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Recognition of Neediness and Difference. Remarks on the Relationship between Disability and Ethics.

Paper presented at the Ethics Colloquium held at Utrecht University in the Netherlands on November 9th, 2004
- not to be quoted without the permission of the autor -

Sigrid Graumann
Institut Mensch Ethik und Wissenschaft, Berlin

1. Introduction

(1) Disability plays an important role in applied ethics, particularly in medical ethics and bioethics. However, the perspectives of disabled people differ radically in several important respects from those of professional ethicists. This observation was the starting point for my research project. In this project, which has the working title "disability and ethics", I want to investigate firstly, how disability is actually perceived in contemporary moral theory and secondly, how disability should be perceived in moral theory. Against this theoretical background, I want to determine, thirdly, which demands asserted by people with disabilities in societal and political conflicts are justified and which are not. The part of my research project I will be talking about today serves as an introduction to the above-mentioned topics. It provides the foundation for the analysis of concepts contained in moral theories such as utilitarianism, contractualism, virtue ethics and deontological ethics with regard to their perception of the phenomenon of disability.

(2) The relevance of the perception of disability in ethics is not, I believe, restricted to a fringe group issue. It is (or it should be) rather a general question of importance for political and social philosophy as well as for medical ethics and bioethics for both anthropological and sociological reasons:

It is worth pointing out, firstly, that only certain periods of life are marked by independence and more or less unrestricted autonomous agency. Other periods of life are characterized by dependency and vulnerability (Noddings 1986; Kittay 1999; MacIntyre 2001). Because of the neoliberal political reorganisation of institutions and social structures taking place in our time, the question of how we deal with vulnerable and dependent members of society becomes a rather crucial one accompanied by a particular need for normative orientation.

Secondly, the dividing line between disabled and non-disabled individuals seems to be fluid (Link 2004; Waldschmidt 2003). If we want to decide - for example, with the aim of regulating access to preimplantation and prenatal selection - in which cases we can speak of "real" disabilities which are worthy of being prevented and in which cases we can speak of variations within the normal range which should generally be tolerated, we are already faced with several problems (Lübbe 2003).

(3) It is not as easy to start an investigation into the perception of disability in ethics as to initiate debates on ethical issues in other, thematically related fields. In the latter case the ethicists involved refer to one or the other ethical school, pointing out its strong and weak points, exploring a line of argumentation which seems to be defensible for good reasons and then applying it to the concrete question at hand. The reason for this is that it is not quite clear whether ethics, as a theory-building enterprise, is "innocent" in this context. From the point of view of representatives of the disability movement and of scholars working in the area of disability studies, ethics as such is accused of being involved in disregarding and discriminating against disabled members of society. Authors who adopt the perspective of disabled people thus tend to discuss the relation between ethics and disability exclusively in terms of power relations, usually referring to Michel Foucault and Emmanual Lévinas (Rösner 2002). On the one hand, I sympathize with this approach because it provides a framework for analysing forms of injustice which have hitherto remained invisible. On the other hand, I find it unsatisfactory because, in most cases, the author's own normative standpoint remains in the dark. It is scarcely possible, however, to determine whether claims asserted in societal and political conflicts are justified without referring to a normative standpoint.

(4) The relationship between ethics and disability (or rather between ethicists and disabled activists) is rather tense for two reasons: The first reason has to do with the level of applied ethics: The perception of disability in medical ethics and bioethics is primarily reduced to functional defects and suffering according to the so-called medical model of disability (Hirschberg 2004). The debate about prenatal selection (Wolbring 2001) and euthanasia - as exemplified by the Peter Singer debate (Dederich 2003) - are only two examples. In these debates representatives of the disability movement have accused (non-disabled) ethicists of taking a discriminatory view of disability. Involved ethicists, on the other hand, argue that the feelings of disabled people are understandable but that there is no violation of their individual rights and hence no discrimination (Birnbacher 1999; Hoerster 1997). Nevertheless, it is doubtful whether the problem has been settled by this reply. Perhaps the topics "selection" and "quality of life" can not be satisfactory discussed in terms of the violation of individual rights but rather in terms of the "cumulative consequences" of biomedical innovations as the philosopher Weymar Lübbe proposes (Lübbe 2003).

