Research Description

Pathologies of Recognition


    1. Background

    1.1. The national and international significance of the project

    This project focuses on recognition (Anerkennung), a theme currently intensively discussed in social and political philosophy. It builds on the project-members’ internationally acknowledged previous work and expertise, as well as their current work in psychoanalysis, political theory and social research. The general aim of the project is to develop a systematic account of the reasons and dynamics of lack of, denial and rejection of recognition, and the psychological and social pathologies that may thereby follow.

    The project is of national significance in that it develops conceptual models and tools for diagnosing individual and group-level phenomena with destructive potential, all of which it will approach from the perspective of lack or denial of recognition for the authority, rights, well-being, contributions or particular identity of individuals and groups. In light of recent social and political developments in Finland – widely perceived rise of racism, xenophobia and exclusive nationalism, regressive search of group-identity free of foreign influences and views, and the tensions that may follow between people with mainstream Finnish ethnic identification and those with minority identities1 – there is serious need for theoretical tools to understand the dynamics that lead to, and may follow from such denials or rejections of constitutive relations with others. The project will further strengthen expertise in recognition-theory in Finland, utilizing the extensive international connections and networks of the project-members.

    As much as it is agreed upon that recognition is of vital importance for humans individually and collectively and that lack of it can therefore have serious consequences, the dynamics of lack or denial of recognition is not extensively discussed or well understood in the literature. The project has international significance in addressing this problematic and thereby developing the recognition-theoretical paradigm in social and political philosophy, psychoanalysis and social research in a direction that is essential for its theoretical and practical use-value, yet currently largely uncharted.

    1.2. Previous research and its lacunae

    1.2.1. Humans as essentially social beings

    That humans are essentially social beings is not only agreed by a wide range of classical and modern philosophers and 20th century philosophical anthropology, but also by developmental psychology (see e.g. Spitz 1945, Stern 1985, Fonagy & Target 2003, Dornes 1997) and contemporary evolutionary anthropology (see eg. Tomasello 2009). On contemporary accounts, during its evolutionary history humans have lost most of their animal instinctual capacities while simultaneously compensating this loss by a development of social structures and institutions, together with corresponding cognitive and emotional capacities that both rely on these structures and make them possible. The structures and capacities in question are what make possible and organize the life of the human animal almost devoid of guidance by instincts. As the kinds of beings that humans are now, they could not exist at all without utilizing these intertwined social and psychological resources.

    This much is today more or less uncontroversial. What this consensus leaves open however are numerous questions about the basic structures of human sociality, and the connection of social and institutional structures on the one hand, and psychological structures and capacities on the other hand. The questions involved are not merely empirical in nature, but also concern the best philosophical conceptualizations of the multitude of features that distinguish humans as essentially social beings.

    1.2.2. Intersubjective recognition as a key to humanization – the philosophical origins of a paradigm

    One promising line of investigation on these questions stems from a way to think of particular kinds of intersubjective relations and attitudes as a fundamental factor distinctive of human sociality. On this line, starting from the post-Kantian German philosophers Fichte and Hegel, a central distinguishing factor of human sociality and thereby both psychological and social structures distinctive of the human life-form is what Fichte and Hegel called "recognition" (Anerkennung in German). With some differences, both thinkers conceived of recognition as consisting of intersubjective attitudes whereby individual structures of consciousness or intentionality become mediated via those of other individuals, and whereby simultaneously fundamental social relations and structures come about. Through recognition of others human individuals start relating to themselves and the world both epistemically and motivationally partly from the perspectives of the others they recognize, grasping themselves as "I’s" and "you’s" and thereby forming various basic kinds of "we"-groups. Writing before Darwin, neither philosopher had a picture of the phylogenetic details of this phenomenon, but both had ideas about how it works ontogenetically in the development of human infants in already "humanized" societies. Most importantly, they, and especially Hegel, produced conceptual tools and started a paradigm for thinking about distinctively human psychological and social capacities and structures as an interconnected whole, a paradigm with great theoretical promise and a close connection to common sense experiences of "recognition" and lack of it.

