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Bound by Recognition by Patchen Markell


Bound by Recognition by Patchen Markell

In an era of heightened concern about injustice in relations of identity and difference, political theorists often prescribe equal recognition as a remedy for the ills of subordination. Drawing on the philosophy of Hegel, they envision a system of reciprocal knowledge and esteem, in which the affirming glance of others lets everyone be who they really are. This book challenges the equation of recognition with justice. Patchen Markell mines neglected strands of the concept's genealogy and reconstructs an unorthodox interpretation of Hegel, who, in the unexpected company of Sophocles, Aristotle, Arendt, and others, reveals why recognition's promised satisfactions are bound to disappoint, and even to stifle. Written with exceptional clarity, the book develops an alternative account of the nature and sources of identity-based injustice in which the pursuit of recognition is part of the problem rather than the solution. And it articulates an alternative conception of justice rooted not in the recognition of identity of the other but in the acknowledgment of our own finitude in the face of a future thick with surprise. Moving deftly among contemporary political philosophers (including Taylor and Kymlicka), the close interpretation of ancient and modern texts (Hegel's Phenomenology, Aristotle's Poetics, and more), and the exploration of rich case studies drawn from literature (Antigone), history (Jewish emancipation in nineteenth-century Prussia), and modern politics (official multiculturalism), Bound by Recognition is at once a sustained treatment of the problem of recognition and a sequence of virtuoso studies.


Winner of the Best First Book Award, Foundations of Political Theory Section of the American Political Science Association [Markell's] arguments are closely reasoned, provocative, and supported by clever, frequent reference to the theoretical literature and to historical and contemporary cases. The language is clear but technical, and though relatively jargon-free, requires that the reader actually think rather than simply 'read.' --Choice Patchen Markell calls us to be wary of the politics of recognition... Bound by Recognition transcends its object of critique. Markell's account of the persistence of the aspiration to sovereignty and its rage against the unscripted and undetermined quality of human relations tells of the way our search for justice is sometimes an effort to relieve us of the burden of our freedom. --Shalini Satkunanandan, Law, Culture and the Humanities

About the Author

Patchen Markell is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

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Book Info

Publication date

11th August 2003


Patchen Markell

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Princeton University Press


304 pages


Ethics & moral philosophy
Political science & theory



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