The second reason is related to the level of ethical theory building: As many feminist theorists have pointed out, most moral theories are formulated from the perspective of more or less wealthy and honoured, independent and autonomous, healthy, usually male and white citizens. This perspective generally neglects the specific needs and interests of members of subordinated groups and, in particular, of vulnerable and dependent individuals (Wendell 1996; Nussbaum 2002), and those caring for them (Kittay 1999). If this is true, many ethical theories are remarkably biased and thus probably indeed involved in stigmatising and discriminating against members of subordinated groups, particularly if they are vulnerable in a unique way as many disabled people are. Consequently, I think we have to switch to a sort of "metadiscourse" allowing us to analyse the role played by ethics in stigmatising and discriminating against disabled individuals.

(5) I believe that it is possible to do this with respect to recognition, for example. This seems to me to be an adequate approach because it allows us to take cognisance of the demands and claims which are formulated by members of social movements themselves. (I will use the term recognition for the present not according to its philosophical meaning(s) but in the sense in which it is used in everyday discourse.)

(6) Representatives of the disability movement usually formulate their experiences in terms of oppression and devaluation ("Abwertung") and their demands in terms of empowerment and recognition ("Anerkennung") (Arnade 2003). The experience of oppression and devaluation includes, for example, paternalistic incarceration in sanatoriums, homes and other institutions especially created for disabled people (such as schools and "protected" working places); unemployment and poverty or the risk of these because of disability, physical and other barriers which restrict mobility and thus social, political and cultural participation; humiliating treatment by medical and educational professionals who continually convey the message that the disabled individual is defective and/or malfunctioning; and the widespread use of language and of cultural symbols which discriminate against people with disabilities. In this context bioethics is often accused of using and reproducing negative stereotypes of disability.

Demands for empowerment and recognition are usually connected to demands for autonomy, which are often expressed by the phrase "independent living". The demands voiced are for deinstitutionalisation, for full social, political and cultural participation, for the removal of barriers (e.g. language, buildings), for the provision of assistance in professional and private life, and for the guarantee for an income on a level appropriate for meeting the individual's specific needs (all of this, if necessary, with public assistance). Other demands for recognition are focused on the necessity to change values and norms regarding the social perception of disability. Obviously, not all of these experiences of devaluation and not all of these demands for recognition can be easily formulated in terms of equal individual rights and duties. The focus of most contemporary moral theories, however, is restricted to individual interests, rights and duties. At the same time, the broader social and cultural context is tuned out (Sherwin 1992).

(7) Several new articles and books dealing with the concerns of social movements describe the phenomenon that subordinated groups usually require not only equal rights and social justice but also equal valuation as persons with specific attributes and particular needs. Critical analyses of this kind claim that current social movements pursue two different strategies which can be described as politics of equal rights on the one hand and politics of difference on the other (Rommelspacher 2002).

(8) In the case of the disability movement, politics of equal rights demand full social, cultural and political participation for disabled people and respect for their autonomy. In concrete terms, this means liberation from the patronizing, marginalisation and oppression caused by the medicalisation of disability and institutionalisation of disabled people on the one hand and the entitlement to social support which makes independent living and participation first possible on the other. Subsequently, politics of equal rights demand the recognition of negative rights as well as of positive rights (Held 1993: 207). This is of great importance in our context because many ethical theories clearly give priority to negative rights (Rawls 2003), going so far in some cases as to totally neglect positive rights (Stemmer 2000).

