Against Recognition
Against Recognition
The idea of the struggle for recognition features prominently in the work of various thinkers from Charles Taylor and Jurgen Habermas to Axel Honneth and Nancy Fraser who are concerned with the centrality of issues of identity in modern society. In differing ways, these thinkers use the idea of recognition to develop accounts of the individual which are opposed to the asocial individualism of liberal thought and to the abstraction of much work on the subject.

The idea of recognition expresses the notion that individuality is an intersubjective phenomenon formed through pragmatic interactions with others. By highlighting the intersubjective features of individuality, the idea of recognition has both descriptive and normative content and it has important implications for a feminist account of gender identity.

In this brilliant and original book, Lois McNay argues that the insights of the recognition theorists are undercut by their reliance on an inadequate account of power. The idea of recognition relies on an account of social relations as extrapolations of a primal dyad of interaction that overlooks the complex ways in which individuality is connected to abstract social structures in contemporary society.

Using Bourdieu's relational sociology, McNay develops an alternative account of individual agency that connects identity to structure. By focussing on issues of gender identity and agency, she opens up new pathways to move beyond the oppositions between material and cultural feminisms.
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  • March 2008 (hb)
    February 2008 (pb)
  • 240 pages
  • 160 x 239 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $72.75
  • 9780745629315
  • Paperback $28.00
  • 9780745629322
Table of Contents

Introduction: Against Recognition.

Chapter One: Recognition and Misrecognition in the Psyche.

Chapter Two: The Politics of Recognition.

Chapter Three: Narrative and Recognition.

Chapter Four: Recognition and Redistribution.

Chapter Five: Beyond Recognition: Identity and Agency.


About the Author
Lois McNay is Reader in Social and Political Theory and a Fellow of Somerville College at the University of Oxford.
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"Against Recognition is an important critique of some of the recognition theorists, and McNay analyses some important blind spots in the recognition literature. It is certainly a recommendable book."
Political Studies Review

"Incisive, committed and engaged: this is feminist social theory at it should be practised. McNay?s critique of theories of recognition develops her earlier work on agency and incorporates a powerful and compelling new analysis of the relationship between embodied identity and gender inequalities."
Henrietta L. Moore, London School of Economics and Political Science

"Against Recognition presents a carefully argued critique of recent efforts to represent social and political agency as a struggle for recognition. Though sympathetic to the aims of recognition theorists, McNay finds that their paradigm rests on a reductive conception of power. By way of alternative, she presents a modified version of Pierre Bourdieu's relational phenomenology, whose key concepts of habitus, field, and capital are used to provide a better account of the role that power plays in the complex interplay between agency and social situation."
Andrew Cutrofello, Loyola University, Chicago

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