chapter  6
15 Pages

Recognition and the relational demands of distributive justice

Respect and recognition offer starting points for thinking about justice in relational terms, insofar as those terms invoke attention to people as they are actually situated and are not reduced to admiration for achievement as in the commutative-distributional paradigm. These qualifiers suggest that respect and recognition must occupy ground somewhere between a general respect for people on the basis of their humanity and esteem for a specific achievement, if respect and recognition are to successfully manifest the relational imperatives of distributive justice. This is in keeping with the need for a relational background of place and position that I have argued we should understand as a function of discourse communities, a background condition that makes self-understanding possible along with an understanding of relation to others. Some degree of fellow-connection, in other words, is implied with respect and recognition aside from, and in addition to, sheer human existence and excellence of accomplishment, some feeling of belonging that contributes to a sense of identity. In the model of discourse community I have been setting out, “belonging” is about one’s membership, one’s being among fellows. As the preceding chapter argued, however, the commutative-distributional paradigm has become a habit of thought deeply ingrained in liberal thought. Escaping the influence of the commutative-distributional paradigm is not easy. The pull of the commutative-distributional paradigm in economics, what I earlier referred to as a “gravitational force,” is felt in moral philosophy as well, as I indicated in the preceding chapter’s discussion of utilitarianism and John Rawls’s effort at fusing Kantian deontology with the concept of a social contract. My point in the prior chapter’s discussion was to note how commutative themes were supported by developments in moral philosophy that served as justifications for the elevation of commutative justice and its role in confirming the market’s standing as a social-ordering institution. It is not a surprise, in other words, that philosophical justifications would develop in harmony with the commutative-distributional paradigm to confirm the preeminent status of the market. On the other hand, what may be surprising is that even efforts to critique the market’s status show signs of the pervasiveness of the commutative-distributional paradigm, undermining efforts to generate a solidarity capable of resisting the market’s dominance.