(9) Instead, the politics of difference claim equal respect and value for individually different life plans and life situations. They reject the simplifying identification of disability with suffering, misfortune and severe burden. And they question the aesthetic ideals of beauty based on an uninjured body, the medical norms of functioning and perfectibility, and the cultural norms of capacity, autonomy and independence which are in contradiction to the life situations and life plans of many people with disabilities. This means that the politics of difference rejects not only disregard and psychological mistreatment of disabled people but also indifference to vulnerable persons and lack of concern about their specific needs. It follows that such politics of difference demand not only recognition of difference but also recognition of neediness. (Neediness in this context means the unavoidable dependence on others to satisfy basic needs.) Unfortunately, most normative ethical theories display little interest in the recognition of difference and the recognition of neediness (Benhabib 1995).

(10) In contrast, the new theories of recognition developed by Charles Taylor, Axel Honneth and Nancy Fraser include phenomena of oppression based on negative stereotypes linked to differences separating certain social groups from the majority and from the mainstream norms they represent. They understand themselves explicitly as critical theories of society which are able to expose not only obvious but also masked forms of exclusion and oppression. Owing to their self-understanding, these theories are normative in the sense that they have the potential to show how institutions and social structures should be changed to abolish exclusion and oppression.

(11) The theories of recognition propounded by Taylor, Honneth and Fraser have been discussed mainly in the context of multiculturalism and feminism. In the following I want to explore the question of whether they can also help us to more adequately understand the phenomena of deprivation and devaluation experienced by disabled people and the claims and demands related to this experience. Against this background, I hope that I will be able to examine several normative moral theories to see whether they are really able to adopt the perspectives of people with disabilities or if they are indeed biased and share the restricted view of the dominant cultural mainstream. Incidentally, I will also be asking whether these theories of recognition are not only good for such a more analytical purpose but whether they are also able to achieve a normative reflection of the political demands and claims of social movements themselves as their proponents maintain. If the latter is true, a theory of recognition will have to be understood as an alternative to a normative moral theory. For the present, however, I understand recognition of claims and reasoning of claims as complementary according to "everyday theory" (and, I'm aware, in contrast to some philosophical disputes). We will see if I can maintain this view.

(12) Owing to the internal perspective of social movements, the recognition - or better the non-recognition - of claims is considered to be the main problem whereas the legitimacy of claims is usually taken for granted. Taking an external view of social movements, however, we see that their claims and demands represent only one side of conflicting points of views. Thus their legitimacy has to be a matter of reasoning. That is why I think that not only the recognition but also the reasoning of claims should be a matter of ethical reflection.

2. The politics of recognition (Charles Taylor)

(13) The article "Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition" by Charles Taylor was the starting point for the political debate on the politics of multiculturalism which took place in many Western countries. In this article Taylor defends the demands for recognition of a cultural identity which require the assertion of specific rights by cultural minorities against a strict policy of equal treatment. Taking a Hegelian perspective, he refers to the relationship between recognition and personal identity. His central thesis is that mis- or non-recognition shows not only a lack of respect for a person or a group of people. In addition, a person or a group of people can suffer real damage to their identity because of misrecognition by others.

"Non-recognition or misrecognition can inflict harm, can be a form of oppression, imprisoning someone in a false, distorted, and reduced mode of being." (Taylor 1992: 25)

Taylor argues that cultural minorities which are afflicted by mis- or non-recognition adopt a deprecatory view of themselves. As a result, he says, they are "incapable of taking advantage of new opportunities" and are "condemned to suffer the pain of low self-esteem" (Taylor 1992: 26). With this thesis Taylor has obviously taken a rather strong normative position. He pleads for a change in politics to make the survival of particular cultures in our multicultural Western societies possible; this new policy is necessary, he says, for members of racial, cultural and other minorities to survive without suffering damage to their identities. Taylor's ideal is a non-discriminating and non-homogenising society which tolerates cultural differences and is open to diverse perceptions of the common good.

(14) Taylor's normative point of reference is a teleological concept of self-realisation for the individual person as well as for cultural groups. Taylor takes the Hegelian view that interaction with others constitutes the starting point for the genesis of the authentic self. Along with the fundamental dependence on social relationships goes the possibility of either success or failure in developing personal identity.

