Tag Archives: recognition

Recognizing Innu Sacred Natural Sites as Aboriginal-led Protected Areas by UAPASHKUSS: Innu Sacred Sites Guardians

Indigenous Peoples and communities have had long-standing relationships with nature, based on knowledge systems and practices that acknowledge and respect the spiritual environment in which they live (Verschuuren et al., 2012). They have assigned special significance to specific natural areas like mountains, rivers, lakes and forests in accordance with their spiritual beliefs (Wild & McLeod, 2008, p.7; Liljeblad & Verschuuren, 2019). The “areas of land or water having profound spiritual importance to peoples and societies” are defined as sacred natural sites by the IUCN (Wild & McLeod, 2008, p.7). Sacred natural sites, and the rights and responsibilities of Indigenous Peoples towards these places, are recognized both internationally (e.g., Art. 11(1) and Art. 12(1) of the Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP, 2007); The Akwé:Kon Guidelines (CBD 2004)) and within Canada’s legal framework.

For 9 years, members of UAPASHKUSS – an Indigenous apolitical group composed of spiritual guides, elders, and culture-specific resources of the Innu First Nation – all guardians of sacred natural sites, have identified, documented and mapped eight sacred natural sites, five of which are located in the province of Quebec and three in Labrador, in eastern Canada. This series of sacred natural sites form part of the Innu Trail (Chemin des Innus) that led our people back to their hunting grounds via rivers, portages, mountains and lakes. The ultimate purpose of this lengthy voyage, which followed the seasons, was to meet the caribou in order to ensure our nomadic people’s existence.

Travelling from the shore up North to our ancestral lands required passing many Pakatakan – the Innu word for portages. Portages are deep routes carved out by our Innu ancestors on foot, canoe, snowshoe or toboggan. We consider the portages and the sites and places that they connect as sacred. They reflect our culture and identity, are testimonies of our history and cultural heritage; they have been walked by our ancestors. The stories, memories, ceremonies and knowledge linked to these sites, and the portages that interconnects them, are passed on to our youth (Vollant, 2011) and confirm that the Innu ways of knowing and living are alive today.

The eight sacred natural sites identified by UAPASHKUSS are located in the boreal forest and arctic tundra, two of the world’s last environmentally intact habitats, and are the result of the Innu First Nations’ millennia-long traditional management practices of these lands. With the Moisie and George River basins – two of Quebec’s largest protected aquatic environments – the sacred sites are also part of an uninterrupted biological corridor.

These sacred natural sites deserve to be recognized and safeguarded in order to ensure the perpetuity of our bio-cultural and spiritual heritage associated with the relationship to the Earth, the caribou, and the Innu circular way of life, and for strengthening our identity. For this, UAPASHKUSS started a close collaboration with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) – Quebec Chapter (SNAP-Quebec), an NGO that works for the conservation of nature and the values associated to it. Together they created the Pakatakan project in 2019, aiming towards the recognition and protection of the eight Innu sacred natural sites identified by UAPASHKUSS, including the portage paths connecting these sites.

Since 2019, UAPASHKUSS and SNAP Québec organized a series of consultation meeting and activities to develop relationships with representatives of Indigenous organizations, government bodies and with local, regional, national and international actors, to raise awareness at local and national level about the project and the importance of protection of the Innu sacred natural sites.

In 2020, the special consultations on Bill # 46 started in Quebec: Modification of the law on the conservation of natural heritage presented by SNAP to the Transport and Environment Commission (CTE). The Quebec government’s review of the Natural Heritage Conservation Act represented a unique opportunity to include a protected area status that would recognize the uniqueness of Indigenous-led initiatives. We considered that such a status would allow the recognition of indigenous sacred natural sites as protected areas. SNAP and UAPASHKUSS therefore worked together to submit a brief and mobilize other organizations around this issue. In its brief UAPASHKUSS recommended a new category of an Indigenous protected area targeting sacred natural sites (SNAP-Québec, 2020; ITUM, 2020). An Aboriginal-Led Protected Area (ALPA) status was included in the revised Québec Natural Heritage Conservation Act in early 2021 (MLECC, 2021). We wish that this new protection tool recognizes the specificities of Indigenous-led conservation, including the protection of natural sacred sites.

In December 2020, the government also announced the designation of almost 30,000 km2 in Nunavik as a reserve of territory for the purposes of protected area (RTFAP)(MELCC, 2020; Shield A., 2020). The designated territory includes a sacred site identified by UAPASHKUSS. Three of the five sacred sites located in Québec were now legally protected, following the government announcements made in 2020.

In October 2022, SNAP Québec and UAPASHKUSS enhanced their partnership with the Innu Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-utenam (ITUM), and the three organisations formed a working committee called Uashkaikan to coordinate their efforts towards the Innu protected area in the territory.

The next step will be to apply for ALPA designation in order to protect the remaining sacred sites, including the portage routes. Furthermore, additional measures are required for all eight sacred sites, including those that are currently protected, in order for them to be legally recognized as such. To reach this aim, four future joint actions will be focussed on (see also UAPASHKUSS & SNAP-Québec, 2021, p.7):

  1. Document and draft protected area proposals for identified Innu sacred natural sites and submit the project for the Indigenous-led protected areas designation to the Government of Quebec, so that the sites can obtain legal status in Quebec;
  2. Implement the actions proposed during consultations held with members and local Indigenous leaders and other local and regional governments;
  3. Continue awareness campaigns for the sacred natural sites identified by UAPASHKUSS;
  4. Visit the sacred sites to collect data on their biocultural characteristics.

The work by UAPASHKUSS, in collaboration with its partners, highlights the importance of Indigenous-led governance and conservation systems, including the preservation of natural sacred sites. UAPASHKUSS  continues with its partners, such as SNAP-Québec, the joint efforts to create Indigenous protected areas for the recognition of Innu sacred natural sites as identified by them. It is essential to advance together in protecting the biocultural diversity of our land and waters for current and future generations.

Tshinashkumitinan! Akua Tutuatau Tshikauinnu Assi!

Thank you and Take Care of Our Mother Earth!

Contact :


155, rue de l’Église

Uashat mak Mani-utenam (Québec)

G4R 4K2


Courriel: uapashkuss@outlook.com

Site web: www.uapashkuss.com


  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (2004). Akwé: Kon. Voluntary guidelines for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessments regarding developments proposed to take place on, or which are likely to impact on, sacred sites and on lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by indigenous and local communities. [On-line]. Montreal, Quebec: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2004. 25 pp. (CBD Guidelines Series). <http://www.cbd.int/doc/book.aspx?id=7358> [Consulted: 19 April 2022].
  • Innu Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-Utenam (ITUM) (2020). Mémoire quant au projet de loi 46. Mémoire déposé par Innu Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-Utenam dans le cadre du projet de loi modifiant la loi sur la conservation du patrimoine naturel et d’autres dispositions. 21 p.
  • Liljeblad, J., & Verschuuren, B. (2019). Indigenous Perspectives on Sacred Natural Sites. Culture, Governance and Conservation. Routledge.
  • Ministère de l’environnement et de la lutte contre Les Changements Climatiques (MELCC). (2020, December 11). Le gouvernement du Québec atteindra son objectif de protéger 20 % du Nunavik d’ici la fin de 2020. Communiqué de presse. Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/infuseur/communique.asp?no=4438
  • Ministère de l’environnement et de la lutte contre Les Changements Climatiques (MELCC). (2021, February 10). Adoption de la nouvelle Loi modifiant la Loi sur la conservation du patrimoine naturel et d’autres dispositions – Le Québec se donne les moyens d’accroître la protection de ses milieux naturels. Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/infuseur/communique.asp?no=4482
  • Société pour la nature et les parcs du Canada – Section Québec (SNAP Québec) (2020). Mémoire présenté à la Commission des Transports et environnement dans le cadre des consultations particulières sur le projet de loi no 46 : Loi modifiant la Loi sur la conservation du patrimoine naturel. 70 p. Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://snapquebec.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/2020-09-22-Memoire-SNAP-Quebec-PL46.pdf
  • Shields, A. (2020, December 5). Le gouvernement protège 30 000 km carrés du Nord du Québec. Le Devoir. https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/environnement/591093/le-gouvernement-protege-30-000-km-sup-2-sup-du-nord-du-quebec
  • UAPASHKUSS & SNAP-Québec (2021). Pakatakan project activity report: A partnership between UAPASHKUSS and SNAP-Quebec for the protection and recognition of Innu Sacred Natural Sites. Project report submitted to ECHO-CHAD-CONSECON Foundation. 8 p.
  • United Nations (UNDRIP). (2007). United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Poeples. Available at: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf [Consulted: 19 April 2022].
  • Verschuuren, B., McNeely, J., Oviedo, G., & Wild, R. (Eds.). (2012). Sacred Natural Sites. Taylor & Francis.
  • Vollant, T. (2011). Ka Kushpian- Mon voyage. Short film, 3’40’’, produced by Wapikoni Mobile. https://vimeo.com/154909234
  • Wild, R. and McLeod, C. (2008). Sacred Natural Sites: Guidelines for  Protected  Area  Managers,  Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series No 16, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland

Framing Integration – from Welfare to Citizenship




This article discusses the concept of integration as it appears in a select body of social policy documents in Norway, and relates it to the Norwegian model of welfare. In Norway as well as other European countries, the concept of integration has been an issue of debate over the last 30 years. Integration is a contested term because it is difficult to define and operationalize. It is used politically from so many shifting positions, and it highlights underlying questions on national boundaries, national identities, and questions concerning distribution of national welfare.

The concept of integration is most often associated with immigration and inclusion of new citizens. The EU defines integration as “a two-way process based on mutual rights and corresponding obligations of legally resident third-country nationals and the host society which provides for full participation of the immigrant. (Collett, 2008) Anthony Giddens in his book Europe in the Global Age, describes how Europe in the age of globalisation has become vulnerable, due to unemployment, financial crisis, changing demography, environmental challenges and substantial immigration and demands for adaptation to increased cultural diversity (Giddens, 2007). Policies developed to handle immigration and the cultural diversity associated with it, are often referred to by the term integration. As the EU definition states, integration involve EU host countries allowing immigrants to fully participate in society. This article focuses on how this policy has been defined and implemented in Norway.



Frame analysis

Integration has for a long period of time been a policy area in Norway, and this policy area has been developed and chronicled through various documents and reports. Policy here includes government papers, visions, programmes, plans for action, and modes of implementation. My interest in this article is to analyse the development of understandings and shifting positions behind integration politics. Party politics and public debates are particularly influential to this policy, but they will not feature directly in the analysis.

To investigate such understandings and shifting positions Carol Bacchi asks “What’s the problem represented to be?” (Bacchi, 2009). Policy is here defined as “a problematizing activity”. In defining the problem, some aspects are included and illuminated, while other dimensions are excluded in order to avoid complexity. In Bacchi’s analysis one is not searching for real problems that are meant to be solved, but one is rather searching for contesting views of the problems and how they are defined. This means identifying and evaluating the problem by questioning the taken for granted assumptions within the particular policy field. It further involves explicating the ways in which problems are described, how reasons for problems are analysed and what the implications of these problems involves (Lotherington, 2002). The problem representations can be stated along material lines (through access to and distribution of resources) or along discursive lines (through the attribution of legal and/or cultural norms and interpretations or through the use and legitimation of violence (Verloo & Lombardo, 2007).