    In addition to pioneering a way to think of the distinctively human psychological and social capacities and structures in a unified way, the forefathers of the recognition-paradigm also opened up ways to synthetize a purely descriptive account of the human life-form with a broad range of normative considerations, ranging from purely functional to ethical or moral ones. In a nutshell: as they conceived of it, recognition is not only ontologically necessary for the existence of structures and capacities distinctive of the human life-form, it is also fundamental to their functioning well, to the well-being of individuals and to the ethical or moral quality of their relationships, characters, motives and actions. On Fichte’s (2000 [1796]) account, the process through which the human infant gradually develops from a helpless animal into a self-conscious, rational and autonomous being – or as he says a "person" – involves mutual recognition in the sense of attribution to each other of normative statuses and conceiving of oneself and the others as bound by these. In short, Fichte understands recognition as mutual attribution of authority on the rules or norms of interaction and thereby becoming to conceive oneself as an individual bound by norms and responsible to others. For Fichte this – mutual attribution of authority needed for establishing and administering a space of shared norms or rules – is the ontological basic structure of the human life-form and simultaneously the foundation of both the legal realm and of morality. Importantly, this amounts to conceiving morality as an inbuilt element of the basic structures of human sociality.

    One of Hegel’s many additions to the basic ideas of intersubjective recognition pioneered by Fichte was to think of the phenomenon in a more differentiated way, as having more than one form (see Honneth 1995). Whereas Fichte understood recognition in merely deontological terms as a matter of attribution of authority, of establishing a space of norms and thereby rights and duties that they imply (or as he writes "a relationship of right"), Hegel added a second, axiological, dimension of recognition on which intersubjective recognition brings about a mediation of the individual’s motivational or value-horizon through the value-horizons of others. To recognize in this axiological sense – which Hegel following certain other post-Kantian thinkers calls "love" (Liebe) – is to care or to be moved by the well-being of others non-instrumentally and thus to internalize their concerns as one’s own concerns. Analogically to the Fichtean deontological form of recognition, this axiological form of recognition thus also introduces an intersubjective mediation to the structure of intentionality or consciousness of the individual, and it also adds a second dimension to the idea that recognition is of fundamental moral or ethical significance.

    Another originally Hegelian innovation, one which has had a profound influence in social and political thought after him is an addition of a conflictual aspect to the notion of intersubjective recognition. Hegel’s famous parable of "master and slave" illustrates the internal structure, dynamics and tendency to self-overcoming of onesided recognition, of being recognized by others without having recognition for them. In ways that have found resonance also in 20th century psychological and psychoanalytical thinking (see Benjamin 1988), Hegel presents the figure of the "master" as one who demands recognition from others (the "slave") for his absolute authority over them (the deontological dimension of recognition) without recognizing them as having any authority on one, as well as demands recognition from others for his well-being as having absolute value (the axiological dimension of recognition) without recognizing their well-being as having any non-instrumental value. Although Hegel is generally speaking optimistic about the functional dynamics of one-sided recognition-relations eventually leading to more equal relations of recognition, introducing the conflictual, egoistic, or "negative" side of desires and relations of recognition does complicate the picture and on many views introduces an element of psychological realism into it.

    1.2.3. Major streams of the recognition-paradigm today

    After its inception by Fichte and Hegel the figure of recognition has played many roles in social and political thought as well as in psychology – from an almost unconscious influence in Marx, Lukacs and others in the left-Hegelian tradition, surfacing here and there in the social theory of British neo-Hegelians such as Bosanquet, to being the central concept in Alexandre Kojeve’s anthropological philosophy of history and thereby massively influencing 20th century French thought, including the Lacanian school of psychoanalysis. Yet, only during the last 20 years has recognition become a topic of widespread and focused discussions in social and political philosophy, as well as a topic of systematical philosophical investigation.

    Much of these discussions have concentrated on issues of multiculturalism and various kinds of "politics of identity" with the guiding idea that linguistic, ethnic, sexual and other particular identity-defining features require "recognition" in the form of not only legal support but also positive appreciation. What is new in these debates is, first, the introduction of a third form of recognition – positive appreciation or valuation of particular features of individuals and groups – and, secondly, a close connection to actual political movements, struggles and discourses (among the most central texts here are Taylor 1994 and Fraser 1995). What these discussions have tended to de-emphasize however are the Fichtean and Hegelian ideas of the foundational significance of recognition for distinctively human psychological and social structures, as well as the fundamentally moral or ethical nature of recognition.

