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From Redistribution to Recognition?

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Tyler Zimmer

on 23 June 2015

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Transcript of From Redistribution to Recognition?

From Redistribution to Recognition?
From Class to Sexuality
Affirmation or Transformation?
Fraser's Argument Summarized
"Rooted wholly in the political economy."
Rooted in the "economic structure" rather than "cultural structure."
The "root of the injustice is socioeconomic maldistribution."
"The remedy required... will be political-economic redistribution, as opposed to cultural recognition.
Defined by your relationship to the process of production.
Nancy Fraser
Week #3 | Feminist Ethics
Goals for the week
Discuss the context of Fraser's 1995 article "From Redistribution to Recognition?"
Understand the structure of Fraser's argument in this article.
Critically assess the ideas she puts forward.
Critically evaluate the the extent to which these are ideas are relevant for us today.
"Post-Socialist Age"
"New Social Movements"
Economic History: Capitalism
High Colonialism
(Classical Capitalism)
Great Depression
"The Long Postwar Boom"
NEOLIBERALISM (1973-2008 / 1973-Present)
Government regulates economy, attempts to "manage" capitalism to prevent crises.
High public spending on health, education, etc.
Relatively high taxes on wealthy.
Unions relatively strong. Wages rising.
Job security, pensions common.
Government deregulates, privatizes services.
Public spending on social welfare cut back.
Taxes on wealthy cut back.
Employers launch offensive against unions. Wages stagnate or drop. Inequality rises.
Precarious employment, "do more with less," etc.
"New Social Movements"
We find ourselves in a certain context, in a certain "age"
This age or "era" throws up certain practical, political dilemmas, problems that we must solve.
Fraser's argument attempts to
"clarify -- and begin to resolve -- some of the central political dilemmas of our age."
Redistribution vs. Recognition
This is an "analytical device" designed for "heuristic purposes" to help clarify the political dilemmas of our context so that we can begin to debate how we might solve them.
"The philosophers have merely interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however is to change it."
Given the decline of movements against class inequality, should we continue to see this struggle as important? If not, why not? If so, which ideas and strategies are best?
Does it make sense to classify struggles against injustices rooted in gender, race and sexuality as "identity politics"?
What is the relationship between these different struggles? To what extent are they compatible and to what extent are they opposed?
Two Different Demands for Justice
"Here we're interested in socio-economic injustice that is rooted in the political-economic structure of society... e.g. exploitation, marginalization, deprivation."
"Here we're interested in the symbolic or cultural injustice that is rooted in patterns of representation, interpretation and communication... e.g. disrespect, non-recognition, cultural domination."
Demands for Redistribution
Associated historically with Marxism as well as left-liberal critiques of material inequality.
Examples of injustices of this kind:
, "having the fruits of one's labor appropriated for the benefit of another."
, "being confined to undesirable or poorly paid work or being denied access to income-generating labor altogether."
, "being denied an adequate material standard of living."
Demands for Recognition
Associated with Hegelian political ideas as well as with "new social movements."
Injustices of this kind include:
Cultural Domination:
"being subjected to patterns of interpretation and communication that are alien to (and hostile toward) one's culture."
"being rendered invisible by dominant cultural representations, forms of communication, etc."
"being routinely maligned or disparaged by dominant representations, in daily life, etc."
Fraser argues that neither redistribution nor recognition is enough...
we need both.
We need a way of understanding how to draw on both at the same time.
Justice requires
redistribution, according to Fraser.
"My aim is to connect two political problematics that are currently dislocated from one another."
We need to find a new way of integrating these two frameworks together.
This is Fraser's fundamental goal in this article.
If successful, Fraser's framework would offer a way of thinking about how to combine demands for justice
class, race, gender and sexuality.
If successful, it would offer a framework for thinking about the politics of
, that is, how to understand the relation between the politics of class, race, gender and sexuality.
A Spectrum?
Postwar Era
Own no significant means of production.
Work for others for a wage.
Have no way to earn a living except to work for a wage (work or starve).
Earn income from working.
Own means of production.
Employ others to work using their means of production to produce profit.
Earn income from owning.
Not under a compulsion to work for others in order to survive.
Workers produce more value at work than they are paid in wages... the extra value goes to the employer (profit).
"Sexuality... is a mode of social differentiation whose roots do not lie in the political economy, as homosexuals are distributed throughout the entire class structure, occupy no distinctive position in the division of labor, and do not constitute an exploited class. Rather, their mode of collectivity is that of a despised sexuality, rooted in the cultural-valuational structure of society... the injustice they suffer is quintessentially a matter of recognition. Gays and lesbians suffer from heterosexism: the authoritative construction of norms that privilege heterosexuality. Along with this goes homophobia: the cultural devaluation of homosexuality... hey are subject to shaming, harassment, discrimination, and violence, while being denied legal rights and equal protections --- all denials of recognition."
-- Fraser, p.77
Situated all the way at the recognition end of the spectrum.
The solution...
"Overcoming homophobia and heterosexism requires changing the cultural valuations (as well as their legal and practical expressions) that privilege heterosexuality, deny equal respect to gays and lesbians, and refuse to recognize homosexuality as a legitimate way of being sexual. It is to revalue a despised sexuality, to accord positive recognition to gay and lesbian specificity."