(15) For Taylor, honour and dignity are two competing forms of politics. Politics of dignity are based on the idea that we owe equal respect to all human beings because of their potential for reason. Honour (according to the ancient meaning of the word), however, is intrinsically linked to inequalities since not everybody has it. Subsequently, he identifies a contradiction between the political concept that all people have to be treated equally on the one hand and the idea that particular attributes require special respect on the other.

(16) In modern times, however, politics are dominated by the leading idea of equal dignity requiring universal and different blind principles. But these principles, as Taylor points out, are only apparently neutral because they are marked in reality by particularity due to the hegemonial culture, i.e. they are nothing else then "a particularism masquerading as the universal" (Taylor 1992: 44).

(17) Taylor rejects such politics of equal dignity which insist on neutral, different blind principles and uniform application of rules and rights. Instead he refers to the necessity of caring about esteem, which he associates with the concept of honour based on strong common goals. According to Taylor, it is only possible to gain esteem by displaying an orientation towards collective goals. In a multicultural society, however, not all citizens share the same collective goals. This is, as Taylor points out, one of the main problems facing liberal societies. There is obviously a tension in the idea of equal dignity which requires neutrality with respect to common goods but at the same time confers esteem only on members of the hegemonial culture who share the covert common norms. Subsequently, Taylor pleads for a conscious adoption of collective goals. To avoid the danger of relativism, he distinguishes between fundamental rights, which should never be infringed, and important privileges and immunities which can be restricted, for reasons of public policy, in favour of specific rights for minorities. A society with strong collective goals, argues Taylor, can be liberal if it protects fundamental rights and at the same time is capable of respecting diversity.

(18) For Taylor the demand for recognition of equal value formulated by cultural minorities is reasonable because it is the prerequisite for developing an intact personal identity. One could expect that Taylor would, on these grounds, conclude that there is a general duty to respect other cultures equally. With his normative orientation towards particular collective common goals, however, he has to totally reject the idea of universal reasoning of normative principles. Consequently, the demand for recognition of equal value can not be universally binding for him. What we do owe to any other culture, nevertheless, is the presumption that it has equal value as a "starting hypothesis with which we ought to approach the study of any other culture".

"Just as all must have equal civil rights, and equal voting rights, regardless of race or culture, so all should enjoy the presumption that their traditional culture has value." (Taylor 1992: 68)

The peremptory demand for favourable judgments, however, would be not only stupid but also in itself homogenising. To instil the basic premise that other cultures have value as a general attitude, Taylor argues, education in a broader sense (not only in schools and universities but also in the media) has to be fundamentally changed. The curricula and the media agendas should represent not only the hegemonial culture but also those of minorities. This would enable members of cultural minorities to learn about their own cultures and to form a meaningful picture of themselves. Furthermore, this would enable the members of the hegemonial culture to study other cultures and, in doing so, overcome their ethnocentric arrogance.

(19) There can be no doubt that Taylor's great achievement with this work was to set off a debate about forms of injustice against cultural minorities and other subordinated groups since such injustice had previously been deeply etched into the norm systems of the hegemonial Western cultures (Habermas 1997: 150) and their practical philosophical theories. It is equally to Taylor's credit that he pointed out that the formal equal treatment of all citizens in liberal societies is not enough to exclude oppression and discrimination if at the same time ways of gaining social esteem are denied. It follows that, in certain cases, a policy of recognition of difference will require particular rights, e.g. to prevent or counteract disadvantages. This is, incidentally, of great importance for disability politics.

(20) With his clear condemnation of mis- and non-recognition of cultural minorities, Taylor stakes out a rather strong normative position on the one hand while adopting a relativistic attitude with his teleological normative concept oriented towards a particular perception of common goods on the other. Consequently, this means that demands for recognition of equal value remain contingent. I don't think that this is satisfactory for the affected individuals.