    Generally acknowledged as presenting the most ambitious agenda in contemporary social and political philosophy utilizing the idea of recognition, and one with major importance for this project, Axel Honneth (1995) presents the outlines of a "formal theory of the good life" whose aim is to normatively evaluate the basic institutions of societies from the point of view of how well they enable the development and maintenance of psychological resources that individuals need for autonomous and subjectively meaningful self-realization. The idea – drawing on an interpretation of Hegel and modern developmental psychology and psychoanalysis – is that central for such psychological resources are the positive self-relations of self-trust, self-respect and self-esteem, and that these are dependent on experiences of being an object of the corresponding three forms of recognition of love, respect and esteem by relevant others. A society is good to the extent that its basic institutions allow for or embody these different forms of recognition and thereby support psychological well-being and individual self-realization. Honneth also draws heavily on the Hegelian idea of "struggles" for recognition leading to better or more equal forms and relations of recognition.

    With all its merits, Honneth’s project has drawn criticism from various sides. Much of the criticism has accused the project of uncritical optimism or lack of critical skepticism about the content and results of demands and struggles of recognition.

    (A) Many have claimed that Honneth does not have adequate means for distinguishing good from bad (i.e. morally or politically unjustifiable) desires, expectations and demands for recognition (Fraser in Fraser & Honneth 2003).

    (B) There has been widespread skepticism about Honneth’s apparently Hegelian optimism about struggles for recognition leading by default to social and moral progress.

    (C) Relying on particular strands in developmental psychology and psychoanalysis, Honneth introduces a relatively harmonistic picture of the psychodynamics of recognition the details of which are controversial (Butler 2008, Whitebook 2009).

    (D) Related to (C), Honneth’s Hegelian conceptualization of recognition as consisting of the positive (moral or ethical) attitudes of respect, love and esteem has not been adequately confronted with more "pessimistic" conceptualizations that emphasize the necessity of issues like power-relations in the very dynamic of recognition (Butler 2008, Whitebook 2009). Thus it remains partly unclear why one should choose Honneth’s harmonistic or optimistic conceptualization of intersubjective recognition over more agonistic or pessimistic ones.

    (E) Honneth, with many others in the recognition-theoretical stream of thought emphasizes an inbuilt need for recognition in humans, but this idea has not been systematically combined or contrasted with an account of reasons that individuals and groups may have for denying or rejecting recognition. This arguably makes the overall picture too optimistic and results in a lack diagnostic power for understanding the dynamics, reasons for, and possible outcomes of situations where recognition between individuals or groups is not forthcoming because impeded.

    Drawing on the project-members’ extensive previous systematic work on the concept and phenomenon of recognition, their expertise in the philosophical origins of recognition-theory and contemporary debates on it, their theoretical and practical expertise in psychoanalysis, and their work in social research, this project takes up the challenge to address these worries and thereby to develop the recognition-theoretical paradigm in social and political philosophy further. It accepts as working hypothesis the two programmatic ideas of the founders of the recognition-paradigm: (a) that intersubjective recognition is of fundamental constitutive significance for distinctively human psychological and social structures, and (b) that it is of fundamental significance for the functioning well of these structures, for the well-being of individuals, and for the moral or ethical quality of their relationships, characters, motives and actions.

    Drawing not only on philosophy but also on psychoanalytic theory and social research, the project will critically complement the Hegel-inspired picture by Honneth and others following him of successful recognition-relationships and their generally optimistic conception of the content, dynamics and results of needs, demands and struggles for recognition with an account of denied, lacking or rejected recognition. It focuses on psychological and social factors that may lead to lack, denial or rejection of recognition and on the potential consequences these may have. As recognition is, arguably, of constitutive significance for the psychological and social reality of humans, and as failures of recognition may therefore have psychologically and socially seriously pathological or destructive consequences, it is essential to have an adequate philosophical and theoretical grasp of this negative side of recognition-relationships as well.

    In addition to developing the recognition-theoretical paradigm in social and political philosophy further, the project also develops and evaluates conceptual models and tools to be used and evaluated in psychoanalytic practice, social research and diagnostics of contemporary social and political reality.