Jørgensen and Thomsen suggest the use of critical frame analysis (Jørgensen & Thomsen, 2012) when analyzing social policy. Frame analysis is a concept originated in the work of Erving Goffman, who saw reality as a “schema for interpretation” – where framing refers to the actors interpretations of reality in actual situations (Goffman, 1974). In frame analysis one assumes the existence of multiple interpretations of the discussed problem, and the task is to explore the implicit and explicit understandings involved. Verloo and Lombardo defines a policy frame as “an organizing principle that transforms fragmentary or incidental information into a structured and meaningful problem, in which a solution is implicitly or explicitly included” (Verloo & Lombardo, 2007: 20). The theoretical notions of framing, are also associated with social movement theory, building on the works of Benford and Snow:


Framing describes an active procedural phenomenon that implies agency and contention at the level of reality construction…. Thereby, the political process can be characterized as a contest between different frames regarding the right to interpret an issue or social problem. (Benford & Snow, 2000: 614)


If policy is seen as a contest between frames, it is this contest or “conceptualization of frames” that becomes interesting for analysis. Some of these frames then become frames for collective action, and “frames tasks” for the policies to follow. If we say for instance that integration has to do with income redistribution, it might be the financial dimension of the problem that is addressed. By contrast, if integration is defined as a problem of cultural difference, we might focus on ways to incorporate the differences, or adapt to differences involved. Benford and Snow suggest that these tasks are framed in three particular ways, and they are followed by specific problem-setting stories. (Benford & Snow, 2000: 615)

The table below delineates Benford and Snow’s concepts of framing.



Framing tasks

Diagnostic framing

What is the problem?

How is it defined?

Prognostic framing

How do we solve the problem?

Motivational framing

How do we argue for our definitions and solutions – ideology

Problem-setting stories

Specific representations

They way problems are told, presented and given meaning

                                                            (Benford & Snow, 2000: 616)


If we view the problem of integration for example as an unemployment problem where specific groups are outside the labour market, our diagnostic framing will focus on unemployment generally. These diagnostics could also be more specific, by suggesting that unemployment is related to demands for particular competences, to issues of discrimination or racism, or to structural crisis in the economy. The way we think about solutions to this unemployment problem, will represent our prognostic framing. The implementation of the prognostic framing will depend on the way the problem is understood. If discrimination is defined as the source of the problem, the prognostic framing would center on legal initiatives rather than business support programs. The motivational framing in turn will be necessary to motivate for and pave the way for relevant implementations, for instance through legislation and political decisions. During the 1990’s there was a strong focus on integration politics in Norway. Within this decade there was a deep economic recession, with high unemployment especially among foreigners. According to the media, may have been related to cultural difference, but this diagnostic frame did not solve the problem of the structural crisis. Problem-setting-stories might be put forward when the media present the problem in specific ways, for instance the story of an immigrant who had been beaten up at his work-place would diagnose the problem as one caused by racism or discrimination.

Verloo and Lombardo suggest to incorporate the dimensions of “location” and “mechanisms” into the analysis of frames. (Verloo and Lombardo, 2007) This means that we have to find “locations” where integration actually is supposed to take place, and find out which “mechanisms” in society help to facilitate or impede integration. If as in the Norwegian case, integration is associated with welfare politics, then welfare services are a kind of location. The legal system behind these services is part of the mechanisms relevant for this inquiry. These two dimensions together can shape the context behind what we are studying.

Foucault suggests an understanding of context that embraces history and society as something broader than both the individual hermeneutical interpretation of society on one hand, and the structural determinants on the other hand (Foucault, 2012). Context appears in this sense as a shifting environment constructed through the lines of history, into collective representations:


In a Foucaultian frame, the condition of temporary society cannot be understood by examining the negotiated meanings of social agents, nor can it be found within the broader field of social relations. Rather a history of ungoverned practices and knowledge relations brings subjects and the knowledge that constitutes them into play. Foucault called the methodological approach that takes history of these relations as its object of investigation “geneaology”. (Bastalich, 2009: 5)


Bastalichs point is to show that Foucaults work on genealogy shifts away from persons producing meaning – as in hermeneutics – and points to the role of historical practices and discourse in producing subjectivity and meaning. In this way Foucault presents an important epistemological and ethical basis for knowledge, and this basis deserves attention on its own terms. According to Bastalich, this does not have to do with a search for “authentic voices” and “the majestic performance of the sovereign subjects.” Society is constructed from established “positions of knowledge” which are collective, continuous and stable, as opposed to individual interpretations. In this Foucault also focuses on the role of Government, and points to the role of the State as a disciplinary force that produces knowledge in society, – a knowledge that “defines” the population, and the represented problems connected to the population.


Genealogy offers socially relevant descriptions of the interrelations of past practice and knowledge that enable reflection on our current condition. Their value lies in their ability to open the field of practice by throwing current rules into doubt. (Bastalich, 2009: 5)


When applying Foucault’s concept of genealogy to this policy analysis, the “frames” we are investigating cannot be understood in isolation from time and space. Rather they must be understood in relation to each other as “positions of knowledge” that have been constructed and developed over time (Foucault, 2005). In this article I will focus on different positions of knowledge to discuss the meaning of integration in public policy.

The texts that I draw upon are selected official documents that in various ways express explicit interpretations of what integration is interpreted to be as a policy problem, (diagnosis) which interventions are suggested to meet that problem (prognosis) and how are such interventions motivated and legitimized (motivation). The types of documents relevant for the analysis are:


               Laws concerning provision of welfare and distribution of welfare 

               Norwegian Official reports concerning immigration, and welfare (often used to as the basis for new legislation or new policies) 

               Norwegian Reports to the Storting concerning immigration and welfare 


Before I draw the timeline, I will present a set of relevant concepts, which will constitute the theoretical basis for the analysis.



Relevant theoretical concepts

When discussing integration, some researchers stress the absence of social exclusion (Dahrendorf, 1995; Woolley, 1998). Other researchers focus on the importance of various forms of social capital (Bourdieu, 2011; Coleman, 1988) (Robert D. Putnam, 2001). As we shall in the analysis, social inclusion has in many instances replaced the original concept of integration. Also the awareness of exclusion mechanisms has contributed to a larger awareness of social justice.

However, the traditional method of understanding integration emphasises norms and values. In social science the term integration was introduced by Emile Durkheim and is often associated with the question of how social order and cohesion can be maintained in societies undergoing profound changes and dissolution of norms and values. Durkheim was concerned that during his time society’s various institutions – the church, the family, traditions were dissolving and were unable to socialise individuals into existing norms and values. Durkheim assumed society would devolve into chaos and destruction in the absence of the strong norms carried by these institutions.

People in the 20th century might share the same concern and pose questions about how one can preserve the values of the nation, the welfare state, and religion, and still maintain a stable society in times of globalisation and extensive immigration. Discussions on these questions often employ the concept of social cohesion. Jenson (1998) suggest a five dimensional model:


i) Belonging/isolation,

ii) Inclusion/exclusion,

iii) Participation/non-involvement,

iv) Recognition-rejection, and

v) Legitimacy – illegitimacy.

(Jenson, 1998)


Network and O’Connor (Canadian Policy Research Networks & O’Connor, 1998) brings up three similar dimensions:


i) Ties that bind (values, identity, culture),

ii) Differences and divisions (inequalities and inequities, culture, geography),

iii) Social glue (associations, network, infrastructure and identity)


Several researchers stress the significance of common values in relation to social cohesion. In the Diversity Report (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)) the question of core values is raised:


The question of core values is also a question of which ambitions we should have based on the level of community between citizens and various groups in society. One stance is to search for broad consensus, that in terms of cultures and values we try to approach each other. Another stance is to define a minimum set of human rights and political rules of conduct that must be respected by all. The maximum solution – the broad unity of values – aims to strengthen among citizens the feeling of belonging to the same collective unit. The minimum solution, to a greater extent, protects the right to be different even if human rights and politics limit the exercise of this difference. This report is closest to the latter understanding. (Author’s translation; St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): 34)


Here the question of cohesion is associated with society’s core values. The quotation clearly states that the aim of policy is moving away from broad, all-encompassing value consensus in society towards more value differentiation, where a few core values are established to protect individuals and maintain social cohesion. Such a move could be interpreted as a modern form of transition from mechanic to organic solidarity. In the classical meaning of integration presented by Durkheim, core values are associated with the collective consciousness of society as a whole. A strong collective consciousness would depend on a broad consensus of values. Social cohesion based on a broad value consensus focuses on society as a whole and reflects the classical meaning of the term. A society based on traditional or religious values shared by the majority of the population would be an example of this. This represents the maximum solution. The minimum solution on the other hand, aims at protecting the right to be different from the core values, where you can chose your religion and your cultural practices, chose your sexual orientation, live your life in different ways than the majority, and still have the respect from society. The sum of these individual choices might represent a challenge for social cohesion. In terms of Jenson’s five binary concepts mentioned above, one can ask do the increased diversity lead to belonging, inclusion, participation, recognition and legitimacy, or does it rather bring isolation, exclusion, non-involvement, rejection or illegitimacy? And in what way can society hold the different individuals together like “social glue”?(Canadian Policy Research Networks & O’Connor, 1998) These questions cannot be fully explored here, but will serve as underlying reflections as we move into the construction of frames.

When we talk of integration in the more modern sense of the word as it is used in politics, t refers to the participation of immigrants in their new societies (Rugkåsa, 2012). By this interpretation, integration not only refers to society as a whole but also concerns individuals in terms of skills, attitudes, and individual resources. It concerns the material basis for individuals to participate in society and how the structural underpinnings of the system either facilitate or impede the possibility of participation. Understood this way, integration also pertains to the ability of a system to combine a multitude of beliefs, identities, and practices, and questions the tendency to include or to exclude.

In the case of Norway, these questions must be discussed in relation to the Norwegian model of welfare. Lately there have been political discussions on how increased immigration has influenced the welfare model. The Official Norwegian Report on welfare and migration addresses this issue, where the Norwegian welfare state is described as a comprehensive welfare model and a “social integration project” with three key ingredients: democracy, citizenship, and modernisation (NOU 2011: 7). The welfare model represents both the problem and the solution when it comes to integrating immigrants. While there is an implicit assumption that fulfilling people’s social rights leads to social integration, lately the opposite has been argued – that rights to social benefits also can be seen as an impediment to integration or to including immigrants in the labour market. In many ways the lives of immigrants have been improved because of assistance from the welfare state. At the same time, long-term passivity and clientification is not beneficial for the individual or for society (ibid). These problems represent more than just a challenge to the welfare system, but an overall challenge to social democracy in general in terms of the lack of participation and the need for general trust in the population.


If the Norwegian Welfare State in itself is to be considered a social integration project, new issues are raised when new, larger groups of people who have not gone through basic socialisation in Norway immigrate and settle here. The degree to which they are considered epresentatives of cultural differentness, have special needs, or are subjected to social marginalisation also contributes to challenging the function of the welfare state and the basis for the legitimacy of the common good. (NOU 2011:7; English Summary: 4)


This quotation illuminates different representations of the problem of integration, and shows how this understanding, implies conceptions of challenge for the welfare state. It questions the efficacy of the socialisation process and emphasises immigrants’ unfamiliarity with Norwegian norms and values, their cultural differences, special needs, eventual marginalisation – all of which in turn frame tasks for the welfare state. As this article will show, integration issues in Norway over the years have been framed as welfare policies. These policies very often concern distribution of benefits and resources, and there has been an underlying assumption that welfare contributes to integration and to social cohesion.



Framing integration – redistribution, recognition and activation

If integration is framed in terms of welfare, it means the aims and concepts of welfare are used also to study integration. Verloo and Lombardo’s dimensions of “location” and “mechanisms” in frame analysis as mentioned above, could suggest the location of the integration policy into the location of welfare institutions, controlled by the welfare instruments and the values of the welfare society (Verloo & Lombardo, 2007). In the construction of frames we shall see that the legislation on social benefits played a very important role, as well as Social service offices, and also formal and informal criteria for citizenship. When discussing welfare we know that welfare has a universal orientation, which embraces all citizens. This means that all citizens – the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled, the poor, and the immigrants – they are all in a sense entitled to be a part of society, they have the right to integration. As such, the question of integration is also a question of social justice. Three central concepts concerning social justice are redistribution, recognition, and activation. 

