An “Enchanted” or a “Fragmented” Social World? Recognition and Domination in Honneth and Bourdieu

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Current debates on recognition and domination tend to be characterized by two polarized positions. Where the “anti-recognition” camp views recognition as a tool for establishing and reproducing relations of power, the “pro-recognition” camp conceives it as a way for dominated individuals and social groups to lay stake to intersubjective relations that are more just. At first glance, Honneth’s normative theory of recognition and Bourdieu’s critical sociology of domination also divide along these lines. Honneth takes the pro-recognition stance, criticizing the French sociologist for adopting a “fragmented” conception of the social world that ignores the “moral consensus” underlying each claim for mutual recognition. In contrast, Bourdieu accuses the German philosopher of endorsing an “enchanted” view of the social world that misrecognizes the way that recognition perpetuates symbolic domination. However, through a close and nuanced reading of their works, this article suggests that, in spite of this difference, Honneth’s and Bourdieu’s theories nonetheless converge on the idea that recognition is neither “good” nor “bad” per se, but “structurally ambiguous” in its relations to symbolic domination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-109
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Horizons
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Bourdieu
  • domination
  • gift-exchange
  • Honneth
  • Recognition
  • social critique


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