Identity, Recognition and Work in Post-Fordist Society: A Path of In-Depth Critical Analysis

By Bertell, Lucia | Italian Sociological Review, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Identity, Recognition and Work in Post-Fordist Society: A Path of In-Depth Critical Analysis


Bertell, Lucia, Italian Sociological Review


Abstract

From an approach to questions and theories of identity and recognition and through authors that have dealt with them over the last few decades using different political-philosophical perspectives, I have addressed the concept of recognition by focusing on the issue of work from the starting point of Axel Honneth. Self-realization at work and capitalist paradox are combined in a debate with Fraser's perspectival dualism, continuing the dialogue between the two scholars on recognition and redistribution.

Keywords: social justice, self-realization, work.

... the contrasts want to run together and must not be allowed to. They're what you see with.

William Meredith

Issues of recognition

Our age is characterised by a deep-rooted change in scale that is challenging concepts of identity and recognition through a long series of philosophical-political, anthropological and sociological reflections.

Academics that have dealt with this issue over the last few years include those whose starting point is the realisation that the change is above all connected to identity pluralism and the coexistence of different cultures interacting and defining the possibility of being recognised publicly for one's own value and existence. Other scholars are still tied to a redistributive need, linked to the universality of rights, to defend an order based on an ideal of social justice, while a third group see it as a socio-cultural device through which every conflict of identity (including redistribution) must be symbolically recognised in order to be taken into consideration.

The stances that have met with most favour in recent years are those that give voice to social conflicts connected to cultural difference. It is undeniable that the spread of globalisation has been accompanied by movements characterised by struggle and claims for recognition of the identity of different cultures and civilisations. "Whether we call the current movements «struggles for recognition» (Charles Taylor, Nancy Fracer and Axel Honneth), «identity/difference movements» (Iris Young, William Connolly), or «movements for cultural rights and multicultural citizenship» (Will Kymlicka), they signal a new political imaginary that propels cultural identity issues in the broadest sense to the forefront of political discourse" (Benhabib, 2002, Italian translation 2005:8). This is a form of revolt against the processes of economic, social and cultural standardisation that can be seen in forms of resistance or protest by those who aim to safeguard the autonomy of their choices, lifestyles and value systems.

The term "politics of recognition" was introduced into the debate by Charles Taylor in his essay of the same name Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition (Taylor, 1992, Italian translation 1999). The work considers different contemporary movements that, according to the author, want specific claims of identity to be recognised. In creating this effective expression, Taylor borrows the episode of the struggle between two forms of self-consciousness in Hegel's The Phenomenology of Spirit.

Starting from Taylor

Taylor opens the debate on questions of identity by starting from the collective critique of the liberal theory of understanding the self, according to which society and common values inherited from tradition play a vital role in comprehending the self and personal identity. Although he maintains that each identity is original, he also asserts that the human mind is not monological or self-sufficient but dialogical. It is through language1 that we become fully developed human agents that are capable of understanding each other and defining our identity; the other plays a role of fundamental importance, especially what George Herbert Mead called "the significant other" (1934, Italian translation 1966), as identity is not constructed in isolation but is a form of negotiation through internal and external dialogue with other people (Taylor, op. …

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