Fraser (2009) focuses on the first two concepts and states that claims for social justice often are connected to the way society redistributes resources or the way society values or devalues individuals or groups. Redistribution has often been defined in terms of class, social democracy, or social-economic reforms and defines injustice as primarily socioeconomic. Recognition, on the other hand, has to do with social and cultural representations and the way these are interpreted and communicated in society. The following table is based on Fraser’s argument:


Two paradigms of social justice


Interpretations of injustice




Socio-economic distribution of ressources

Exploitation, economic marginalization, deprivation

Redistribution of income, reorganizing division of labour,   transforming economic structures


Social and cultural representations

Cultural domination, non-recognition and disrespect

Cultural or symbolic change towards positive evaluations of diversity   and validation of individual identities

(Fraser, 2009: 24)


Fraser first claims that the redistribution paradigm is broader than class; other principles for distribution, such as socialism and social democracy, are also included. The recognition paradigm involves more than the widely known identity politics based on gender, sexuality, and race. On the one hand, it advocates rights that are specific to gender, race, or sexual orientation in a way that underlines and valuates these aspects of identity. On the other hand, recognition also involves a deconstruction of identities that rejects an essential conception of these, suggesting instead that identities can be constructed in multiple ways.

Fraser argues that the emancipatory aspects of the redistribution and recognition paradigms must be combined in a common comprehensive framework, in a way in which both paradigms are treated as dimensions of justice that cut across all social movements. Thus, injustice can be traced both to the politics of distribution and to culture for oppressed groups. These groups suffer from both misdistribution and misrecognition, although “neither of these injustices is an indirect effect of the other”. Rather, they are both “primary and co-original” (Fraser, 2009: 75). Fraser suggests examining institutionalised patterns of social interaction that focus on social status rather than specific group identities to determine whether reciprocal recognition and status equality exist. Do institutional patterns constitute actors as peers who are equally capable of participating in society? To what extent do institutional structures facilitate or impede parity of participation? As we shall see in the first part of the analysis, the Norwegian Social Care Act of 1964 could be seen as an example of an institutional structure that contributed to clientification and stigmatisation, thus preventing parity of participation. We can assume that the social benefits given under this law were seen as a redistribution of society’s resources that eventually would help integrate individuals into their new society. Based on this assumption, one could also argue that people receiving these benefits suffer from misrecognition in society because they were regarded as clients, as unproductive, and as a burden to society.

Fraser emphasises the structural and institutional basis for misrecognition and suggests that misrecognition is a deeply rooted problem in itself, and should not be analysed with redistribution. Other theorists disagree with Fraser and interpret recognition on the level of interaction: recognition from others through interaction is a condition for self-esteem and undistorted subjectivity (Taylor, 1994; Honneth, 1995). In this way recognition is seen as related to self-realisation and ‘good’ ethical conduct, more so than as part of an institutional structure. If recognition is connected to self-realisation and self-esteem, Fraser questions how recognition can also be seen as a matter of social justice. She calls this a sectarian approach rooted in individual psychology, whereas she herself would emphasise that social justice is rooted in social relations and institutional patterns. When the concept of recognition is related to integration in this paper, it has to do with absence of discrimination, but also to do with affiliation and belongingness. The way society takes measures to fight discrimination and strengthen affiliation and belongingness, could be seen as ways to change the institutional patterns that facilitates recognition and participatory parity.

In this paper, recognition, when connected to integration, is treated as related to the absence of discrimination and the presence of affiliation and belongingness. The measures taken by society when fighting discrimination and strengthening affiliation and belongingness could be seen as ways of changing the institutional patterns that facilitate recognition and participatory parity.

In addition to redistribution and recognition as central concepts concerning social justice and welfare, researchers also point to the paradigm of activation.


Activation is a key notion in the European employment strategy, and activation policies and programs are main instruments to promote the transition from welfare to work and to (re)integrate people dependent on social insurance benefits or social assistance into the labour market. This has happened simultaneously with increased migration and a resulting ethnically diverse workforce. (Djuve, 2011: 114)


Giddens (2001) asserts that in Europe social protection of citizens previously was provided in the form of transfers, but now transfers are more conditional on participation in training and job preparation (Giddens, 2001). This is seen as an investment in society that will eventually pay off. Activation could be seen either as a general introduction to the labour market, regardless of the type of job, or as preparation for a specific job that requires relevant skills (Dean, 2003). Djuve (2011) points out that the activation trend is particularly important for studies of integration policy, because of the close links between integration policy and citizenship as a fundamental right. She also states that activation seems to be applied more eagerly to foreigners. Activation is also mentioned explicitly in NOU, 2011:


This alternative represents a shift from pure income transfers to more systematic efforts to activate relevant groups in the form of qualification and adapted work, in combination with work-related wage subsidies and a more comprehensive use of graded benefits connected to health-related benefit needs. (NOU, 2011: 7; English summary: 13)


The paradigm on activation is characterised by three orientations of societal intervention: an individual approach, an emphasis on employment, and a contractualisation approach (Revilla & Pascual, 2007). The individual approach has to do with “tailoring” the individual to fit the demands of the labour market, and the tendency to promote the individual’s involvement in his own integration. This represents an ontological change, emphasising individual responsibility, citizenship, and agency. The second approach aims at strengthening labour market attachments and enhancing economic autonomy. Revilla and Pascual (2007) argue that employment is now to be seen more as a civil duty than as a right. The task of the welfare state has addressed protect against the risks inherent in a market economy, but now there is a tendency to encourage individuals to adapt and be flexible in relation to the ever-changing economy. The third approach emphasises contracts and focuses more on the economic aspects of citizenship than the social ones.


In addition to the contract as a key to social regulation mechanism, the ‘reciprocity’ norm is reaffirmed, and ‘deservingness’ becomes one of the key principles underpinning the legitimacy of citizenship itself. (Revilla & Pascual, 2007: 5)


Djuve (2011) is also pointing to the changes in citizenship under the paradigm of activation. She asks if activation is eroding social citizenship by revoking rights.

She found that the activation discourses in Norway has clearly been influenced by ideas of empowerment and political/gender equality, and in this sense Norway as a social democratic welfare state, constitutes a distinctive case. Social democratic ideas remain central, and the elements of activation are included in ways perceived by different actors as solutions to earlier problems (Djuve, 2011).

In a broad sense, the theoretical development shown here, demonstrates a turn from seeing integration as a question on social cohesion, to seeing integration more as a question of social justice, or also a question of social economics related to welfare. Equipped with these paradigms I will now present the timeline of the analysis and the following construction of frames.



Frame analysis of ethnic minority integration in Norway – drawing the timeline

It is difficult to analyse social policy related to integration because this is not a delineated policy area. Integration before the 80s, it seems, had been connected to an overall immigration policy, only later being connected to various policy areas, including citizen participation. In the 90s integration could also be defined in terms of cultural policies and later also in terms of policies of diversity. At present, integration and inclusion politics are diffused into almost every policy area. In the material presented, we will see that integration as a contested concept has been changed and redefined many times. It is this process of redefinition that I will try to contextualise and discuss in the following section. As the concept appears in public policy, it is framed around specific understandings of the underlying problems that the policy should address. By using policy documents, I will establish six frames of seeing “what is the problem represented to be” in a specific period of time. Within the context of each frame, I will develop the concepts of diagnostic framing, prognostic framing, and motivational framing.

The time period of analysis spans from 1975 to 2012. It is not possible to give an exhaustive account of events and developments within the field of immigration and integration during this period, but I will highlight some essentials, supported by contributions from existing research. As Tjelmeland & Brochmann (2003: 208) note; by exploring history, we recognise that “immigration sets the lens on the recipient country itself, history and traditions, political values, self-reflection, and identity” (author’s translation).

The year 1975 was chosen because in this year an immigration freeze was officially declared in Norway. Before this time, there were few immigration regulations. Like the rest of Europe, labour immigrants came from countries like Turkey, Morocco, Greece, and Pakistan. Concentrations of these groups were found in big cities, mainly in Oslo. After 1975, the groups that had been exempted by the immigration freeze were individuals applying for political asylum (refugees), students, those seeking family reunifications, and people with special skills needed in the labour market (Ihle, 2008; Tjelmeland & Brochmann, 2003). 

For Norway since 1960, we can identify three waves of immigrants: labourers from southern Europe and Pakistan who arrived from 1960–1975, families of these labourers who came later in 1970–1980, and refugees and asylum seekers from many countries who arrived from 1975 to today (Tjelmeland & Brochmann, 2003). After the extension of the EU in 1994, a fourth wave can be identified: labourers from new EU-member countries in Eastern Europe.



Timeline showing legislation, events, and publication of documents

 Framing integration  GB1

 (click to enlarge)

(Timeline with relevant laws, events, and selected documents; St.meld./Meld. St.: Reports to the Storting; NOU: Norwegian Official Reports)


The timeline above indicates the laws that I will refer to and the documents selected for the present analysis. I have also referenced the immigration freeze in 1975 and the extension of the EU to new member states in 1994. After the immigration freeze, a substantial portion of immigrants into Norway consisted of refugees and their families, who were given a residence permit for humanitarian reasons. These immigrants include those who have gone through the asylum application process, those who have been selected for Norway via the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the flow of family members who have been connected to these people.

Refugee politics during the 80s was included in the general immigration policy and was institutionalised in a new management structure.


Immigration policy is employed as an overall concept, despite the reasons for immigration and independent of the grounds for residence permits. (Author’s translation; St. meld. 74 (1979-80): 6)


At this point, immigration politics and integration were seen as quite identical and were associated with the same policy area. As we shall see, immigration control and integration were separated at a later stage.

In the following, I will describe some characteristics of the aforementioned time periods. Those characteristics are related to legislation and specific documents relevant for that period. The presented descriptions will be fundamental when analysing the constructed frames of understanding.



1975-1991: Individuals in need – care and clientification

The basis for working with refugees and unemployed immigrants during the 1970’s and 1980’s was the Social Care Act of 1964. In many municipalities the Office for Social Services was responsible for refugees, and since refugees mostly came “empty-handed” from countries ravaged by war and conflict, they were looked upon as “in need”. The Social Care Act was to a large extent based on a “philosophy of treatment” – a conception of emergency as an individual and temporary problem that, through economic support and counselling, could be resolved within a short time period.[1] This was an expression of “treatment optimism” and “a fundamental belief that the welfare society could identify and solve social problems.” (Bernt, 2003) Being defined as “in need” could refer to the need for economic support, language training, housing, education, work, health services – basically everything. Language acquisition was seen as the main asset in a person’s integration process, which is why interpretation services and language training centres were established and developed. Having a different language could be seen as an obstacle that had to be overcome, as well as different culture and traumatic experiences. 

The Report to the Storting 39 (1987–88) mandates including integration policy in municipal responsibilities through local social services as a part of a general welfare programme. Despite local variations, this meant providing social benefits without explicit claims of participation in specific qualification programmes (Djuve, 2011).

In order to fulfil the requirements for social benefits, people would have to be assessed individually as clients and would be left to the discretion of the social worker. This assessment easily could be associated with the search for deficiencies, and the deficiency concept itself might have constituted an important diagnostic framing. The problem of integration in this sense would lie in pinpointing immigrants as “lacking something” or as “needing something” – language skills, cultural competence, housing, management of post-traumatic stress, among others. Many researchers in Norway have stated that immigrants are often categorised as different from the majority in the sense that difference is interpreted as a deficiency (Djuve, 2011; Gullestad, 2002; Vike, Liden & Lien, 2001; Vike, 2006; Ytrehus, 2001).

There are reasons for believing that the law, with its implicit care orientation, contributed to the interpretation of difference as deficiency. The approach here focuses on the skills and assets of individuals, defining who is “thoroughly integrated” and who is “poorly integrated”, as though on a scale (Ihle, 2008). This can be interpreted as a claim for functionality, where society has to provide for the ‘deficient’ individual. From a functionalist point of view, this could also be seen as a societal compensation strategy for making individuals behave in more functional ways. In a Dürkheimian sense, individuals who don’t have the necessary resources and do not know the norms, values, and language of society, could be considered deficient and seen as a threat to society. In this functionalist terminology the system maintains social order by controlling for and compensating individual limitations (Tjelmeland & Brochmann, 2003).

