Recognition of what? From Cultures to Contexts
Multiculturalists suggest we should recognize people’s claims through policies granting exemptions from general laws, allocation of public space to minority groups, and accommodation within the education curriculum. But it is not always clear what justifies recognition, what exactly it is that is being recognized, or how we distinguish between legitimate and un-legitimate recognition claims. The question I ask here is ‘how can we make sense of the difference between oppressive forms of socialization (which ask for justice to be made) and lives of devotion to authorities and traditions (which should find some space in a theory of recognition for diverse societies)?’. I claim that only those who live in contexts which satisfy social autonomy’s conditions are entitled to have their clams recognized through multicultural policies, that is to say that their claims are ‘legitimate’ (i.e., claims that bind liberal-democracies to the duty to recognize them through multicultural policies). To satisfy social autonomy’s conditions it is not sufficient to be a competent chooser; what is needed is that the minimally competent chooser lives in a context which gives her the opportunity to choose among various alternatives without incurring in disproportionate costs. The principle is that we should try to accommodate identity claims so that the social structures in which those identity claims are formed become the primary object of justice. I argue against theories of ‘subjective recognition’ that leave the validation of claims for recognition exclusively to subjective feelings or perceptions of injustice or misrecognition. The danger of such subjective-only validation claims for recognition lies in how victims of injustice do not always perceive themselves as victims. I finally attempt to address a disturbing implication that this approach seems to have: if those who live under impoverished social conditions cannot advance legitimate recognition claims, ‘recognition’ could become just another class-privilege.