NancyFraser : There are two types of justice in the social context thatwe can talk of. One is the traditional one – the struggle for redistributionfrom the feudal lords to the workers, from the owners to the proletariat classand now from the rich to the poor.
Today, in this society, we have increasinginstances of the demand for a different form of social justice – demanding dignityor respect on par with the majority. Instances being the feminist movements,LGBTQ movements across the globe. These claims for recognition are beginning todominate the first form of social justice – redistribution. This ideology ofredistribution is starting to take a backseat with the slow death of communismand the progressive development of free-markets.
These two forms are consideredseparate from each other. Advocates of economic redistribution consider thestruggle for recognition an abstract idea – ‘hindrance to the pursuit of socialjustice’; the increase in equality is the ‘real’ problem. And as expected,advocates of recognition consider the struggle for redistribution to be purelymaterialistic that are not inclusive of the actual struggle faced by theminorities in their lives. So, do we really have to choose one? Well, Nancytries to prove that none of them alone are sufficient for social justice tomaterialise; it has to be inclusive of both the struggles.
I am of the opinionthat the idea of economic redistribution does not paint the complete picture –it does not consider the exploitation and abuse of the worker class. Similarly,the idea of recognition is subjective in nature, unlike economic redistributionwhich can be objectively measured by the growing numbers of inequality. Philosophically,the terms redistribution and recognition don’t really go hand in hand.
The term’redistribution’ comes from the late 20th century where Rawls andDworkin proposed theories that would justify economic redistribution. Theybrought together individual liberty and social democracy. Recognition comesfrom the Hegelian principles.
Hegel talks about an ideal society where allindividuals see all other individuals as its equal but distinct from itself. Itimplies that recognizing other individuals as equal is a necessarypre-requisite for one to have the realization of being an individual.Recognition theory has been further extended to represent the current daypolitics of difference. Thus, Nancy goeson to consider recognition and redistribution not as philosophical ideas but as’folk paradigms of justice’. Thecommon associations with redistribution (Class struggles) and recognition (gender,race or sexuality related struggles) are interlinked. She points out a veryinteresting idea that these recognition related struggles i.e.
, the feministmovements, the gay-lesbian support movements or even anti-racist movementsrepresent struggles again forms of economic injustice specific to gender,sexual orientation and race. These specific struggles have not been given consideredby the traditional class struggles. The traditional struggles were a struggleof the general working class with the elite class. Thus, these differences areonly a difference in the perspective of the advocates. To put it in a differentway, redistribution can be much more than the class politics.
It can addressthe economic injustice being done to the gender minority, sexual minority oreven race-ethnic minority. A false antithesis: The folk paradigms of redistribution and recognition can be contrasted infour different ways. 1. ‘They assume different conceptionsof injustice’: In the case of redistribution, injustice is socio-economic in nature and stemsfrom the way our society has been structured. In the case of recognition, injusticeis considered to be cultural in nature and stems from the way representationhappens in the different spheres of societal function2. ‘They propose different remediesfor injustice’: In case of redistribution, the solutionto injustice is an economic restructuring of the society (such as wealthredistribution, equitable division of labour). Whereas in the case ofrecognition, the solution for injustice is a cultural change ( respecting the individualitiesof the minorities, promoting cultural diversity)3. ‘They have different conceptions ofthe collectives that suffer injustice’: In case ofredistribution, the subject suffering are the worker class (in a productionscenario).
It could also include the minorities when the issue is aboutlow-paid labour. In the case of recognition, the subject suffering is the lessrespected class of the society (due to their ethnic/ race/ sexual differences)4. ‘They assume differentunderstanding of group differences’: IN the case ofredistribution, the focus is on abolishing the idea of differences amongclasses.
Whereas in case of recognition, the focus is on the idea ofcelebrating differences among groups. Thus,the objective of redistribution if purely from the perspective of well-being ofthe economy whereas the objective of recognition is cultural well-being of thesociety. Nancy Fraser goes on to prove how they are not contradictory, andchoosing one is not necessary.
At one end of aspectrum (take, for example, class distribution), any injustice arising due to theeconomic structure of the society is traceable to the maldistribution ofresources and the solution to this problem is redistribution. At the other endof the spectrum (the sexual orientation), any injustice arising due to the ‘status’imposed by the society is traceable to non-recognition and non-representationand the solution to this problem is recognition. When injustice can be tracedback to the middle of this spectrum of differences (which is the case with mostproblems), a solution that is inclusive of both redistribution and recognitionis quintessential, which is the two-pronged approach put forward by NancyFraser. These injustices do not arise because of each other, they areco-fundamental but not reducible to each other. A perfect example of this ‘middleof the spectrum’ injustice is gender injustice. It relates to both the economicstructure and status order of the society.