much towards the rationalist prescription of more, and better, knowledge of the other and fails to interrogate the roots of misrecognition. The form of recognition employed by this approach is an impoverished conception that fails to capture the ongoing struggle, ambiguity, and recognition offers a provocative challenge to cosmopolitan education. Where cosmopolitan education pursues emancipation through the positive production of cosmopolitan citizens, an agonistic approach advocates ‘an education towards critical self-reflection’. This unsettling pedagogy offers a radical challenge to mainstream and cosmopolitan education and, more broadly, to dominant liberal capitalist norms. It cannot co-exist with societal desires for certainty, self-preservation, and invulnerability; indeed, one its foremost ‘tasks’ is to challenge the deeply rooted ignorance and indifference that pervade modern society and that spring from a fear of recognition. In so doing, this approach promotes a counter-cultural embrace of ambiguity, vulnerability, and love.
During April and May of 1989, Beijing was the site of an extraordinary series of demonstrations and political actions that came to be known as ‘the Beijing Spring’. Protesters, which included students, called for democracy, freedom, dialogue with the government, the accountability of authorities and an end to corruption. This chapter explores how the principal categories of the Lockean narrative can shape the context for the understanding of and response to political injury. In the case of much of the Western response to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, the conceptualisation of man and the state is particularly important, as is the related articulation of the realms of ethics and politics. The chapter questions the adequacy of the terms of the debate between citizenship rights and human rights. After noting the sharp emergence of human rights onto the agenda of dealings between China and the West following the Tiananmen killings, the chapter looks at the terms in which the story of the massacre was presented in much Western commentary of the time.
This book has explored the promotion of human rights practices and approaches in international life. It has argued for a shift in approach—a greater preparedness to reflect on some of the categories by which we construct our sense of human rights and some acknowledgment of the limits of our understanding, or even of our ignorance, of the complex life to which these categories, particularly that of the human, refer. This way of conceptualising human rights has provided a remarkably powerful framework for the characterisation of both the individual and political community and for the identification of abuse. Moreover, it has to a significant extent shaped the terms in which general debate over human rights in international politics has been repeatedly cast, particularly the polarity of universalism and relativism, of the ‘rights of man’ and the citizen's rights, and of political and economic (or social or cultural) rights. Human rights practices are not part of a progression to perfection, or its approximation, but a way of working with the systemic generation of suffering.
In his work on human rights in international relations, R. J. Vincent states that ‘human rights’ is a readily used term that has become a ‘staple of world politics’. This chapter examines some of the orders of thought that dominate human rights promotion and shape the meaning of this powerful, complex and in some ways contradictory tool of rights and ‘rights talk’. First, it considers the polarity of universalism and relativism that structures much of what it is possible to say on human rights. Second, it looks at the story of the Lockean social contract, as one still potent myth of the origin for human rights and more broadly as a mechanism for conceptualising the human political community and ethics in the liberal state. The chapter questions the adequacy of these constructions for responding to the complexity of systemic infliction of injury. It then looks at the dominant theoretical accounts of international politics that have formed a central platform for the debate and, to some extent, for practice regarding rights in the international arena.
East Timor was forcibly incorporated into Indonesia in 1975 and managed to become independent almost twenty-five years later. Now the territory, poised on the edge of statehood, is undergoing transition, but also flux and confusion. At the time of writing, the United Nations Transitional Authority for East Timor (UNTAET) is effectively the Government of East Timor, with elections for a constituent assembly to determine a constitution expected in August 2001. This chapter examines the immediate background to Indonesia's violent process of incorporation and the pattern of abuse that characterised it. To emphasise human rights promotion as grounded in exchange with the actual patterns of social practice involved casts a different light on the apparent self-evidence of that polarisation, as the story of East Timor suggests. Effective self-determination and effective international understanding of and response to East Timor's evolving circumstances may be anything but simple. Answers to questions around how to build a reasonably peaceful political order that East Timor's circumstances pose for its own population and leadership, and for others, may be fundamental to how we understand political community.