The Report to the Storting 39 (1977–88) states accordingly that it is the duty of society to minimise differences and level the conditions that influence people’s lives:


The point of departure is that human beings have different needs conditioned by social, environmental, and economic factors. It is the duty of society to try to reduce these differences in conditions, or reduce the effects of these through compensatory programmes for those who are worse off than others. This point of view implies special targeted measures – “særtiltak” – that delineate social differences in individual conditions and living conditions. These measures are implemented by many different groups in society in many different areas of life. (Author’s translation; 47)


Therefore, where the diagnostic framing had to do with the focus on individual limitations or individual needs, the prognostic framing had to do with compensatory programmes for developing individual skills and creating equality. Provided with the necessary skills, the individual could be on the same level of preconditions, and on this basis have the same opportunities as Norwegians (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008).

Providing immigrants with the above-mentioned skills and opportunities appeared to be an enormous undertaking for the system, and during the 70s and 80s this effort was severely criticised (Djuve, 2011). First, it challenged the fundamental concept of legitimacy and the “social contract”, which often refers to the protection of society against the risks of the market economy, although it also can be seen as a reciprocal exchange of rights and responsibilities. Extraordinary compensation programmes for immigrants could appear as conflicting with the principle of universalism in the welfare state because of the lack of reciprocity (Djuve. 2011 Rugkåsa, 2012). Second, compensating people’s differences in terms of welfare – by helping them catch up to the level of others and gain access to essential resources – seemed a difficult aim to operationalise and implement. Third, this compensation effort could be interpreted as an assimilation strategy, wherein the effort towards equality also means encouraging immigrants to adopt the majority culture (Djuve, 2011). These arguments in turn influenced the motivational framing under the core concept known as “likestilling”, literally equality in terms of position, although this might also be described as “mainstreaming”. Brochmann and Kjelstadli refer to this as real equality as opposed to equality politics(Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008). They do not explore this difference, but they do indicate that equality politics has to do with the inclusion of immigrants in the social welfare system. Real equality, by contrast, would have to do with equal access to resources and to social venues in society like for instance schools, workplaces, political parties or the like.

The Report to the Storting “On Immigration Policy” (Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88) highlights this idea, and declares explicitly the aim of creating “equal positions” or mainstreaming.


This policy will aim to maximise mainstreaming between immigrants and Norwegians. This implies that immigrants, as much as possible, should have the same opportunities, rights, and duties as the rest of the population. It is worth noting that the aim of mainstreaming between different groups is not specific to the politics for immigrants. It is in line with the ideal of solidarity in the welfare state, based on the principle of equality and equal worth between society members. It is also in line with the conception of a just distribution of societal resources and societal duties, with the overall aim of extensive welfare for all. (Author’s translation; Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88: 47)


This report is also very clear that the concept of mainstreaming implies that immigrants should have the same actual opportunities as the rest of the population. They should have access to all public services and have control over their own lives through active participation. The implication here is that all immigrants are offered the opportunity to learn Norwegian, to gain knowledge that will help them orient themselves in society, and to receive an education. The report also emphasises economic and social security as a necessary condition for immigrants to live as equals with the rest of the population, so that they also can maintain their own cultural identity and live in harmony with their environment (Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88:48).

The motivational framing of the Report to the Storting 39 (1987–88) largely had to do with defending the necessity of compensatory programmes or targeted measures in order to achieve mainstreaming. It says explicitly that “these measures should not be perceived as specific advantages for immigrants(ibid):


The aim of targeted measures is to remove or reduce hindrances or difficulties that immigrants meet in their new environment, so they can achieve a real, equal position compared to the rest of the population (Authors translation; Stortingsmelding 39, (1987-88): 48).


Targeted measures were severely criticised, basically because they were seen to be favouring immigrants before over groups of the disadvantaged among the native Norwegians.

A motivational framing – arguments to defend this policy and the extended benefits to individuals – focused on the temporary nature of this support and also emphasized the aim of equality that supposedly would be reached when the benefits and programmes enabled people to stand on their own feet. Nevertheless, if welfare benefits flowed disproportionately to immigrants, the legitimacy of the welfare system itself might be weakened (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008; Djuve, 2011). Indeed, these targeted measures were severely criticised for favouring immigrants over the disadvantaged among native Norwegians. Moreover, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, an increasing number of immigrants were receiving social benefits over longer periods of time. The allegedly temporary welfare initiatives – through targeted measures – turned out to be not so temporary after all.


1987 – 2000: Integration as the preservation of culture – A tribute to “colourful community”

When asking “what’s the problem represented to be” in terms of integration and culture, it is difficult to find a kind of diagnostic framing explicitly stated in the early political documents. What is very apparent, though, is a tribute to cultural difference as an ideal for a modern, pluralistic, democratic society (Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88). When looking at the 1980s and 1990, researchers point to an extensive and prominent discussion on assimilation and integration (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008; Djuve & Hagen, 1995; Eriksen & Sajjad, 2006; Gullestad, 2002). While these researchers describe assimilation in various ways, the common thread treats assimilation as absorption into majority society when cultural specificities are muted and when immigrants conform with the majority in the strongest possible way. By contrast, an integrationalist point of view would mean that immigrants could preserve and practice their own culture while still participating in the different venues of mainstream society. It seemed quite obvious that an assimilationist approach was incompatible with the inherent political egalitarian values in Norway. Integration based on the preservation of culture, on the other hand, was the obvious political goal, especially for the more leftist side of government. Furthermore, Norway was heavily influenced by the rest of Europe, which was experiencing the spread of multiculturalism and the belief in “cultures in a plural sense” existing side by side in the context of modern nation states. Assimilation would oppose true pluralism, and should therefore be avoided and fought against.

From this point of view, assimilation was a potential problem, and much of the diagnostic framing centred around this. For starters, Norway was, through the UN Convention on Social and Political Rights, committed to respecting and allowing immigrant cultures:


Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (United Nations Declaration of Social and Political Rights, 1966: Article 2.1)


Second, Norway had a history with traditional ethnic minorities, where national authorities had practiced severe assimilationist strategies in the Norwegian nation-building process, especially with the Sami population in the north (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)). This policy had been strongly criticised both nationally and internationally.


Both immigrants and minorities connected to Norway were in the same period met with claims of “Norwegianising” and unilateral adaptation to society. Many people at the time saw “Norwegianising” as a condition for these groups to adapt to society as equal citizens. The language and culture of minority groups had low value, and there was an attempt to erase them. (author’s translation; St. meld. 17 (1996-1997): 24)


For assimilationists, culture was often seen as an obstacle that has to be overcome in order to achieve equality and integration. The idea of culture as an obstacle fit neatly with the problem orientation in the application of the Social Care Act, as mentioned above.

Third, culture was seen as part of larger series of social problems – unemployed, low income, poor housing, low degree of interaction, low education, and foreign culture combined as comprehensive attribution of particular people. In this way culture could become one of many factors that had to be dealt with by the social system in order to “improve” a person’s situation (Ihle, 2008). At the same time, however, this can be viewed as a way of helping to develop the person’s individual skills – including the processing of so-called cultural artefacts – in order to become more functional. It could also be seen as a quest for conformity from the system, which also expresses a value orientation when defining the majority culture as more valuable and important than other cultures. Where the majority perceives immigrants as different, the concept of difference, as mentioned above, could be interpreted as deficiency, and thus not validated by society. Rugkåsa (2012) states that whereas the missing integration among native drug abusers, elderly people, persons with disabilities are ascribed to individual factors, the missing integration among immigrants, are ascribed to culture.


Having a different cultural belonging than the majority, could then easily become identical with a lack of the right cultural competence (Gullestad, 2002; Rugkåsa, 2012). A consequence could be that the immigrants would not be included in the community before they have acquired the cultural skills that are considered necessary by the majority population (Rugkåsa, 2012). In this way the system could be practising assimilation, whereas integration was the ideal presented in the political documents.

In trying to determine the diagnostic framing of culture and integration, there is an ambiguity in policy that is deeply rooted in this discussion on assimilation and integration. On the one hand, one’s own immigrant culture is seen as an obstacle that has to be processed or altered in order to achieve integration. On the other hand, practising and preserving one’s own culture is seen as a prerequisite in order to achieve integration. This second point is very prominent in the policy documents and also the core of prognostic framing.


In the opinion of the government, an anchoring in one’s own culture and environment will ease the possibilities for immigrants to adapt and function in the majority society (to integrate) (…) To maintain and develop one’s own language and culture, should not be seen only as means in an integration process. To the immigrant, to be able to maintain your identity and attachment to your original environment has a value in itself. (…)The core of the politics towards immigrants is that they should be able to participate in the life of society – politically, economically, and socially – without the claims of cultural assimilation. It should be fully possible for immigrants to be able to live here as accepted members of society, at the same time as they build on their cultural legacy. (Author’s translation; Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88: 47-49)


To support these aims, there was wide public support for immigrant communities and cultural activities. There was also an effort to adapt public sectors to immigrants as new users of services. This could have to do with language and the need for interpretation, but it could also have to do with adjustments according to ethnicity and religion. The need for efficient language training was also prominent, as language is very tightly connected to culture. So, by learning Norwegian, one would also assume that this implied learning about Norwegian culture. As we will come to see later, learning about, or acceptance of, new cultural values is a lengthy process.

The motivation and reasoning behind this policy could be seen in some of the policy documents. We can identify three factors in the motivational framing, namely the principle of eligibility or individual choice, respect, and cultural enrichment to society. The Report to the Storting 39 (1987–1988) on “Migration Policy” emphasises quite explicitly the norm of individual choice when it comes to culture. This was elaborated already in Report to the Storting 74:


The principle is that an immigrant should be able to choose how strong and how long term the stay and attachment to Norway should be. One does not want to claim that the immigrant should be as Norwegian/assimilated as possible (Author’s translation; St. meld. 74 (1979-80): 28).


The Report to the Storting 39 follows this up by establishing the principle of respect:


It is the view of the Ministry that a more appropriate concept for the intention that lies in the principle of eligibility is respect for immigrants’ language and culture. The principle of respect for immigrants’ language and culture will be kept to emphasise that immigrants should not be forced to become as Norwegian as possible in the shortest possible time, unless that is what they wish themselves. (Author’s translation; Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88: 49)


This report goes on to argue how the public sectors can facilitate and support immigrants in preserving and maintaining their culture. Cooperation, mutuality, and tolerance are leading concepts in the policy towards immigrants. This means that immigrants should be able to participate in Norwegian political life and that they should maintain their own cultural activities. Report to the Storting 39 (987–88) echoes this sentiment when stating that “the positive sides of the cultural influence from immigration should be our focus of attention” (49).

The concept of cultural enrichment of society served as political legitimation for the implementation of many measures under the banner “fargerikt fellesskap”, or “Colourful community”. The 1990s could be defined as the era of multiculturalism, where the cultural influence of immigrants was supported, and there was an attempt to integrate this influence into the nation’s existing cultural life. Culture was in this context defined in terms of its expressions and artefacts – like music, dance, and literature. Culture in another sense had to do with access and participation as a dimension of welfare and recreation. Culture also had to with human and civil rights. 

Related to this, social scientists have engaged in a long-term discourse on the meaning of culture and the need for a reconceptualisation of culture to adapt to the new, shifting environments of multiculturalism (Gullestad, 2002). First, this had to do with a critique of the established understanding of culture as static, value neutral, descriptive, and based on essential, accepted characteristics. Second, in the descriptions of a given culture, nation states were often referred to as the unit of analysis, where critics would point out that the nation state, as a coherent force, had withered (ibid). The nation state could be seen as a social construct, serving particular purposes, and the sense of community it offered could be seen as a kind of “imagined sameness” (Anderson & Andersen, 1996). If culture was seen as constructed, imposed on the individual from the outside, it could also be seen as enforced, hegemonic structures of society (Gramsci, Hoare & Nowell-Smith, 2001).