    1.3. Previous and current work by the research group

    The research group is uniquely placed to execute this project. Its members have a significant shared history of working on theories of recognition, and have already contributed to it at the highest international level. Researchers Heikki Ikäheimo and Arto Laitinen are internationally well known for their work on the concept and phenomenon of recognition and have cooperated with Axel Honneth since his visit to Jyväskylä in 2001 which they organized. Ikäheimo was visiting scholar at University of Frankfurt from 2005 till 2008 invited by Honneth, and Arvi Särkelä who will work in the project as a post doctoral researcher is currently writing his dissertation under the supervision of Honneth and Laitinen. Researcher Sari Roman-Lagerspetz has worked on Hegel and theories of recognition with Laitinen and Ikäheimo since 2004 and brings her expertise in political theory and feminist theory to the project. Researcher Petteri Niemi not only has significant expertise in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant whose concept of respect is at the background of Fichte’s and Hegel’s ideas about recognition, but also has experience in cooperation with social work professionals on themes that are directly relevant for this project. The principal investigator Kotkavirta supervised the dissertations of Ikäheimo, Laitinen and Niemi and is a leading expert in Finland on Hegel, as well as the so called Frankfurt School Critical Theory whose leading proponent Honneth currently is. Kotkavirta has also recently become practicing psychoanalyst, and has expert knowledge in the different schools of psychoanalysis and professional experience in working with patients.

    As to its substance, the project builds on the project-member’s previous and ongoing work on recognition and closely related themes. In their previous joint work Laitinen and Ikäheimo have systematically clarified conceptual questions concerning the concept and phenomenon of recognition. As an indication of their impact, they have been invited in a great number of state of the art conferences, edited collections and journal special issues on recognition, and cited among others by Honneth in his recent work on the theme. The special issue on recognition in Inquiry 2002/4, based on a seminar with Honneth in Jyväskylä in 2001 inaugurated much of the more systematically philosophical work on recognition whose volume has since then increased massively. Laitinen and Ikäheimo have investigated, among other themes, the ethical and metaethical implications of different versions of the concept of recognition (proposing solutions to the problem (A) mentioned above), and applied recognition-theoretical ideas in a systematic elaboration of the concept of personhood, on which they have worked with Kotkavirta and Niemi (Ikäheimo & Laitinen, 2007). They have also done pioneering work in investigating the social ontological aspects of the concept of recognition, thus helping to draw increasing attention to this element of the paradigm as it was conceived by its founders (Ikäheimo & Laitinen 2011). Ikäheimo works currently at Macquarie University in Sydney, which is one of the leading centres in the world on research on recognition. He leads a five year international project "The Social Ontology of Personhood – A Recognition-theoretical Approach" funded by the Australian Research Council whose partner investigators include Laitinen. This thematically overlapping Australian project will be a sister-project for the project at hand and provide it with further international connections.

    The project-member’s work on recognition is thoroughly grounded in their work on Hegel, who (with Fichte) initiated the recognition-paradigm. Kotkavirta’s dissertation (1993) was on Hegel’s practical philosophy. Ikäheimo wrote his master’s thesis, licenciate thesis and part of his doctoral dissertation on Hegel supervised by Kotkavirta, focusing on the theme of intersubjectivity. Roman-Lagerspetz’s dissertation (2009) contrasts a Hegelian conception of recognition against the more agonistic conception present in Judith Butler’s work, partly drawing on Ikäheimo’s publications. Laitinen has worked and published on Hegel with the other project members and recently co-edited a major collection of articles on Hegel’s philosophy of action (Laitinen & Sandis 2010).

    In this project the research-group will both enrich the recognition-paradigm with insights from psychoanalysis and social research and develop and evaluate recognition-theoretical models and concepts to be applied in these areas. The group has done a great deal of preparatory work for this next step in their investigation. During the last few years Kotkavirta has published extensively on philosophical questions of psychoanalysis, especially on the idea of personhood as it is understood in psychoanalytical practice. He has applied philosophical tools to discussing psychoanalytical theory and utilized psychodynamic ideas for discussing philosophical problems. In particular he has worked on the fundamental questions of moral psychology from a psychoanalytical point of view. Kotkavirta is also a leading expert in Finland on the early Frankfurt School Critical Theory, and expertise in this area is vital for the project since the early Frankfurt School inaugurated utilization of psychoanalytic concepts and ideas in critical social theory, and learning from their mistakes and successes is essential for anyone working in this area today.