(21) By describing the obstacles to developing an undamaged identity which have to be overcome by individuals subject to mis- and non-recognition, however, Taylor has virtually laid the groundwork for a stronger normative position regarding universal claims. Another problem is that Taylor does not distinguish between individual and collective identities. The formulation of a collective as subject of rights, however, is in itself problematic.

(22) Furthermore, due to his concept of cultural groups which are constituted by shared common goals, he himself can be accused of homogenising differences within the groups and thus making internal relations of power and domination invisible. This is of great importance for women but also for disabled people who can not be defined in the same way as cultural groups. Apart from the deaf community, which has the self-understanding of a cultural minority, most groups in the disability movement strictly reject the idea that disabled people should live in separate groups - for example, in homes and other institutions - which exclude them from a common social life. They demand respect and value for their life plans and life situations not only from other disabled people but from society as a whole.

3. The struggle for recognition (Axel Honneth)

(23) With his work emphasising "the struggle for recognition", Axel Honneth wants to present a normative theory of social relationships, as he explicitly states. However, it is not quite clear what exact purpose a "normative" theory of recognition should serve. It seems to me, however, that he wants to show in what respects phenomena of mis- and non-recognition within social relationships are wrong and subsequently how social institution and structures should be changed.

(24) With Taylor he shares the Hegelian concept that certain forms of recognition are necessary for the development of undamaged identities and thus constitute subjectivity. Contrary to Taylor, however, his central aim is to provide a normative foundation for a theory of recognition instead of Hegel's speculative reasoning. In his own words, his aim is to provide a naturalistic foundation referring to psychoanalytical knowledge which shows that the development of personal identity is fundamentally dependent on recognition within social relationships. Accordingly, he espouses a teleological concept of self- realisation similar to Taylor's but with a much stronger normative claim.

(25) Honneth's starting point, again in contrast to Taylor, is the experience of mis- and non-recognition of every individual and not of particular social groups. According to Honneth, the experience of frustration of demands for recognition leads to confrontations between individuals by means of which they gain reciprocal recognition; this is well known as the struggle for recognition. In this way, the individuals constitute themselves as subjects on the one hand and trigger the progress of social morality on the other.

(26) Honneth's line of argumentation proceeds in three steps: Firstly, he reconstructs the early concept of recognition developed in Hegel's writings in Jena; secondly, he sets out to actualise the early Hegelian theory of recognition by referring to the social psychology of George Herbert Mead. Thirdly, he proposes a "naturalistic" foundation for this theory of recognition.

(27) Along with Hegel and Mead, he distinguishes three forms of recognition: love, equal respect and esteem. He understands the development of personal identity as an unfolding of recognition in these three steps. Firstly, the recognition of neediness, by the mother, in the loving mother-child relationship enables the child to gain self-confidence. Secondly, through the recognition of equal rights in his or her social life, the individual obtains self-respect. Thirdly, with the recognition of individual achievements in the cultural realm, the individual develops self-esteem. By delineating these three spheres, he has enlarged the Hegelian distinction between the family, bourgeois society, and the state.

(28) All of these three forms of self-relation - self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem - are, according to Honneth, constitutive aspects of personal identity. The integrity of an individual's psyche can be endangered by failures at any step in the development of personal identity. Honneth intends to prove this Hegelian thesis, which has been rather speculative up to this point, by referring to the psychoanalysts Donald Winnicott and Jessica Benjamin. Their works can be interpreted to show that the comprehensive recognition of the child's neediness from birth on by his or her mother is absolutely essential for the development of self-confidence. Any disturbance in this form of recognition may lead to severe emotional disorders. Honneth's argumentation seems to me to be rather convincing up to this point. It remains unclear, however, exactly what purpose it is intended to serve. Furthermore, it is logical to assume that the other two forms of self-relation, namely self-respect and self-esteem, are equally important for the development of personal identity. Empirical proof of this is lacking, however, as Honneth himself admits (I will come back to this point later.)