Race and Gender are "Bivalent."
"They are located in the middle of the spectrum... They are differentiated as collectivities by virtue of both the political-economic structure and the cultural-valuational structure of society... [these groups] suffer injustices that are traceable to both the political economy and culture simultaneously."
Political-Economic Dimensions (Redistribution)
Cultural-Valuational Dimensions (Recognition)
"Productive" paid labor vs. "unproductive" unpaid labor.
Division within paid labor between higher-paid, male-dominated manufacturing and professional jobs and lower-paid, female-dominated "pink collar" and domestic-service jobs.
Gender-specific exploitation, marginalization and deprivation (e.g. the "feminization of poverty").
Androcentrism: authoritative norms that privilege traits associated with masculinity.
Devaluation and disparagement of things coded as "feminine."
Sexual assault, harassment, domestic violence.
Trivializing, objectifying, and demeaning depictions in media.
Exclusion, marginalization in public sphere.
Gender Justice: A Dilemma
Must pursue both "redistributive" and "recognitive" goals at the same time to end gender injustice.
But "they are not easily pursued simulataneously" according to Fraser.
The Feminist Version of the Recognition-Redistribution Dilemma
How can feminists fight simultaneously to abolish gender differentiation and to valorize gender specificity?
From a
perspective, we need to
the economic face of gender. From a
perspective we need to
"Race structures the capitalist division of labor. It structures the division between paid work between low-paid, low-status, menial, dirty and domestic jobs, held disproportionately by people of color, and higher-paid, higher-status, white-collar, professional and technical and managerial jobs, disproportionately held by "whites"... this is a legacy of colonialism and slavery."
"Race also structures access to official labor markets, constituting large segments of the population of color as a "superfluous", degraded subproleariat or underclass, unworthy even of exploitation and excluded from the productive system altogether... the solution is to
"race"-specific exploitation, marginalization, and deprivation..."
Recognitive Aspects
Eurocentrism: the authoritative construction of norms that privilege traits associated with "whiteness." (e.g. "white somatic norm")
Cultural racism: the pervasive devaluation and disparagement of things coded as "black", "brown" or "yellow".
Demeaning stereotypical depictions in media as criminal, bestial, primitive, etc.
Violence, harassment.
Exclusion and marginalization in public sphere.
Denial of full spectrum of rights.
Ending Racism: A Dilemma
How can anti-racists fight simultaneously to abolish "race" and to valorize group specificity?
"If race were nothing but an economic differentiation, in sum, justice would require its abolition."
(c.f. debates between Burt and Zack about the politics of positively affirming black identity).
Two General Strategies for Change
"Remedies aimed at correcting inequitable outcomes without disturbing the underlying framework that generates them."
"Remedies that are aimed at correcting inequitable outcomes precisely by restructuring the underlying generative framework."
Liberal welfare state.
Reformist Politics.
Fix capitalism.
Mainstream multiculturalism.
Revalue despised identities.
Positively affirm group identities that have been subordinated.
Support group differentiation.
Revolutionary Politics.
Replace capitalism.
Deep restructuring of relations and forms of identity.
Blurs group identity and the differentiation between groups.
Address the undesirable outcomes but keep the system that produces them in place.
Work within the framework of capitalism.
Use the welfare state and Keynesian measures to address the excesses of capitalism.
Address problem at its root; break with capitalism.
Change the underlying structure.
Change the economic system from one based on profit to one based on human need.
Bring the economic system under democratic control.
Re-value despised identities.
Seek recognition for marginalized groups.
Break down negative stereotypes and representations and replace with better representations.
Positively affirm group identities
(e.g. affirm feminine identity, affirm black identity, etc.).
Redress disrespect by transforming the underlying cultural-valuational structure.
Change the whole playing field of group identities.
Destabilize group identities
and change everyone's sense of belonging, affiliation, and self (e.g. undo gender, abolish the status of "woman"; abolish the white race, undo race, etc.)
Feminist Dilemma
goal seems to be to
the way that gender structures the economy, but the
goal seems to be to
femininity, undo stigma and positively re-value the status of being a woman.
How can we solve this?
One attempt to solve it:
Combine affirmative redistributive goals with affirmative recognitive goals. This seems to alleviate the tension.
Questions? Concerns? Objections?
Another attempt...
recognitive and redistributive projects.
Thoughts? Questions? Objections? Problems?
Fraser suggests that the affirmative route will "pour oil on the flames of resentment against affirmative action."
She suggests that this strategy might elicit backlash.
Fraser = transformative politics on both fronts is the best strategy.
"The long-term goal of deconstructive feminism is a culture in which hierarchical gender dichotomies are replaced by networks of multiple, intersecting differences that are shifting... deconstruction opposes the sedimentation or congealing of gender difference..."
Some Discussion Questions
Fraser wrote this in 1995. To what extent is it still relevant? How have things changed in the meantime?
Fraser suggests that the transformative strategy is better at dealing with questions of intersectionality (how gender, race, sexuality, etc. all overlap in complicated ways). Do you agree/disagree? Why?
To what extent are transformative remedies feasible? To what extent are they desirable? Is it fair to ask people to stop positively affirming a group identity in the long-run?
What is the relationship between the short-run and the long-run here? Can affirmative remedies sometimes prime the pumps for transformation? Or do they forestall more ambitious transformative changes?
Is the redistribution vs. recognition dilemma quite as stark as Fraser makes it out to be? Is there really a tension here? Is she correct?
Full transcript