    The group has done pioneering work in Finland in instigating cooperation between philosophers and social work experts and professionals. It has been engaged in organizing two national conference both of which resulted in collections which Petteri Niemi co-edited and to which project members contributed – the first one on the normative foundations of social work (Niemi & Kotiranta 2008) and the second one on the foundations of sociality and social action (Kotiranta, Niemi & Haaki 2011). In this project they will continue the cooperation, drawing on knowledge on recognition-related social problems as they show in the everyday reality of social work and developing the recognition-theoretical concepts enriched with insights from psychoanalysis for further use in this area.

    Arto Laitinen has worked on the concept of solidarity (see Laitinen & Pessi 2011) and his expertise on this theme will provide the project with insights from discussions on solidarity that are thematically parallel to the focus of this project. Laitinen is also an expert on the philosophy of Charles Taylor, who is a central figure in some of the most recent discussions on recognition. The theme of Sari Roman-Lagerspetz’s dissertation on the Hegelian influence of the feminist theoretician Judith Butler is at the core of this project as she discusses in it Butler’s agonistic model of recognition, influenced by Louis Althusser, and contrasts this with the more harmonistic Hegelian model. Arvi Särkelä, also a new member in the group, discusses in his dissertation the principle of recognition as openness to the views of other political actors as the foundation of a democratic ethos, and thus provides the project with a background in democracy-theory.

    The aim of the project is to pool all of the existing expertise and experience of the individual researchers to produce a major contribution to the recognition-theoretical paradigm that would be impossible to achieve by researchers working in isolation.

    2. Hypothesis and objectives of the project

    2.1. Hypothesis

    The project accepts as working hypothesis the two programmatic ideas of the founders of the recognition-paradigm:

    (a) that intersubjective recognition is of fundamental constitutive significance for distinctively human psychological and social structures, and
    (b) that it is of fundamental significance for the functioning well of these structures, for the well-being of individuals, and for the moral or ethical quality of their relationships, characters, motives and actions.

    It will, however, critically complement the widely accepted idea – following from (a) and/or (b) – that humans have inbuilt needs for recognition with the general hypothesis that due to the very nature of recognition there are also universally human tendencies to denial or rejection of recognition. Thus, although humans need intersubjective recognition to exist and flourish as human persons individually and collectively, they are also in equipped with mechanisms that present a constant threat to this condition being fulfilled and thus to their existence and well-being. The general reason for why this is so stems from specific kinds of psychological vulnerabilities and costs that recognition and thus the recognition-dependence of humans introduces.

    Formulated briefly in terms of the three Honnethian forms of recognition in whose closer analysis project members have contributed in their previous work:

    The deontological form of recognition ("respect") of taking others as having authority on one makes one vulnerable to their judgments. One cannot be a norm-guided being at all without participating in norm-governed practices (including language and therefore language-based thought) and thus recognizing others as having authority on what one does or says. Yet, this comes attached with the possibility of blame, reprimand, shame and other negative experiences in front of the judging others whom one takes as having authority on one. It is therefore highly likely that there will also be defensive tendencies to avoid psychic costs by denying recognition for others as authorities.

    The axiological form of recognition ("love" or "intrinsic concern") of being non-instrumentally concerned for the well-being of others makes one vulnerable to their suffering. Even if complete lack of intrinsic concern for the well-being of others can be conceived of as a serious psychological pathology (bordering on psychopathy), it is common sense that the more one cares the deeper one can be hurt and this introduces clear limits to the individual’s capacity to love or care intrinsically. The capacity of repressing one’s concern for others as a defence mechanism is therefore very likely to be part of the normal psychic makeup of individuals.

    The third form of recognition ("appreciation" or "esteem") of valuing others for their particular qualities, and more especially in the Honnethian form of valuing others for their qualities and achievements that contribute to something one need or values, implies an acknowledgement of one’s lack of omnipotence. One only has reason to appreciate the contributions of others if these are something one could not (at least without significant costs) perform oneself. Repressing one’s appreciation of or gratitude to others as contributing to something one needs or values may therefore be needed to defend oneself from feelings or experiences of dependence on others. Other forms of valuing others for their particular features may also be costly and require inner-psychic repression since one’s own sense of value may suffer in comparison. Envy is not simply a moral vice, but also an effective force in psychic economy affecting the openness of individuals and groups for an appreciation of particular (identity-defining or other) features of others.