(29) Even after the individual has successfully developed subjectivity, his or her personal identity continues to be precarious, according to Honneth. Personal identity is always endangered by the experience of mis- and non-recognition. Self-confidence can be damaged by violation and cruelty, self-respect can be disturbed by deprivation, and self-esteem by humiliation and psychological mistreatment. All of these experiences of mis- and non-recognition are associated with strong feelings of shame and rage, as he points out. If such experiences occur systematically and if a vehicle for articulating them is available in the form of a social movement, the motivation for political resistance can emerge. According to Honneth, this is the source of social progress.

(30) I think that Honneth provides us with an understanding of forms of recognition in social relationships which is analytically rather sharp and complex. His model of the three different types of recognition in diverse forms of social relationships paves the way for a more complex and differentiated understanding of the claims asserted by subordinated groups. There are two reasons, however, why he fails to reach his own goal, which ultimately seems to be, as I've already pointed out, to show that the demands for recognition in social conflicts are justified and thus trigger moral progress:

Firstly, of course, he can perhaps show that certain forms of recognition are necessary for an undamaged identity; however, he can not distinguish between right and wrong demands for recognition. As Fraser points out in a rejoinder to Honneth, according to this concept, claims for recognition formulated in a chauvinist, racist or sexist way would also have to be tolerated. Obviously, this can not be accepted (Fraser 2003b: 56-61).

Secondly, his normative foundation is in itself not convincing. It is based on the recognition of neediness in the mother-child relationship and thus on a relationship which is inevitably characterized by emotionality and asymmetry. According to Honneth, claims which are based on emotionality and asymmetry in social relationships cannot not be asserted in a reciprocal manner. Thus, claims for recognition of neediness in asymmetric relationships are by definition in contradiction to the reasoning of common duties and therefore can not be universally binding (Honneth: 1998:174). Consequently, there is no justification for concluding on these grounds that claims for recognition asserted in symmetric relationships should be binding. Nevertheless, I think that social relationships have a normative character in the understanding of Taylor that certain kinds of mis- or non-recognition are experienced as violation by the affected individuals. This is quite evident, even without a psychoanalytical foundation. Furthermore, the experience of damage due to mis- or non-recognition can count as a strong indication that at least some claims for recognition could be justified. A normative foundation of particular demands for recognition, however, requires more. (Perhaps this can be achieved by reasoning referring to normative moral theory.)

(31) Generally, Honneth tends to reduce the legitimacy of demands for recognition to those of equal rights. Recognition of neediness is for him only the prerequisite for the recognition of rights. Recognition of difference refers, as in Taylor's concept, primarily to solidarity within one's own group and not to society as such. Consequently, recognition of difference has for Honneth only a mediating function for moral progress regarding a better recognition of rights in the general public realm. I think this can not be satisfying for people with disabilities and members of other subordinated groups. As I've already pointed out, members of marginalised groups are demanding equal valuation not only within their groups but within society as a whole. Furthermore, people who are dependent on outside assistance to meet their basic needs, as is the case for many people with severe disabilities, would not readily agree with the opinion that demands for recognition of neediness in asymmetric relationships are not binding at all.

4. Redistribution and recognition (Nancy Fraser)

(32) In contrast to Taylor and Honneth, Nancy Fraser does not understand recognition as a general philosophical category in her writings on "redistribution and justice". According to Fraser, demands for redistribution and demands for recognition are two aspects of justice within a critical theory of society. She uses the term recognition exclusively in the sense of requiring or obtaining esteem (and not in the context of rights which might be a source of misunderstanding).