In the traditional concept of culture – often referred to as cultural essentialism – non-Western cultures are often perceived as traditional and static. By being associated with those cultures, immigrants would be perceived as carriers or representatives of those cultures, rather than being innovators or agents in their own right (Ihle, 2008; Ytrehus, 2001). By perceiving immigrants as determined by culture and tradition, as marginalised and deficient (as described earlier), and as different in terms of norms and values, the obvious response could be assimilation, even if integration was the strategy of the political agenda.



1990 and forward: Upheaval of living conditions in specific social groups

During the 1990s, growing social inequality in Norway began to be identified. This inequality was largely in contradiction with the established belief in Norway as an egalitarian society (“likhetssamfunn”) – a society of equals. In a way, the conception of “likhet” (similarity, equality, or sameness) has constituted a fundamental ontology of the Norwegian welfare state. The state should be responsible for equal opportunities for all citizens regardless of gender, geographical location, or family income level. To achieve this aim, the state would need an epistemology – a more fundamental knowledge of social differences – and also a methodology of how to measure, assess, and analyse these differences. This is where the concept of living conditions (“levekår”) comes in.

In the 1990s the number of clients depending on long-term social benefits was increasing. Clients were generally unemployed people, including early immigrants who had worked as unskilled labourers since the 60s and 70s. At the same time, there was also an increase in the number of young drug abusers, single mothers, and young school dropouts. Refugees and their families were also dependent on social benefits as they arrived in Norway, and as such they became part of the growing queues of people at the social service offices. Unemployment rates were high during the 90s, and there was pressure on the social system and strong competition for jobs. In 1991 a new law was established: the Social Service Act, which replaced the Social Care Act of 1964. The new act aimed to reduce the effects of clientification, stigmatisation, and the orientation towards care. In the old law, treatment was based on the discretion of social workers, in the individual assessment of needs. The services and the benefits provided to people depended on this discretion, whereas the new law focused on more operational rights and claims of justice (Bernt, 2003). In spite of the new law, the same problems remained. Djuve and Kavli (2007) claim that the integration regime of the 1990’s was construed as a failure.

This statement pinpoints the burdens of being a long-term recipient of social benefits, as well as the extensive costs for society. According to Djuve, the criticism of the integration regime increased during the 90s, and a number of studies revealed the high rate of unemployment, high dependency on social assistance, poor living conditions, low levels of Norwegian knowledge, and extensive social exclusion in large immigrant groups (Djuve, 2011; Djuve & Hagen, 1995; Hagen, 1997; Sivertsen, 1995; Vassenden, 1997). This criticism pointed at questions concerning quality, continuity, and intensity in the services offered to newly arrived refugees. The criticism also pointed to large local variations in. Critics also claimed that the present system still contributed to clientification and that the system itself did not express and transmit Norwegian values to people new to the system (Djuve, 2011). In 1995 Norwegian anthropologist Unni Wikan cautioned against the rise of a new Norwegian underclass (Wikan, 1995). Brochmann and Kjelstadli also asked whether the state had done immigrants a disservice by (formally) encouraging “cultural preservation” that consigned them to the lower strata of the population (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008).

In 1993 the Official Norwegian Report on “Living Conditions in Norway” and subtitled as “Is the grass green for everyone?” was published. The report’s highlights are as follows:


  • Living conditions are determined by individual access to resources – like income, fortune, health, and knowledge – that people can utilise to govern their own lives. The focus on resources implies that living conditions are not something ‘given’ to people; they are also something that can be created and changed through conscious action, either individually or collectively.
  • Living conditions imply a broad range of components, particularly health, employment, labour conditions, economic resources, educational possibilities, family and networks, place of residence and local environment, recreation and culture, security for life and property, and political resources and rights.
  • Living conditions are measured by creating an overall picture based on large interview surveys geared at obtaining objective measurements. In addition, one can employ accessible economic and demographic statistics.

(Author’s translation; NOU 1993:17 & 42)


The importance and significance of equity of living conditions – as a system or ontology of social democracy, a system of knowledge and also a methodology – cannot be underestimated (Ihle, 2008). With the progressing technology in statistics, it was possible to conduct large surveys that could compare both geographical areas and groups of individuals across a large number of social indicators. With this approach, the understanding of integration became less about increasing individual skills and affiliation with culture, and more about access to resources on a collective level. This indicates that living conditions involve a mutual relationship between the individual and society, where the individual can access and employ resources – for instance, education and work opportunities – and society must provide these resources on an equal basis. According to this approach, this relationship is measured at the group level, showing positions in society related to social resources for various social groups. This is a different perspective than the previous focus on social care related to individuals.

Research and social policy on living conditions also included immigrants, and it is quite clear that the epistemology and methods of measuring living conditions also could be applied to analysing integration. We could go so far as to say that the measurement of integration and living conditions can be understood in practically the same way, when applied to the immigrant population. According to the research on living conditions, high score on these conditions, or these indicators would also imply a significant level of integration.


Surveys on living conditions that compare population groups are the most common way of measuring integration. The results do not present a complete picture, and must be supplemented by more qualitative data. But data on living standards are indicators of the situation. Measuring living conditions is crucial for maintaining welfare politics. Systematically low results for one group compared with other groups in the population are reasons for concern. (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): 28)


With surveys on living conditions, the diagnostic framing in social policy was improved and more targeted. Immigrants became a dominant target group, and the surveys revealed indications of unemployment, low income, housing problems, health problems, and various other social troubles.

This perspective on living conditions represents an economic and statistical rationality that deals with measuring of welfare. By analysing living conditions, a scale of high and low standards for welfare was introduced, while average standards of normality were defined in the language of statistics. When defining a statistical standard of normality, one also presents those who deviate from these standards. In this sense, diversity in Scandinavia tends to appear as a relationship between normality and deviance, between the resourceful and the disadvantaged, between natives and those from other cultures (Vike, Liden & Lien, 2001). The use of categories in statistics and in social welfare, combined with strong media influence, contributes to societal production of knowledge and the understanding of defined categories as true and natural. On the other hand, this use of categories implies the commodification and cementation of extending, changing, and situational identities (Gullestad, 2002).

Through the analysis of living conditions, groups and people are scaled; a broad set of indicators yield an image of a group in a population to illustrate and document their position in society in terms of resources (Ihle, 2008). In this way, integration had more to do with the societal inclusion of immigrants as a target group for welfare in many areas of society. This led to a number of discourses and public debates. The most extensive had to do with equality and assimilation (Gullestad, 2002; Tjelmeland & Brochmann, 2003; Vike, Liden & Lien, 2001). Another had to do with categorisation and labelling of the term immigrant (Gullestad, 2002; Ihle, 2008; Rugkåsa, 2012). Another debate concerned a multicultural society and the position of being a majority vs many minority populations (Eriksen & Sajjad, 2006). 

The shift in discourse here regards the previous understanding of integration as an aim for the individual. With the surveys on living conditions, the unit of analysis is no longer the individual, but ethnic minorities – very often portrayed as a single target group despite the internal differences. Over time, the understanding of immigrants as a target group for welfare has been severely criticised, and the diagnostic framing has been differentiated and has gradually begun referring to factors more specific than simply immigrant status, such as nationalities, continents of origin, gender, duration of stay, education, ethnic groups, and generational differences.

The prognostic framing following the emphasis on living conditions is a broad approach to welfare that involved many sectors of society – the labour market, education, health, housing, voluntary organisations, etc. This meant that what was previously a single immigration policy was now split into two areas: immigration and control, and internal integration. Internal integration, since the 1990s, was controlled by the UDI (the Directorate for Immigration), and responsibility for minority integration into society was placed on departments representing various sectors. This implied considerable differentiation of responsibilities, both on the state level and the municipal level. The amount of changes – bureaucratically, legislatively, and in policy implementation – was enormous during the 90s. We can single out three important change directions that are fundamental to the prognostic framing. The first was previously mentioned: the differentiation of policy across the field of welfare in all sectors and levels of society. The second came as a direct result of the living conditions surveys that revealed large concentrations of immigrants in the cities, especially Oslo. These concentrations appeared in combination with other indicators like poverty, poor housing facilities, low education, and health and social problems. Large programmes in specific geographical locations were established with state sponsorship. These programmes focused on renewing buildings, erasing poverty, bringing people into activity, and avoiding the development of social problems. Many people who lived in these areas, including non-immigrants, showed a low score on income, work, and education, and a high score on negative factors. Thus, these measures in the big cities could be referred to as integration schemes. 

The third direction of change within the prognostic framing had a direct emphasis on qualifications for newcomers. In 1999 a national committee known as the Introduction Committee was appointed; its role was to examine and develop a proposal for a new law to mandate municipalities to offer an introduction programme for refugees who recently arrived to the country. The Introductory Act of 2003 emphasised the work line as part of Norwegian social politics in general, which entails both ongoing effort towards persons not easily absorbed by the labour market as well as working for a generally inclusive labour market (Ihle, 2008). This policy was introduced by the Brundtland Government in the Report to the Storting on rehabilitation (St. Meld. 39 (1991-1992)). Participation in this specific programme for refugees was made mandatory, and participation was connected to a standardised income, work and education preparation, and language training, combined with knowledge of Norwegian society. Participation in the programme should amount to 37.5 hours per week at a “normal” job, and existing rules for the labour market should be applied (NOU 2001: 10). The programme should have a standard timeline of two years.

These implementations were introduced basically to make the system of receiving immigrants more efficient and economically viable. The differentiation of politics and diffusion of responsibilities to various sectors was also important, signalling that immigrants were not “specific” clients of particular services, but part of the responsibility of normal institutions in society.



2000-2005: Absence of structural barriers, racism and discrimination

A legal development alongside the policy development of the new Introduction Act is connected to an official policy against racism and discrimination. Even though Norway is not an EU member, it does adapt various EU regulations and standards. The EU approach to social questions and human rights has undergone profound changes over time. Since the mid-1990s there has been a broad agreement on the need to effect measures against discrimination on grounds other than gender. The Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 established protection against discrimination along many dimensions, among them race and ethnicity. In Article 13, the Commission proposed two directives:


               The right to equal treatment independent of race or ethnic origin, and protection against discrimination in many areas (2000/43/EF),

               The need to prevent discrimination across a multiplicity of grounds (2000/78/EF).


When a National Action Plan against racism and discrimination was presented in 1998, it was a response both to the developments within the EU and also to reports of increasing discrimination taking place in Norway in the 90s.

By the end of the 1990s many investigations and reports questioned the extent to which discrimination and racism existed in Norway. Many reported a shortage of documentation of these issues and the need for better surveillance and reports (NOU 2001:10). The diagnostic framing is centred first and foremost around the labour market, public services, school and education, police/prosecution/courts, the Internet, and the local community. A report based on investigations in 29 municipalities in 2002, initiated by the Directorate of Immigration, states that there is a basis to claims that discrimination is a typical phenomenon in Norway, especially in the labour market, the housing market, at schools, and in public services.


Many municipalities report that exclusion is the most visible form of discrimination against immigrants. The term here covers the actions that, consciously or unconsciously, contribute to the fact that immigrants are not able to enter the labour market or that immigrants in work positions are isolated or pushed out of work. Exclusion can happen in the process of hiring, in labour adaption programmes, or at actual workplaces. (Author’s translation; Utlendingsdirektoratet, 1999-2000)


An important question for discussion was whether the high number of unemployed immigrants was caused by discrimination. In the Report to the Storting on Immigration and the Multicultural Norway it is stated that unemployment among non-Western immigrants was nearly three times higher than among ethnic Norwegians during the 90s (St. meld. 17 (1996-1997)). Berg shows how structural, cultural, and individual factors mean that immigrants end up last in the queue (Berg, 1996). The report concludes that efforts against discrimination and racism should have high priority (Berg, 1996). Djuve and Hagen (1995) were one of the first researchers who wrote about immigrants and living conditions. In 1995 they suggested four different explanations of what they call “the low integration level among immigrants” (basically referring to the labour market). The first had to do with the immigrant’s limited resources – income, language, network, education. The second pointed to discrimination. The third pointed to ‘cultural hesitation’- how culture in some instances would restrict people. The fourth emphasised institutional barriers.

