The Post-politics of Recognition in Hegemonic Struggles

The Road from the New Left Movements to the Crumbling of Liberal Hegemony

In the history of post-WWII Western emancipation movements, a marked shift took place from a liberation to a recognition paradigm. This paradigm shift of social movements can be captured not so much as a move from an economic to a cultural focus as Nancy Fraser has famously argued, but rather as the conversion from a political to a post-political formulation of social problems: matters of social justice have been gradually divorced from conflicts of interests and transposed into a moral register. The post-political logic of recognition has become prevalent not as the result of inevitable consolidation or spontaneous convergence with wider changes in the economic, political or social landscape, but due to the hegemonic strategy of certain elite groups: as a tool devised to neutralise and absorb radical politics and thereby transform dissent into consent. However, the internal contradictions of recognition politics may lead to the self-elimination of hegemonic projects, as it not only gives way to the fragmentation of justice claims, but also weaponises them against each other, as for instance “sexual and gender minority” politics have expropriated crucial political arenas from feminist politics. Mechanisms deployed to manage its internal contradictions (like intersectionality) have not managed to arrest the crumbling of the current hegemony of liberalism, it is thus not surprising that serious blows to the hegemony were followed by reinvigorated internal (liberal) criticisms of recognition politics. However, recognition seems to have become such a crucial part of hegemonic struggles that liberal hegemony could not reinvent itself without it, nor could some leftist critiques or emerging counter-hegemonic projects free themselves from its logic.

Released: Replika 123, 33–54.
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