(33) She starts with the observation that social movements usually demand redistribution and esteem independently of each other (Fraser 2003b: 228). Related to these two types of demands are two forms of experience of injustice. This is, firstly, the experience of socio-economic injustice due to an unjust distribution of resources, and secondly, the experience of devaluation and disregard because of traits or attributes marking certain status groups. Status groups are, for example, women, lesbians and gays, ethnic and national minorities, and disabled people. The example typically given for socio-economic injustice is the exploitation of the working class. The adequate answer to exploitation is a politics of redistribution. The typical example of injustice attributable to membership in a certain status group is the social devaluation and disregard of lesbians and gays. The adequate answer to devaluation and disregard is a politics of recognition (of difference). According to Fraser, the fight for recognition of status groups has proved to be the paradigm for social movement in our times. Her critique of the politics of social movements is that they often do not notice that unjust distribution of resources and devaluation of status groups go hand in hand. She points out, for example, that the category "gender" shows that injustice usually has a two-dimensional character. Women are victimized by sexist patterns of estimation on the one hand and by disadvantage due to dependency on their husbands and to unpaid or poorly paid work on the other. That is the reason Fraser pleads for not fading out one political strategy by following the other. This shows that Fraser, in contrast to Taylor and Honneth, sees her work as much more in the tradition of the "classic" critical theory with the self-understanding of critically reflecting the political practice of social movements (traditionally the working class), as Horkheimer (1988) outlined in his famous paper "Traditional and Critical Theory".

(34) There are also remarkable differences in the normative concepts espoused by Fraser as compared with the concepts put forth by Taylor and Honneth. Fraser explicitly rejects the Hegelian perception of recognition as an ideal reciprocal relationship by means of which two individuals constitute themselves as subjects. This notion of recognition refers to the Hegelian "Sittlichkeit" and thus to self-realisation, which makes it incompatible with questions of justice to be discussed in the Kantian concept of "Moral" (Fraser 2003a: 19; 43-44). Fraser avoids the problematic immanent reasoning of claims for recognition and refers instead to an external deontological principle which she names "parity of participation". Parity of participation means, for Fraser, that all adults, at least, have a universal right to equal social, political and cultural participation.

(35) According to Fraser, both demands, for redistribution as well as for esteem, are justified if they meet the principle of "parity of participation". They are not justified, however, if they contradict the parity of participation of others, as is the case, for example, with groups asserting chauvinist, sexist or racist claims for recognition. Generally speaking, says Fraser, the principle of "parity of participation" requires two preconditions: an "objective" and an "inter-subjective" one. The objective precondition is that "forms and levels of economic dependency and inequality which render the parity of participation difficult are excluded". The inter-subjective precondition is that "all institutionalised patterns of estimation are excluded which withhold the status of fully entitled partners in social interaction for some people" (Fraser 2003a: 55).

(36) However, for the purpose of an adequate analysis of claims and demands for recognition in different social relationships, Fraser's concept is rather thin compared with Honneth's distinction of three forms of recognition, i.e. of neediness, of rights and of difference. Instead Fraser distinguishes only between demands for redistribution and demands for recognition (in the sense of requiring esteem). She does not discuss violations of fundamental rights apart from questions related to the distribution of resources, and totally tunes out demands for recognition of neediness.

(37) The advantage of Fraser's concept is situated, in my view, on the normative level. The reference to a deontological normative principle instead of a theory-immanent teleological concept of self-realisation seems to me more convincing. Such an external normative principle implies that a distinction is made between recognition and reasoning of claims in social relationships. Thus, it allows critical requests for claims to recognition within a broader concept of justice. Consequently, claims which are justified can be distinguished from claims which are not justified.

(38) The principle of parity of participation corresponds strikingly to the political demands of the disability movement which I have mentioned earlier on. I have doubts, however, whether the principle of parity of participation is comprehensive enough to cover all questions of justice which are important in this context, in particular if we think about indifference to existential needs of dependent and vulnerable individuals or about the withholding of rights apart from the distribution of resources.