All reports agree on a complexity of reasons behind the high rates of unemployment among immigrants, but they all also underline the existence of discrimination and exclusion. NOU 12 clearly states that “there is a reason to believe that discrimination is one of the reasons behind the high unemployment among groups of immigrants” (Authors translation)(NOU 2002:12). According to the statistics at SMED (Center Against Ethnic Discrimination), in 2003 there was an influx of registered legal cases related to the labour market, and also a large amount of cases related to health and social services, police, and immigration authorities (SMED 2003).

Three important responses constitute the prognostic framing of racism and discrimination. As racism and discrimination arose as an issue during the 1990s, many activists and voluntary organisations emerged. Examples of these are the Anti-Racist Centre, OMOD (Organisation against Public Discrimination), NOAS (Norwegian Association for Asylum Seekers), the MIRA Centre (Resource Centre for Minority Women), SEIF (Self-help for Immigrants and Refugees), and many more. Public initiatives came forward both as a result of the EU’s anti-discriminatory frameworks, as mentioned above, and pressures from the organisations and the media. The most important outcome in the process was first the establishment of SMED (the Center Against Ethnic Discrimination) in 1998 and later the preparations for new legislation against discrimination. The anti-discrimination efforts could be seen as an extension of the established gender equality politics that began in 1972 with the establishment of the Gender Equality Council and was followed by other institutions to secure gender equality. In the government session 2004-2005, the government suggested the establishment of a new ombud office to focus on issues of inequality and discrimination along the lines of gender and ethnicity. The Ombud of Equality and Discrimination came into office in 2005 to combat discrimination on a multiplicity of grounds: gender, ethnicity, disability, language, religion, sexual orientation, and age. This ombud was accompanied by a new act, Act Against Discrimination 2005. The purpose of this act was to protect against discrimination and incorporate various laws concerning discrimination, such as the Discrimination Act, the Gender Equality Act, the Work Environment Act, and the Housing Act. The motivational framing of this development relates to the government-proclaimed goal of offering equal opportunities to all members of society. Equal opportunity is incompatible with the existence of discrimination of any kind.



2003 and forward: Living conditions, identity, and belonging

Stortingsmelding 17 (1996–1997) on Power and Democracy describes an unfortunate development for the immigrant population in which a large portion of the population does not participate in the Norwegian system. The report expresses concern that parts of the immigrant population might become a new underclass consisting of people who work in low-income professions or are outside the labour market” (St. meld. 17 (1996-1997)). Moreover, many immigrants experience powerlessness in their encounters with Norwegian society. This might manifest as long waiting periods at asylum centres, dependency on social benefits, language problems, marginalisation in the labour market, and as we have seen various forms of ethnic discrimination (ibid).

The diagnostic framing of the 1970–1980s was related to individuals in need who were of a different cultural background than the majority population. The 1990s had more to do with measurements of living conditions, structural constraints, and the position of minorities as a social group. This approach emphasised that the concept of integration should be understood as a mutual relationship between individual and society. Individual skills and resources mattered, but society also would have to open up to facilitate immigrants’ access to different parts of society (St. meld. 17 (1996-1997)).

At that point there was an overall immigration policy that gradually became more complex, both by the Schengen Agreement and by the introduction of new member countries into the EU, but also by the consequences of war and natural disasters around the world that substantially increased the number of refugees into the country. This meant a strong focus on immigration control. At the beginning of the 2000s there was also a focus on providing new immigrants with a better introduction to society, resulting in the aforementioned Introductory Act of 2003. The process of differentiating the integration policy into various sectors was also underway, so that gradually one would find more references to aims for integration in education policy documents, in documents on urban housing and on health, and especially in policies concerning the labour market.

During the ongoing efforts to develop more sectorial responsibility for integration and create legitimacy for a more ‘colourful community, Norway was in the early 2000’s confronted with shocking news on cultural practices of forced marriages and female genital mutilation in other countries. This knowledge created distance between the majority population and parts of the minority population regarding how to react to certain cultural values and practices. Training programmes were severely criticised. The identification of cultural practices that violated basic human rights seriously challenged the previous glorification of multiculturalism and cultural relativism. It also led to many legal changes. This was not a situation of the majority versus minorities. On the one hand, it had to do with the right to practice one’s own culture and religion, and, on the other hand, it had to do with protecting individuals from practices rooted in culture and religion that violated basic human rights (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008).

“Diversity through inclusion and participation – responsibility and freedom” (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)) is a Report to the Storting that attempts to redefine policy by drawing some lines and establishing a new epistemology. It presents the new policy as a politics for inclusion and diversity that aims beyond existing integration measures in the form of language training and qualification programmes.


Society must include everyone to reach the goal of a peaceful coexistence. An effective introduction and integration policy that shortens the time it takes for newcomers to stand on their own two feet without public support will provide great economic benefit for society. (Author’s translation; ibid: 25)


Integration politics here, on the one hand, has a more limited focus and is directed towards newcomers and first-generation immigrants. The politics of inclusion and diversity, on the other hand, is directed at all members of society and emphasises the following:


               the relationship between individual rights and regards for the community,

               the relationship between minority and majority,

               the conditions for harmonious coexistence.


The diagnostic framing of this paper is more complex and brings to the fore some important aspects of the immigrant experience:


               basic variables like gender, age, nationality/ethnicity, education,

               duration of stay in Norway,

               the fact that high participation in one area (like work) could mean low participation in other areas, and vice versa,

               the difference between first-generation immigrants and their descendants.


These considerations were shown by the living conditions surveys presented above.


The government ascertains that the sum of the living conditions surveys shows that many people are loosely attached to society – more than what is desirable. Many have not learned the Norwegian language sufficiently; many live in isolation from society at large. This applies especially to some of the women. This isolation can be due to individual choices, or it can be due to pressure from the environment. At times this situation can be described as a result of discrimination, marginalisation, and poverty problems. Other times personal preferences, traditions, and customs negatively coincide with poverty and living conditions. (Author’s translation; St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): 25)


The way this information is presented reveals a shift in orientation. The previous interpretation of living conditions surveys arranged groups vertically according to high and low standards of material living conditions. This represented a way to measure and evaluate the distribution of ressources in social groups. the new orientation focused on the horizontal level of being inside versus outside society, or in more scientific terms, being included or being marginalised. According to the “Diversity through inclusion and participation” paper, loose attachments to society were the main problem. This problem is documented in the living conditions surveys, where that the objective measures are also accompanied by an emotional dimension. The paper refers to young people who express not knowing whether they are wanted as part of the Norwegian society (ibid, p. 25). A broad detachment from society is seen as a threat, and detachment would have to be met with broad inclusion measures.

The prognostic framing of (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)) presents considerations for strengthening attachment and affiliation, along with four areas for more long-term political change and development.



Attachment and affiliation

Ceremonies of citizenship.

Norway as home country.

New ways to be Norwegian, new identities.

Ending racism and discrimination.

Societal structure and national symbols.

Attitudes and responsibility of the media.

Use of terms, prejudice, and social contact.

Attitudes in the population.

Areas for long-term development

Responsibility of adults.

Equal opportunities in education.

Incorporation and opportunities in the labour market.

Adaption of public services.

(St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): chapters 7 & 8)


The motivational framing behind this approach is that as a community, we want to strengthen the attachment to society in two ways: first, by securing welfare and equal opportunities, as described above, and second, by trying to enhance affiliation to society, meaning “that everyone who lives in Norway should be respected for who they are, and should have the opportunity to feel at home” (ibid, p. 35). The aspect of affiliation was a new element introduced by (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)), which encourages individuals to reflect upon who they want to be, how they can express who they want to be, and to what degree society recognises and values who they choose to be (ibid). The government emphasises the human rights of all individuals and will not tolerate the restriction of individual choice on the basis of skin colour, religion, or cultural background.



2011 and forward: Influence, participation and activation

In April 2010 a central committee was established to evaluate integration in Norway, and the policy areas associated with it. NOU 14: 2011 states the mandate like this:


Lift forward challenges and possibilities in today’s multicultural Norway, and based on this suggest measures in the inclusion and integration policy. The committee should take existing research and knowledge as its point of departure, and in its work emphasise the labour market, education, and participation in democracy and civil society. (NOU 2011:14)


In Norway there has been an overall aim in welfare and integration to enhance equal opportunities for all. The report claims that this goal has been reached to a large extent. It suggests a definition of integration in line with an international understanding of the concept, such as the EU’s greater emphasis on results rather than opportunities. The report divides the policy into two parts: short-term integration policy directed at newcomers and first-generation immigrants, and a more long-term inclusion policy directed at the entire population in Norway. Implied in the concept of inclusion is the “long-term development of the lifecycle of immigrants and those born in Norway with immigrant parents – their participation and affiliation to Norway” (ibid).

As a diagnostic framing, the report asks “what is the state of integration in Norway?” With improved diagnostic tools, along with the amount of research being done in the field of immigration, the question is not easy to answer. First, there is a focus on the system itself, where inefficient aspects of the system are seen as part of the problem. When evaluating the situation, the Inclusion Committee finds that “the current policy failed to yield sufficient results on central dimensions like economy and distribution of resources, participation in the arenas of society, and recognition and inclusion in the societal community”. This implies a consistent critique of sectorial authorities and others who don’t deliver according to their assignment. It also implies a critique of the use of measures that are not efficient enough (NOU 2011: 14). System inefficiency is defined as a problem on its own terms. To meet the goals of better efficiency, the committee suggests establishing a yearly integration monitor that documents results and deviations in important areas, and including new aims and indicators. Second, in the diagnostic framing, it seems that this report does more than just “describe” the “facts” from the living conditions surveys. In addition to presenting the numbers of immigrants, unemployed, or those dependent on social benefits, it attempts to sharpen the analysis to show how ethnicity correlates with class, poverty, and gender. “Immigrants are more exposed to persistent poverty when compared to the rest of the population. Poverty has a more permanent character in the immigrant population” (ibid. p. 86). A staggering 12–15% of immigrant children grow up in poor families. On average, immigrants have lower levels of education and higher rates of unemployment, lower levels of income, and less participation in elections and in civil society (NOU 2011: 14). At the same time, these average numbers conceal great differences within the immigrant population based on gender, age, and nationality, and therefore it would be wrong to define the whole immigrant population as a new underclass. The report also presents the prognosis that if immigration continues at today’s levels, and the current problems remain unresolved, there will be an increase in immigrants who are unemployed, “passive”, and on permanent social benefits.

The term “passive” in the living conditions surveys refers to people who are not registered as unemployed, as students, or as recipients of social benefits or social assistance. They are in many ways outside the system, and as such they are difficult to influence and socialise in terms of common values. The report thus discusses the problem of analysing activity and participation. Some people might be active in the sense of having a job, but it might be a low-skilled job with no social interaction. Others could be inactive in the sense of being unemployed but might be very active in community work and voluntary organisations. Activation seems to be a new trend in the changing welfare state. It is a central element in the European employment strategy to promote the transition from welfare to work (Djuve, 2011). It is possible to distinguish two types of activation: the activation for work and the human-capital activation that emphasises the development of skills for increasing one’s capital and enabling one to find work in a variety of fields (ibid). In a way this reflects two different theoretical orientations: activation as vertical social mobility and activation as a way to increase social capital, where mobility could also be seen as horizontal.

The high unemployment and poor living conditions are most often seen from a universal welfare point of view. In the NOU 14: 2011 the same conditions are referred to from a more political point of view.


