Research and discovery of counterarguments has quite a lot to do with philosophy as a practice, and I'm hoping to improve on my technique and see what others can do.

In line with this, I have a particular project I'm dealing with and want to know more about a concept that Isaiah Berlin touches on in his famous (and awesome) paper, Two Concepts of Liberty. For many people, the take-away from this paper is Berlin's division between positive and negative liberty, and a general thesis promoting political pluralism. Yet within this discussion, Berlin notes and argues that a desire for recognition provides a greater impetus for political action than the more commonly and publicly cited desire for freedom.

Can anyone help me locate published works that deal with this concept of recognition in politics, specifically in relation to Berlin?

Results are appreciated, but the method is more important.

  • presumably you are asking people that have experience with the question but i use scholar.google or books.google for these sorts of things, with some success, i guess. googlefu or whatever
    – user6917
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 10:08
  • desire for recognition sounds like another way of saying Thumos Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


The recognition notion is inherently Hegelian in its origin. Mostly googling "Isaiah Berlin Hegel recognition" but filtering the results a little bit, I would recommend reviewing the following if you want to see how the idea has worked out in relation to Berlin himself:

(1) SEP Entry on Isaiah Berlin

(2) Isaiah Berlin: Liberty, Pluarlism, and Liberalism esp. on pages 70-72

(3) Isaiah Berlin and the Politics of Freedom: ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ 50 ... - the chapter on "Social Selves" should be on topic [if it isn't then something is amiss]

The work Axel Honneth also seems to be centrally on a politics of recognition as it relates to Isaiah Berlin. See http://faculty.fordham.edu/jeflynn/Flynn_Review_Honneth.pdf .

If you want to understand the basis more generally, I would recommend studying Hegel specifically the much-misunderstood master-slave dialectic and its resoultion.


From "Two Concepts of Liberty" :-

My individual self is not something which I can detach from my relationship with others, or from those attributes of myself which consist in their attitude towards me. Consequently, when I demand to be liberated from, let us say, the status of political or social dependence, what I demand is an alteration of the attitude towards me of those whose opinions and behaviour help to determine my own image of myself.

And what is true of the individual is true of groups, social, political, economic, religious, that is, of men conscious of needs and purposes which they have as members of such groups. What oppressed classes or nationalities, as a rule, demand is neither simply unhampered liberty of action for their members, nor, above everything, equality of social or economic opportunity, still less assignment of a place in a frictionless, organic State devised by the rational lawgiver. What they want, as often as not, is simply recognition (of their class or nation, or colour or race) as an independent source of human activity ...

This might be compared with Social Identity Theory :-

A social identity is the portion of an individual's self-concept derived from perceived membership in a relevant social group. As originally formulated by Henri Tajfel and John Turner in the 1970s and the 1980s, social identity theory introduced the concept of a social identity as a way in which to explain intergroup behaviour.

Social identity theory is best described as a theory that predicts certain intergroup behaviours on the basis of perceived group status differences, the perceived legitimacy and stability of those status differences, and the perceived ability to move from one group to another. This contrasts with occasions where the term "social identity theory" is used to refer to general theorizing about human social selves. Moreover, and although some researchers have treated it as such, social identity theory was never intended to be a general theory of social categorization. It was awareness of the limited scope of social identity theory that led John Turner and colleagues to develop a cousin theory in the form of self-categorization theory, which built on the insights of social identity theory to produce a more general account of self and group processes.

See also: http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/social/social_identity_theory.html

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