Against Recognition
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Against Recognition

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The struggle for recognition features prominently in the work of various thinkers. Lois McNay argues that the insights of the recognition theorists are undercut by their reliance on an inadequate account of power. By focussing on issues of gender she develops an alternative account of individual agency that connects identity to structure.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 160 x 227 x 13mm | 384g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0745629326
  • 9780745629322
  • 456,055

Back cover copy

The idea of the struggle for recognition features prominently inthe work of various thinkers from Charles Taylor and JurgenHabermas to Axel Honneth and Nancy Fraser who are concerned withthe centrality of issues of identity in modern society. Indiffering ways, these thinkers use the idea of recognition todevelop accounts of the individual which are opposed to the asocialindividualism of liberal thought and to the abstraction of muchwork on the subject.


The idea of recognition expresses the notion that individualityis an intersubjective phenomenon formed through pragmaticinteractions with others. By highlighting the intersubjectivefeatures of individuality, the idea of recognition has bothdescriptive and normative content and it has important implicationsfor a feminist account of gender identity.

In this brilliant and original book, Lois McNay argues that theinsights of the recognition theorists are undercut by theirreliance on an inadequate account of power. The idea of recognitionrelies on an account of social relations as extrapolations of aprimal dyad of interaction that overlooks the complex ways in whichindividuality is connected to abstract social structures incontemporary society.


Using Bourdieu's relational sociology, McNay develops analternative account of individual agency that connects identity tostructure. By focussing on issues of gender identity and agency, she opens up new pathways to move beyond the oppositions betweenmaterial and cultural feminisms.
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Table of contents

Acknowledgements. Introduction: Against Recognition. Chapter One: Recognition and Misrecognition in the Psyche. Chapter Two: The Politics of Recognition. Chapter Three: Narrative and Recognition. Chapter Four: Recognition and Redistribution. Chapter Five: Beyond Recognition: Identity and Agency. Bibliography
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Review quote

"Against Recognition is an important critique of some of the recognition theorists, and McNay analyses some important blind spots in the recognition literature. It is certainly a recommendable book." Political Studies Review "Incisive, committed and engaged: this is feminist social theory at it should be practised. McNay's critique of theories of recognition develops her earlier work on agency and incorporates a powerful and compelling new analysis of the relationship between embodied identity and gender inequalities." Henrietta L. Moore, London School of Economics and Political Science "Against Recognition presents a carefully argued critique of recent efforts to represent social and political agency as a struggle for recognition. Though sympathetic to the aims of recognition theorists, McNay finds that their paradigm rests on a reductive conception of power. By way of alternative, she presents a modified version of Pierre Bourdieu's relational phenomenology, whose key concepts of habitus, field, and capital are used to provide a better account of the role that power plays in the complex interplay between agency and social situation." Andrew Cutrofello, Loyola University, Chicago
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About Lois McNay

Lois McNay is Reader in Social and Political Theory and a Fellow of Somerville College at the University of Oxford.
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