5. Preliminary conclusion

(39) With his distinction between recognition of neediness, recognition of rights and recognition of difference in social relationships, Honneth provides us with an analytical framework which seems to be adequate for evaluating the political claims and demands of people with disabilities. The evidence for the assumption that mis- or non-recognition might cause damage to the personal integrity of afflicted individual on all three levels of recognition is a rather strong indication that certain related claims for recognition are justified. It is not sufficient, however, to substantiate that these claims are justified in the sense that they correspond to universally binding duties. According to Fraser, certain of these different claims can be justified within a broader concept of justice. The question of which normative principle may be useful for this purpose, however, has to be discussed further in the light of normative moral theory.

(40) Claims for recognition of neediness refer to relationships between "care-givers" and "cared-fors", which are (usually) marked by emotionality and by an asymmetry between taking and giving (Tronto 1993). Nevertheless, Honneth's opinion that universally binding duties in asymmetric relationships are not reasonable at all does not seem convincing to me. Obviously, Honneth assumes that emotionally asymmetric personal relationships, particularly the mother-child relationship, are predetermined by nature. Consequently, he seems to take the satisfaction of the basic needs of the cared-for child for granted. Such an essential understanding of the mother's role, however, has been deeply questioned by feminist theorists (Noddings 1986: 79). Moreover, if motherhood is more adequately understood as socially constructed and historically contingent, and if the division of care-giving labour between women and men is being critically scrutinized (Noddings 1986: 97), Honneth's position is not easily defensible. Furthermore, motherhood is, of course, a paradigmatic asymmetric relationship but nevertheless one with a unique character. There are other asymmetric relationships in which recognition of neediness can not be taken for granted at all, e.g. other family relationships involving taking care of elderly people as well as professional care-giving relationships. Consequently, claims for recognition of neediness, like other claims for recognition, should be subject to critical reflection. The satisfaction of the basic needs of dependent individuals by caring for them is obviously necessary for the life, as well as the physical and emotional integrity, of the cared-for. I think this fact is a rather strong indication that certain universal claims and duties within asymmetric relationships can be defended with good reasons. This question should be further discussed in the light of normative moral theory as well. (I assume that the adequate way to do this would be to refer to positive rights and to the reciprocal interdependence of caring and being cared for in the course of a lifetime.)

(41) The question of whether claims for recognition of equal rights in the public sphere are justified is much less problematic since the reasoning of rights and duties is genuinely a subject of normative moral theory. From the perspective of disabled people, the perception of equality seems to be particular important in this context. For example, a concept of rights and duties which requires strict equal treatment referring to difference-blind principles obviously might not be adequate. The same might be true for concepts which strongly favour negative rights in contrast to positive rights.

(42) To examine the question of whether claims for recognition of difference are justified, finally, we have to deal with a lot of potential misunderstandings since related forms of mis- and non-recognition are deeply inscribed in the hegemonial norm systems. Obvious forms of mis- and non-recognition, such as arbitrary insults and various kinds of psychological mistreatment, might be generally understood as illegitimate. Instead, more subtle and covert forms of systematic mis- and non-recognition of members of certain status groups are often tuned out. All three theorists of recognition - Taylor, Honneth and Fraser - provide us with tools for understanding such forms of injustice due to difference which have hitherto remained invisible. Nevertheless, Honneth's and Taylor's notion of recognition of difference, which tends to be restricted to solidarity within status groups, is certainly not sufficient since claims for recognition of social movements are usually directed against society as a whole. Fraser instead refers, more appropriately, to institutional patterns which are required for the status of fully entitled partners in social interaction and thus for social inclusion.

Since Taylor has shown - in my opinion convincingly - that experiences of devaluation can cause severe damages to the emotional integrity of the afflicted individuals, it is logical to assume that certain related claims for recognition might be justified. Fraser's principle of parity of participation shows that certain claims for esteem are indeed justified. In this respect her principle seems to me rather convincing. The question of whether it is comprehensive enough and well founded will have to be examined further in the light of normative moral theory. However, Fraser shows that the narrow framework of individual ethics has to be overcome so that social and cultural conditions which might restrict individual positive and negative rights in either a direct or a more subtle way can be considered.


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