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Identity, Recognition and the State

Some rough ideas for a lunchtime chat, tying together Honneth theory I have been reading with theory of the state. Opinions are my own.

Anthony Michel

on 14 December 2012

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Transcript of Identity, Recognition and the State

What to do
Guardian of Rights (individual, group)
Sponsor of Celebrations (inclusive spaces for Canadians to negotiate their own meaning, within a frame)
Guardian of Heritage / past / symbols
Earn esteem for Canadians in the INTERNATIONAL sphere
Grand guestures that
only the state can make

What not to do
Esteem certain groups over other ones (secularism, no "national culture")
Proscribe national stories of meaning (let the public negotiate this - artists!)
Nation-building... that is what Canadians do Identity Recognition The State "The Nation" Self Group ethnicity city gender orientation skin colour language hair colour class province religion age hobby profession politics urban/rural family neighbourhood nation apple/pc who exactly needs First things first: what do we mean when we say (or avoid saying) "nation"?
what drives the urge to national "belonging/attachment/identity"?
more generally, why and how do people develop group identities? Ernest Gellner Eric Hobsbawm Benedict Anderson Ernest Renan Identity as our problem: identity as a long-time obsession in Canada
perceived as a crisis in the 1990s
PCH mandated to support Canadian identity Today continued identity anxieties, different drivers
some emphasize value of unity (commonality)
some emphasize value of diversity (inclusivity)
is there a core, or is it all negotiable? Main Challenges Why do people identify with groups?
What need do group identities fullfill? Move away from viewing "culture" as a static object to preserve, nuture and protect;
Move towards "culture" as something perpetually reworked and renegotiated in the public sphere by active and engaged citizens.

To the extent that Canadians feel that their government creates the conditions for them to do this locally, regionally and "nationally", they feel an ongoing commitment to the future of Canada. The light, solid frame protects their rights and dignity, allowing their personal and collective projects to flourish. Within this frame, their own diverse talents, skills and creativity produce unique and novel creations that can win esteem from their fellow citizens in the public sphere.

To the extent that they feel excluded from this process, they will not feel Canadian.

Oh, and don't forget INTERNATIONAL - where "Canada" meets non-Canada - matters problem explanation implication Nations are modern "Two men are of the same nation if and only if they recognize each other as belonging to the same nation. ... nations are the artefacts of men's convictions and loyalties and solidarities. A mere category of persons (say, occupants of a given territory, or speakers of a given language, for example) becomes a nation if and when the members of the category firmly recognize certain mutual rights and duties to each other in virtue of their shared membership of it. It is their recognition of each other as fellows of this kind which turns them into a nation, and not the other shared attributes, whatever they might be, which separate that category from non- members." Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism They are based on mutual recognition Invented Traditions Imagined Political Community light
frame Old New shifting thinking around culture & identity (super over-simplified) natural
value equivalent
singular, congruent
static, coherent negotiated
publically re-evaluated
multiple, overlapping
contextual, ever-shifting The older way of talking of culture was born in the 19th century,

