S1717 Globalization, Social Pathology, and the Question of Healing

Bloechl Jeffrey

Course description

Social life depends on and promotes a conception of justice that is intelligible and satisfying to all citizens. Social conflict occurs where a prevailing conception of justice has become untenable, and presents those who are caught up in it without twofold challenge of understanding the breakdown and restoring peace. The German philosopher and social theorist Axel Honneth addresses this challenge as a matter of promoting (or else failing to promote) recognition among free and desiring individuals committed to shared goals. For Honneth, our innate struggle for recognition must be met by a social program that speaks compellingly to the aspiration that are voiced in human consciences. This calls for close, positive attention to the manner in which family, society and the state offer each of us a means to increasing satisfaction of our desire to be recognized as free, valuable and with a right to goods.

But social life is also increasingly difficult to frame in models of community limited to national identity or framed by the cultural expressions and achievements of a single intellectual tradition. Economic distribution is no longer controlled by national regulation, and forms of analysis forged with the latter in mind seem to direct our pursuit of justice to goals that are put under great pressure by conditions that they had not foreseen. Hence does the struggle for recognition on which Honneth concentrates appear significantly challenged by the porosity of national boundaries and the forging of bonds that transcend nationality. Responding to these and related developments, the American political philosopher Nancy Fraser proposes to direct the pursuit of justice to an exploration of themes that are best understood in their economic expression and best framed in a vision of globalization.

Are these two approaches mutually exclusive? Can one maintain a social program centered on the struggle for recognition while also opening analysis to the distribution of goods in a globalized market? Can one expect to arrive at a compelling conception of justice without attending to human aspiration in social life? What is the relation between our need for recognition and our need for goods? And how might a single politics manage these two concerns?


Learning outcomes

Students will learn to develop their skills as independent thinkers, scholarly writers, and productive, critical participants in intellectual discussion.


Required preliminary knowledge

Students should have some competence with spoken and written English, and an interest in the problem of justice as it developed by the European philosophical tradition and challenged by global economic concerns.