There is a substantial risk for society when many of those with immigrant backgrounds are not integrated into society and end up with permanently poor living conditions. This creates an environment of distrust and rejection of common values, and lays the basis for radicalisation and increased conflict. (Author’s translation; NOU 2011:14)


In this report, the risk of distrust and the rejection of common values is the core of the diagnostic framing. This can be associated with Putnam’s argument that ethnic diversity contributes to the breakdown of social trust in society (Robert D. Putnam, 2007). In terms of social capital theory, one would assume that people of different cultural backgrounds would contribute to “bridging” – making contact across differences. On the other hand, one could also assume that increased heterogeneity leads to in-group bonding – focusing on contact with the people who resemble oneself (Ivarsflaten, 2011). Many European researchers question Putnam’s study and state that the situation in Europe is different from the situation in the US, the focus of Putnam’s 2007 research. The European studies emphasise the significance of socioeconomic resources in the explanations of what builds trust or eventual distrust. The degree of equality in society thus becomes important in a policy whose aim is to build trust and support of common values (Rothstein & Uslaner, 2005).

If society is in the process of developing more and more inequalities, a beneficial prognostic framing would be to promote and strengthen the common values of society. The Report to the Storting on Diversity through inclusion and participation articulates the challenge as a “balance between respect and maintenance of diversity and individual rights on the one hand, and common goals, shared values, and mutual loyalty on the other” (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): 311). These aims are stated in the same report but are also listed in the state’s budget for 2010–2011 as “knowledge and support of laws and basic rights and duties, the feeling of attachment and inclusion in society, experience of affiliation and respect, understanding of the basis for the Norwegian society” (author’s translation).

The Official Norwegian Report on Integration includes specific chapters on democracy, participation, formal and informal arenas for integration, unity, values, and conflict resolution. The motivational framing here has to do with inclusion and active participation. This report has an overall emphasis on measurements and monitoring, but recognises that indicators in this field concerning the more political forms of integration to a minimal extent are treated in the policy documents rather than in the state budget (NOU 2011: 14).




In this paper we have been trying to map different interpretations of the term integration into contexts of policy frameworks in a defined timeline. What appears in the materials of policy documents in this field seems to be a growing complexity of concepts, and a gradual diffusion of the original policy. Integration and inclusion is now in almost every public policy document in education, health, housing, labour market, culture, and democratic participation and many others. This is a wanted development. Integration and inclusion should not be something extraordinary on the side of public sectors, but incorporated in every area of society. What also appears when we look into the developments in this field, is a that the politics of integration and inclusion has over years been a state policy, but in the recent years has become more and more significant at the local and municipal level (Bak Jørgensen, 2012). What is also apparent is that the debate on the social economics of immigration and the welfare state is still very present, and has a strong influence on policy documents.

Based on what have been presented I will identify six concepts of understanding integration, and in every frame I will present the concepts of diagnostic framing, prognostic framing and motivational framing.



Conception of integration

Diagnostic framing

Diagnostic framing describing immigrants

Prognostic framing

Motivational framing

Integration as social care


Improvement of skills and individual conditions in order to achieve   equal access to ressources

Individuals needing welfare and services in order to become functional   in society

In need


In crisis


Provision of services, skills, training, care

Compensatory programs for targeted groups and individuals

Unconditional benefits given to targeted groups and individuals to:

-help indivudals in need

-reduce differences


Unconditional welfare for those in need


Equal access to ressources


Integration as the preservation of culture


Assimilation as a threat

Culture as an obstacle

Culture as a condition

Culturally different

Deviant, deficient

Lack of competence


-Support cultural activities

-Restrict different culture

Individual choice


Cultural enrichment to society (food, dance…)

Cooperation, mutuality and tolerance

Integration as upheaval of living conditions in specific groups


Surveys on living conditions where

immigrants show low score on welfare-parameters

Social inequality



Low score on welfare and access to ressources


Large surveys on living conditions to target and evaluate policy.

Three directions:

-System differentiation

-City concentration programs

-Introduction programs


Universal welfare

Responsibility of sectors

Local government





Integration as absence of structural barriers, racism and   discrimination


Elimination of structural barriers and factors of exclusion and   discrimination


Occurrence of discrimination and exclusion mechanisms




-Support to organisations


-New legislation against discrimination


Equal worth

Social Justice

Human rights




Integration as attachement to society


Living conditions, identity,   and belonging

Inclusion of various believes, practices, and identities as part of   Norway as a community

Diverse society

Loose attachment to society


Not belonging



Rights and duties

Societal contract

Inclusive practices

Inclusion and respect for different identities


Diverse society

Integration as influence, participation, and activation



Social Democracy

Large part of immigrant population not participating in civil and   political society.


Distrust and rejection of common values


System inefficiency

Critique of sectoral authorites


Low trust

Activation programs




Efficiency, Measureability


Integrational monitor


Participation as learning and sharing values

Conditional benefits


Participation socially and politically

-a condition of social democracy

-prevention of radicalization


Efficient integration helps the sustainability of the welfare system



In the identification of these frames, we can see various shifts in orientation, and we can assume a large landscape of recent intellectual discourses. The mapping of frames as it is done here, does not fully explore the various discourses, but the frames developed can be used as reference points for establishing discourses. The mapping can also be traced to various understandings, showing how different understandings can affect political policy. Verloo and Lombardo states that frame analysis should:


– expose conceptual prejudices,

– detect inconsistencies,

– challenge generalisations,

– and give visibility to the processes of exclusion

(Verloo & Lombardo, 2007).


The table above summarises these points, where the conceptual prejudices have been exposed. The inconcistencies that has been detected in the course of the analysis, has been within how the concept has been defined – like unconditional of conditional benefits when it comes to welfare, or assimilation or integration when it comes to culture. But inconsistencies can also be found between the diagnostic, prognostic and motivational framing. These inconsistencies should not be seen as separate, but twined as lines of history. Discovering these inconsistencies, might in one phase lead to redistributive claims, in another phase lead to culture preservation claims, in another again to claims for recognition or participation (Fraser, 2009). This is where Foucault’s term geneaology comes in, as collective representations evolving into new forms as reactions to inconsistencies that can be brought forward as new discourses in society (Foucault, 2012). The mapping of frames into a defined timeline as we have done in this analysis, underlines Foucault’s point of ‘power of practice’. This practice is embedded in the institutions, and through the practice, knowledge is constructed, maintained and transformed through ongoing discourses from positioned subjects.



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1 Before 1988, immigration policy was under the Department for Social Affairs. It was after transferred to the Department of Municipal Affairs. As mentioned above, when refugees arrived in their given municipality, their needs were taken care of by the local office of social services (Government Report 74, 1979–80). Social services then were mandated by the Social Care Act to provide basic financial support, housing, etc. The costs from this support was reimbursed by the state in every single case. The amount and the extension of this support was not specified but left to the assessment of each local social service.

Good, Evil and Successful Recognition. A Processualist View on Recognitive Attitudes, Relations and Norms



“The identity of the idea with itself is one with the process 

(Hegel, The Science of Logic) [1]




In discussions about recognition today, one stumbles almost instantly on a widespread consensus about a distinction between two kinds of theory of recognition. Constructed as tracing back from Butler to Althusser, the first or the so-called “pessimistic” one, understands recognition as intrinsically problematic, whereas the other, referred to as the Taylorian or Honnethian, “optimistic” one is constructed as regarding (proper) recognition as good. Now, in such an ambivalent situation, a desirable outcome might be a theory of recognition that places the problems of recognition at its very core, while giving even more reason for optimism than the optimistic one. The prospects for such an account seem not very promising. But the reasons for trying are good.


As a matter of fact, I believe there to be two stories of recognition intending precisely this. The first of these stories is told by Hegel in the section on “Conscience, the Beautiful Soul, Evil and Its Forgiveness” in his Phenomenology of Spirit. Whereas Hegel is widely acknowledged as the founding father of theories of recognition, the author of my second story, John Dewey, has not been considered as a recognition theorist nearly at all. Yet, whenever he is attempting to elaborate his social philosophical perspective systematically, Dewey is relying on, what I argue to be, a recognition-theoretical conception of a “general pattern of social conflicts,” which is, I believe, of great relevance for the systematic recognition-theoretical efforts of today (cf. Dewey 1939 and 1973; Dewey & Tufts 1932, Part III). 


Here I will not be able to give enough textual evidence of the hermeneutic work that my reflections are based on. Hence I will confine myself to highlighting some of the conceptual consequences that I believe to result from a close reading of these two stories. My hunch is that by drawing attention to the conception of recognition in play in the section of “Evil and Its Forgiveness” and interpreting Dewey as essentially trying to further develop what Hegel is saying there, marks a shift in ontological implications and commitments of talking about problems of recognition. This is shift is a transition from basically action-theoretic, relational or institutional conceptions of recognition to a processual conception. The “processual view” I am proposing claims further to be able to include, or to speak Hegelian, to determinately negate, the earlier ones. The claim is, thus, to present the ambivalence of recognition not merely as a moment but also as a phase. But before I tell Hegel’s and Dewey’s stories, some pre-considerations are needed.


Firstly, it is important to note that the selection of precisely these two texts for considering problems of recognition is all but arbitrary from a systematic point of view. “Evil and Its Forgiveness” is the closing section of the chapter on “Spirit” in Hegel’s Phenomenology; and as such, it marks a significant achievement for the experiencing consciousness. On the phenomenological “path of despair,” this specific struggle for recognition presents, namely, the first successful “experience of consciousness.” It results in a standpoint that is not to be sublated as falsely one-sided in the following chapter. As the end of the movement of spirit and as the result of the successful movement of recognition, it forms the conceptual emergence of the inclusive standpoint that Hegel calls “absolute spirit.” Since this success is presented in recognitive terms, it also gives us an account of what successful recognition or even successful struggling for recognition might be. Therefore, one might even argue this to be the most convenient section in Hegel’s work for clarifying ambivalences of recognition.


Surprisingly, this applies in a way to Dewey’s version of the struggle for recognition as well. Dewey, namely, understands his social philosophy as a systematic attempt to aid in the resolution of social conflicts (cf. Dewey 1973, pp. 45-53; Dewey and Tufts 1932, Ch. 16). Social conflicts are, according to Dewey, based on problems of public of recognition between social groups (cf. ibid. 1973, pp. 72-81). Now, for the experimentalist social philosopher, the task is to reconstruct the one-sided conceptions and “ideologies” arising in such conflicts and pathologically blocking their resolution. Thereby the experimentalist claims to be able to work out a more inclusive social-philosophical standpoint, which is reached not in a deliberate conception of absolute spirit, but in a theory of the democratic public become “in-and-for-itself.” Dewey’s version of the movement of recognition presents as such the “general guiding principles” for social-philosophical reconstruction (Dewey 1973, p 64). Thus, for both Dewey and Hegel, the recognition-theoretical accounts considered here are attempts to offer an inclusive standpoint, from which to overcome one-sided perspectives that block a process of successful recognition.


Secondly, there is much to recognition that is already worked out at this point of argument forming its background. “Evil and Its Forgiveness” presents the last movement of recognition in the Phenomenology, and thus, according to the method of the “logic of experience,” it preserves what was true and negates what was false in the conceptions of recognition at play in earlier conflicts. As such it offers richer accounts of both the nature of recognitive problems as well as of the grammar of their resolution. The two most important lessons to keep in mind, I think, are those of the experiences of mastery and servitude (a) and reason (b):


  1. Firstly, the essential lesson to be learned from the recognitive failures of mastery and servitude, namely, is the concept of spirit as it emerges “for us,” according to which, among many other things, recognition cannot be understood as a one-sided act, but as a dialogical complex of mutual attitudes. A mere recognitive attitude of one party towards another does not suffice to constitute a relation of recognition. On the contrary, according to a dialogical conception of proper recognition, it takes the attitudes of both parties. In other words, in order for a recognitive relation between two persons or groups of persons to succeed, one group’s recognitive attitude towards the other group must be recognized by this other group as relevant.[2]
  2. The “abstract” relations and principles of recognition presented in the chapter on “Reason” result in the concept of an ethos (Sittlichkeit), according to which such dialogical complexes of mutual attitudes must be understood to be institutionally embedded as practices or habitualized as coventions if they are to actualize freedom. Recognition-theoretically elaborated institutions are not, at best, to be understood as external “necessary conditions of the possibility” of freedom. On the contrary, they present an internal moment of the concept of freedom itself.[3]  


Now, the question is, what is the lesson about recognizing in which the chapter on “Spirit” results? My suggestion is that “Evil and Its Forgiveness” gives reason to understand recognition not merely dialogically and institutionally but also processually. I read it as making explicit the processuality of recognizing implicit at all earlier stages of recognition in the Phenomenology. Such an interpretation is not only saying that it “makes a difference” whether one is speaking of recognition in terms of a relation or a process.[4] Rather, I think Hegel is putting forward the more robust claim that one ought to understand recognitive relations and institutions as functional distinction within a processual totality.