but still underlies current debates, talking of "cultures" as static, essentialist, fixed identities that shape and fully contain individuals need for clearer thinking on how culture works, how identities form
what is the ground for valuing one over another (arguing for core vs. negotiable parts of commonality)
confusion over who does what. (the role of the state vs. civil society in identity questions) Axel Honneth - “practical identity-formation presupposes intersubjective recognition” Charles Taylor - “Due recognition is not just a courtesy we owe people. It is a vital human need.” Key Concepts
nationalism is not "natural", its created and imagined
nationalisms long to create nation-states, but states do not require nations
nationality is a type of identity that cannot be measured by lists of characteristics
all it needs is the mutual recognition of people as its members Social conflicts are seen more frequently these days as struggles for cultural recognition rather than economic redistribution. Key work in this recent tradition is Honneth's "Struggle for Recognition" “motivational basis of all social conflicts” Une nation est donc une grande solidarité, constituée par le sentiment des sacrifices qu'on a faits et de ceux qu'on est dispose à faire encore. Elle suppose un passé ; elle se résume pourtant dans le présent par un fait tangible : le consentement, le désir clairement exprimé de continuer la vie commune. L'existence d'une nation est (pardonnez-moi cette métaphore) un plébiscite de tous les jours, comme l'existence de l'individu est une affirmation perpétuelle de vie. Oh ! je le sais, cela est moins métaphysique que le droit divin, moins brutal que le droit prétendu historique. Dans l'ordre d'idées que je vous soumets, une nation n'a pas plus qu'un roi le droit de dire à une province : « Tu m'appartiens, je te prends. » Une province, pour nous, ce sont ses habitants ; si quelqu'un en cette affaire a droit d'être consulté, ?'est l'habitant. Une nation n'a jamais un véritable intérêt à s'annexer ou à retenir un pays malgré lui. Le vœu des nations est, en définitive, le seul critérium légitime, celui auquel il faut toujours en revenir. A nations's existence is a daily plebicite "It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. Renan referred to this imagining in his suavely back-handed way when he wrote that 'Or l’essence d'une nation est que tons les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublié bien des choses.” With a certain ferocity Gellner makes a comparable point when he rules that 'Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist.' The drawback to this formulation, however, is that Gellner is so anxious to show that nationalism masquerades under false pretences that he assimilates 'invention' to 'fabrication' and 'falsity', rather than to 'imagining' and 'creation'. In this way he implies that 'true' communities exist which can be advantageously juxtaposed to nations. In fact, all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined. Javanese villagers have always known that they are connected to people they have never seen, but these ties were once imagined particularistically-as indefinitely stretchable nets of kinship and clientship. Until quite recently, the Javanese language had no word meaning the abstraction 'society.' We may today think of the French aristocracy of the ancien régime as a class; but surely it was imagined this way only very late. To the question 'Who is the ‘Comte de X?’ the normal answer would have been, not 'a member of the aristocracy,' but 'the lord of X, 'the uncle of the Baronne de Y,'or 'a client of the Duc de Z.' Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Axel Honneth
third generaiton Frankfurt School
student of Jurgen Habermas
emancipatory democratic critical theory
G.H. Mead
identifies three levels of recognition in modern western cultures
identifies disrespect /misrecognition as key driver of group identities, as compenstory solidarities and vehicles of resistance Habermas - intersubjectivity, we are all communicative beings Mead - psychological identity formation is dependent on recognition of significant others, cannot be self-created Hegel - first philosopher to write about recognition, master-slave relationship was struggle for recognition Sounds basic? contrary to much of individualism in early 20th century psychology (Freud, Maslow)
an alternative to materialistic explanations of left and right economic theory
more sophisticated understanding of the "other" than in cultural studies
more agency, less paranoia than Foucault Recognition Misrecognition Others Social Esteem
distinction) Respect
(legal rights) Love
intimacy) ___________________________________ Valued for unique
social contribution, pride Dignity of fair treatment, justice, civil rights, status of full citizen Humiliation,
misrepresentation Violence, attack
Disrespect, injustice
Refusal of rights
Exclusion Community of value,
group identity,
"the public" Acceptance, emotion security, social competence Abuse
Neglect P U B L I C S P H E R E P R I V A T E L I F E The State,
Fellow citizens Family, friends Question of Core vs. Negotiable Taylor speaks of "civic kernel" of identity
Habermas - "constitutional patriotism"
Honneth explains how exclusion, prejudice, injustice often manifest as denial of equality, which breeds insult, and if there is a "semantic bridge", the forging of a solidarity
these group identities struggle for recognition and win legal, civil rights
but Honneth does says this is not the same as every group getting special rights on the basis of their identity, heritage or culture
some grey zones - requests for special funding, special protections particular to a group so it can participate as full citizens
in Canadian context, group rights have been granted with Royal Proclamation, Quebec Act, Official Languages Act, Multiculturalism Act...
For Taylor, the protection of bilingualism in Canada is core, it is non-negotiable.
but a clear distiction between level where federal state takes the lead ("respect" as rights, citizenship) vs. where federal state can only encourage and support Canadians as enabler rather than promoter (esteem level - where values and culture are negotiated) national culture is "objective" List of criteria : race, ethnicity, language) nations are agreements Ernest Renan desire of a people to live together Fichte German romanticism social darwinism Both 19th c Both still here! Oh and by the way Census data from 2006 shows that when Canadians were asked to state their ethnic origins, amongst those places where "Canadian" was the leading answer were (i) Francophone Quebec and (ii) Newfoundland, two places most often identified as having strongest regional/national identities. Note that the role of the state as embodiment of the will of the
people and fair arbiter of justice in the public sphere proscribes a certain role for the federal government domestically. But on the international stage, the state becomes a personification of Canada and as a member of the world community, it competes for esteem. Canadians often feel that sub-Canadian identities are strong in our domestic politics. They feel most Canadian in a global context, compared to an "other." They often articulate pride when Canada gains international recognition, and humiliation when Canada is forgotten, misrepresented or experiences failure in the global arena. and warp, and shuttle... This is an opinion piece for discussion only and does not
represent the views of anyone besides the author.
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