Cosmopolitanism, Identity and Recognition

  • Stan van HooftEmail author
Part of the Studies in Global Justice book series (JUST, volume 6)


This paper provides an application of the social theory of Axel Honneth to global justice, arguing that development goals must include provision for the intersubjective recognition required for identity formation. In the disciplines of Political Philosophy and International Relations cosmopolitanism is often defined as the view that all people, no matter their national, ethnic or religious backgrounds and no matter their gender, have an equal moral status. The most telling enunciation of this view is the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the focus that is given to rights and a global form of legal equality by this document and by such theorists as John Rawls is not rich enough to capture all of the ethical demands that global society places upon well-to-do Westerners and developed nations. This paper makes use of a thesis by Axel Honneth to the effect that political thinking needs “a basic conceptual shift to the normative premises of a theory of recognition that locates the core of all experiences of injustice in the withdrawal of social recognition, in the phenomena of humiliation and disrespect”.1 Honneth identifies three spheres of recognition in modern societies: love, law, and achievement. I offer some exposition of his theory and then argue that global justice must be understood to embrace the substantive ethical values that arise in these three spheres as well as the procedural standards of moral rightness that belongs to the second of them. Such an expanded conception of global justice will yield an enriched conception of cosmopolitanism.


Cosmopolitanism Identity Recognition Honneth Global justice Development ethics 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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