    In addition to these tendencies to repress one’s recognition for others or deny it from them, it is easy to predict that there are also tendencies to try to reject the significance of the recognition one gets from others, or lack of it. Admitting that recognition or lack of it by others matters to one means admitting one’s dependency on them and this may have significant psychological costs. Closing off the views of the outgroup can also have group dynamic functions in insulating the ingroup from critique and solidifying their mutual relationships. Denial of constitutive relations with others may serve the purpose of defending the group against fear of dissolution – regressive nationalism being one of the more dangerous instantiations of this general phenomenon.

    This much about tendencies to repress, deny or reject recognition from or by others can be conjectured in the philosopher’s armchair by simply considering what recognition in its various forms is and what its general role in individual and group psychology must be.

    The auxiliary hypothesis of the project however points at the necessity to look beyond philosophical analysis. This is the general hypothesis that it depends on empirical factors whether, how or to what extent these tendencies working against intersubjective recognition between individuals and groups are realized. In this project, these factors will be divided into three broad categories:

    1. Psychological factors that strengthen the tendency to denial of others as subjects and objects of recognition.

    2. Social, political and institutional (in short "social") factors that strengthen the tendency.

    3. Discursive factors that strengthen the tendency by contributing to collective and individual self-conceptions hostile to recognition-relations and the vulnerabilities and dependencies they involve.

    There are without doubt broader cultural factors that are relevant as well, but this project will limit its focus on these three categories. Also, it will only concentrate on selected themes under 2. and 3., preparing way for a larger interdisciplinary project where these factors can be scrutinized on a broader scale.

    2.2. Objectives

    The objectives of the project are as follows.

    1. The project will address the complex of issues mentioned above under (E) in end of 1.2.3. ("Honneth, with many others in the recognition-theoretical stream of thought emphasizes an inbuilt need for recognition in humans, but this idea has not been systematically combined or contrasted with an account of reasons that individuals and groups may have for denying or rejecting recognition.") That is, it will endeavour to complement the generally accepted idea of constitutive need for recognition in humans with a philosophical analysis of the vulnerabilities that recognition-dependency involves and the general tendencies to repress or deny recognition that it is reasonable to expect to follow thereof, together with a multidisciplinary account of psychological, social and discursive factors that strengthen these tendencies.

    a. Laitinen and Ikäheimo will continue their work in philosophical analysis of the phenomenon of recognition, extending it now into working out a systematic conception of the recognition-related vulnerabilities and the possibilities for repression or denial of recognition that follow logically or assuming a more or less normal human psychology. They will also extend their work on personhood and social ontology to developing an account of individual and social pathologies that lack or denial of recognition may lead into, considering its essential role in psychological and social structures defining of the human life-form.

    b. Working on the auxiliary hypothesis of the project, Kotkavirta, Lo and Särkelä will focus on psychological factors that may determine to what extent or how the universal tendency or potential of denial of others as subjects and objects of recognition is actualized in individual cases. They will study the meanings, developmental roles, functions and limits of the idea of recognition within different psychoanalytical schools, i.e. classical drive theory, object relations theory, intersubjective, interpersonal and relational conceptions, thereby addressing the complex of problems mentioned under (C) in end of 1.2.3. ("Honneth introduces a relatively harmonistic picture of the psychodynamics of recognition the details of which are controversial"). Kotkavirta will draw in publications an overall map of the positions and explicate their philosophical presuppositions.

    Drawing on this overview the group will utilize psychoanalytical ideas to explicate phenomena and processes (especially but not only in early childhood) that will later heavily correlate with various kinds of difficulties in relations of recognition and social pathologies caused by them. Kotkavirta will also contribute in publications to current debates on the analyst-patient-relationship conceived of in terms of recognition. Lo will focus on the relation of conscious conviction and unconscious inclination in experiences of recognition and misrecognition. She will take a critical look at the idea, accepted by Honneth and others that collective articulation of experiences of misrecognition tends to lead to constructive action (B), analysing conditions that have to be fulfilled so that articulation really reaches the level of unconscious inclinations, and not merely conscious convictions, and thus that it can have emancipatory rather than defensive and thus pathogenic functions at individual and group level. Särkelä will identify pathological forms of "fear" that render the taking of the perspective of other citizens impossible and support prejudice formation within political communities, drawing on the work of the Frankfurt School psychoanalysts and political thinkers Alexander Mitscherlich and Franz Neumann.

    c. Arto Laitinen and Petteri Niemi will focus on (a selection of) social factors that may determine to what extent or how the potential for denial of others as objects and subjects of recognition is actualized. Laitinen will use in this part of his work empirical studies (see Lindenberg 1998) on the situational role of empirical cues in triggering hedonistic, prudential or moral behaviour and attitudes, and thus shed light on situational variability in political psychology: why do people act with more respect or concern for others in certain environments and less in others? How do the social situations, structures, as well as the built environment and material culture at large encourage, trigger or inhibit recognizing the normative viewpoints and concerns of others in one’s actions, or alternatively seeing or treating them in inconsiderate, reifying or even dehumanizing ways? What kinds of group-dynamic processes can be involved that are analyzable by social ontological means? Niemi will study the theme from the perspective of social work, focusing on ways in which lack of recognition for the autonomy, potential for socially useful contributions or identity-defining features of critical groups (immigrants, the unemployed, or socially excluded) translates into social problems, and how it can cumulate into more non-recognizing attitudes, expressed views and behaviour by these groups towards other groups within the society. In contact with social work experts in the Jyväskylä area Niemi does qualitative empirical research on these issues as they show in the practice of social work, studying also the institution and practice of social work itself as potential instance for communicating social recognition to those who otherwise experience a lack of it.

    d. Roman-Lagerspetz will critically contrast the more harmonistic Hegelian-Honnethian conceptualizations of recognition-relations with the more conflictual or agonistic models by Judith Butler and others in contemporary feminist and political theory, analyzing the pros and cons of both options, thereby addressing the complex of issues mentioned under (D) in the end of 1.2. Roman-Lagerspetz also addresses (an aspect of) the question about discursive factors that can contribute to denial of others as subjects and objects of recognition. Namely, she studies the ethical and political implications of a priori agonistic theoretical conceptualizations that depict political and social relations not as accidentally but necessarily strategic confrontations, or depicts recognition between persons or groups merely or primarily as a matter of subjection under power-structures. Laitinen is applying in a separate application for an overlapping personal project on the "limits of individualism" in which he will also study ideologies that strengthen atomistic, selfish or egoistic tendencies, and weaken people’s cognitive-emotive-practical grasp of their fundamental dependence of others, thus making them more prone to deny or distort their recognitive relations to others. Here the question is what happens when such theoretical views are adopted as part of individual or collective self-understandings by activists or the general public and played out in individual or political action and in the group-dynamics of political movements. If the working hypothesis of this project (namely the Fichtean-Hegelian view of the foundational significance of recognition for psychological and social structures, for the functioning well of these structures, for the well-being of individuals, and for the moral or ethical quality of their relationships, characters, motives and actions) is correct, then discourses that contribute to collective and individual self-conceptions hostile to recognition-relations can have socially, politically and morally deeply problematic consequences.

    2. Drawing on the joint work of the project-members on the above themes, the project will produce a differentiated arsenal of ways to address the complex of questions mentioned under (B) in 1.2. Instead of being a matter of choice between two overall conceptions, one "optimistic" and the other "pessimistic", the question of whether struggles for recognition will lead to social or moral progress or to their opposites must be answered in a differentiated way, taking into account all the empirical factors that will contribute to the likely outcome. A selection of these factors will be addressed explicitly in the project.

    All in all, the project aims at developing further the recognition-theoretical paradigm in critical social philosophy, starting with the working hypothesis mentioned above which has been at the basis of the work by members of the group on the personhood-theoretical and social ontological implications of the recognition-paradigm so far, addressing challenges that it currently faces, critically contrasting it with other views, nuancing it with empirical detail, and thus strengthening its theoretical foundations and increasing its use-value.