Both Dewey and Hegel reconstruct the process of a struggle for recognition, firstly, from the perspective of the parties involved, their self-conceptions and their conceptions of the other. Secondly, they present it from the external perspective of the social philosopher observing the development of the one-sided conceptions and working out a more inclusive one. Contrary to earlier shapes in the Phenomenology, in the case of “Evil and Its Forgiveness” these two methodological tracks of “for consciousness” and “for us” coincide at the end. Furthermore, Hegel and Dewey both distinguish three phases of such a process.


The first phase Hegel (1977, §§ 632-654) calls “conscience” and Dewey (1973, p. 77) “the period of tacit acceptance of the status quo”: Here consciousness regards “duty” as a recognitive norm claiming universal validity. “Pure duty” is a universal form that can be applied to any relation of recognition as its content. Consciousness has immediate awareness of manifold concrete duties; that is to say, it has habitualized generally acknowledged reciprocal treatments and corresponding attitudes. Confronted with this multitude of recognitive norms, consciousness might find them conflicting or else ambivalent. How can consciousness choose between conflicting duties let alone formulate new ones? As an immediate certainty of duty, the only ground consciousness can fall back on is its own conviction of the good, that is, in Hegel’s terminology, it becomes “conscience.”


The second phase is characterized in Hegel (1977, §§ 655-666) by the attitudes of “evil,” “the beautiful soul” and “the hard heart”; Dewey (1973, pp. 77-8) calls it the phase of “challenge.” Acting on such conscientious decisions can, obviously, either succeed or fail: If all goes well, the act as a public expression of a conviction of the good is acknowledged as in accordance with the publicly effective conception of the good. This might, however, as well, not be the case: The success of such conscientious decisions is arbitrary. Thus, in case of failure, there occurs a diremption into two consciences. The first of is a conscience acting according to recognitive norms justified by its own conviction of the good, the second a conscience judging in accordance with effective recognitive norms and the publicly acknowledged conception of the good.


As learnt from the lesson of mastery and servitude, recognitive conflicts are characterized by “Doppelsinnigkeit,[5] meaning, firstly, that whatever happens on the one side of the recognitive relation has immediate consequences on the other and, secondly, that the relata will both identify with and negate each other as well as themselves (Hegel 1977, § 183).


Now, the acting party first negates what it sees as the false consciousness of the public judging it. It thereby also negates itself as the acting party by withdrawing from public expression in the “dread of besmirching the splendour of its inner being by action” (ibid., § 658). The attitude of such pathological withdrawal from any attempt at resolving concrete recognitive problems at hand, Hegel calls “the beautiful soul” (ibid.).


The publicly judging party, on the other hand, responds by judging the beautiful soul as “evil.” Since, in placing its own inner law of conscience above the acknowledged universal, acting conscience is, in fact, evil, as the concept has widely been conceived since Kant. Hegel and Dewey, however, give the concept of evil a recognition-theoretical push by conceiving it as the intentional “singularizing” (Hegel 2007, p. 206) or “isolation” (Dewey 1929, p. 245) of oneself in a recognitive process.


Now, it is precisely on the basis of this judgment that the acting party can identify itself with the party of the judging public. In denouncing the acting party as evil, the party of the acknowledged universal is, in fact, itself appealing to its own particular law, which, since the other party’s withdrawal of its acknowledgement, is no longer an acknowledged universal. It thereby presents itself as exactly as evil, negates itself and legitimizes the self-isolation of the acting party by placing itself alongside the latter. By experiencing the evil of the judging party, the acting party identifies itself with the former. In an attempt at a one-sided recognition, it admits to its being evil and expects mutuality. The judging party, however, rejects this attempt at public reconciliation and, thus, it, in turn, becomes a “beautiful soul” and makes the experience of evil corresponding to the one made earlier by the acting party.


The third phase, entitled “forgiveness” by Hegel and “fruition” by Dewey, marks a transition that for us observing philosophers seems like a necessity, but for experiencing consciousness requires a moral self-transcendence: Having made the corresponding experience and seen the evil consequences of its particular conception of the good, the judging party is able to identify itself with the acting party. In a mutual attempt at coming to terms with the recognitive problem, the judging party surrenders its one-sidedly particular conception of the good like the acting party puts aside its one-sidedly singular conception. Together they are able to cooperatively resolve the recognitive problem at hand by formulating a new conception of the good, which is not anymore “abstractly universal,” but a concrete universal as including the singularity of conscientious deliberation (as represented by the acting party), the particularity of concrete historical situatedness (as represented by the judging party) and the universality of the law formulated in mutual public recognition.


I am inclined to infer that this kind of cooperative public constitution of concrete universality might be labeled “successful recognition.” Such public recognition comes with an insight into the fallibility of one’s singular and particular judgment. Such a recognitive attitude Hegel calls “forgiveness.” Dewey (1973, p. 80) calls it an “attitude of inquiry,” with a clear reference to the recognitive struggle’s being a process of social problem resolution. It involves an openness and willingness to cope with recognitive problems cooperatively and, correspondingly, as Dewey (ibid., p. 76) puts it,  “to be recognized as an operating component of the larger society.”


To Dewey, this sequential unity of the three phases of a struggle for public recognition forms a general pattern of social conflicts, repeatable on ever-higher levels. Concrete universality as its result is not to be understood as merely an achievement or a state, but as an ongoing process of social reconstruction (Dewey 1929, p. 151). Cooperative democracy is this pattern made reflexive by institutionalizing and habituating the recognitive attitude of inquiry. Therefore Dewey does in no way regard evil as a necessary stage of all social conflicts.




I would like to conclude by briefly indicating how such a processualist approach to struggles for recognition might include some of the central recognition-theoretical concepts such as recognitive relations and attitudes (a), norms (b) and values (c). The challenge is to present them as functional distinctions within this process.


(a) Such an account distinguishes, obviously, between unproblematic and problematic relations of recognition. Furthermore, both problematic and unproblematic recognitive relations seem to come in two kinds. Firstly, recognitive relations can be unproblematic in the sense of being indeterminate; that is to say, constituted by immediate, habituated everyday attitudes and not being claimed by anyone as problematic. Secondly, recognitive relations can be seen as unproblematic in the sense of being determinate; that is to say, achieved through struggle and constituted by attitudes creatively habituated as a kind of mediated immediacy.


There seems to be two types of problematic relations of recognition as well. Firstly a recognitive relation and habitual attitude can become thematized as problematic, because it is experienced as involving domination or wronging or else as bad. These are the kind of claims that mediate between the first and the second phase. Secondly, recognitive attitudes can be seen as problematic in the sense of Hegel’s concepts of “the beautiful soul” and “the hard heart.” Both authors consider such highly problematic attitudes as evil. They might occur in the second phase as the intentional withdrawal from any attempt at cooperative problem resolution.


(b) Such a processualist approach regards social norms as means of an enduring direction of recognitive relations. The kind of processual account, I have been reconstructing, presents struggles for recognition as responsive to pre-existing norms in the sense of reacting to failed norms or practices. The struggle for public recognition originates in a disintegrated situation of a community where recognitive norms are experienced as ambivalent and are unmasked as containing relations of domination or wronging. But precisely this negative response to pre-existing norms in the second phase seems to indicate a generation of new recognitive norms. As such, the struggle for public recognition is also generative of norms in the sense of being creative of new ones as intended to resolve the problems of the old ones and bypass the relations of domination or wronging in them. Thus, this approach understands successful recognition processually as mediating between norms-become-problematic and emancipating norms-in-view.


It might be worth noting, at this point, that the processualist approach could claim to be able to integrate multidimensional theories of recognition, such as those presented by Charles Taylor (cf. 1992) and Axel Honneth (cf. 2011), as accounts of unproblematic recognition. There seems to me to be good reasons for the processualist to distinguish between diverse dimensions of unproblematic recognition, such as, for instance, being correctly treated according to the best available conceptions of ones particularity, singularity and universality or as being esteemed, loved and respected.


(c) As mediating between problematic and unproblematic recognitive attitudes, relations and norms, the struggle for public recognition, furthermore, presents a process of collective valuation, since it marks the formation of new values and projection of them on future recognitive relations. The struggle for public recognition begins in an indeterminate situation characterized by the need of a novel direction of certain relations of recognition. As a consequence the acting party attributes a negative value to the kind of direction of recognitive relations effective, whereas the judging party values it positively. New values emerge, according to Dewey, always as simultaneously negations of existing conditions and affirmation of an intended future situation. As such, values constitute conceptions of good or better direction of recognitive relations. Thus, they seem to give participants reasons how to treat each other. Such reasons constitute norms of recognition, and if followed, they can become social institutions.  


Therefore the processualist recognition-theorist seems to be a representative of the branch of value-based recognition theories (cf. Laitinen 2002). According to this branch, values give persons reasons for ways of mutual treatment and such ways can be understood as social norms. This does, however, not commit the processualist to any kind of strong value realism, since he regards values as essentially transitional entities: A novel direction of recognitive relations has “value” according to its resolving a problematic relation of recognition. Or better: Recognitive norms have “value” in so far as they emancipate.


A recognitive problem counts, namely, as resolved, if the relata of the recognitive relation and the participants of the recognitive process can act freely. Thus, freedom counts as a kind of ultimate value in the processual account. What freedom in any single case means in concrete, is left relatively open and “problem specific.” But anyhow, every resolution of a problem gives a sense of being at home in the world.





Brandom, Robert (2002), Tales of the Mighty Dead: Historical Essays in the Metaphysics of Intentionality, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press.


Dewey, John (1929), The Quest for Certainty: A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action, in: John Dewey, The Later Works, Vol. 4, Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988.


Dewey, John (1939), Freedom and Culture, in: John Dewey, The Later Works, Vol. 13, Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988.


Dewey, John (1973), Lectures in China, 1919-1920, Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii.


Dewey, John and James H. Tufts (1932), Ethics, in: John Dewey, The Later Works, Vol. 7, Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985.


Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1977), Phenomenology of Spirit, translated by A.V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (2007), Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, Volume III, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Honneth, Axel (2011), Das Recht der Freiheit. Grundriß einer demokratischen Sittlichkeit, Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag.


Ikäheimo, Heikki and Arto Laitinen (2007), “Analyzing Recognition: Identification, Acknowledgement, and Recognitive Attitudes towards Persons,” in: van den Brink and Owen (eds), Recognition and Power: Axel Honneth and the Tradition of Critical Social Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge Univerity Press.


Laitinen, Arto (2002), “Interpersonal Recognition: A Response to Value or a Precondition of Personhood?”, in: Inquiry, vol. 45, no. 4.


Taylor, Charles (1992), “The Politics of Recognition,” in: Amy Gutman (ed.), Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition”, Princeton: Princeton University Press.




[1] I am grateful to Federica Gregoratto and Arto Laitinen for critical comments and helpful remarks most of which I wish I had been able to elaborate further in this paper.

[2] I read Heikki Ikäheimo and Arto Laitinen (2007) as putting forward such a dialogical conception of recognition in the contemporary debate.

[3] I read Axel Honneth (2011, Part A, Ch. III) as proposing an institutional conception of recognition somewhat in accordance with this move in the Phenomenology, although he is implementing a very different strategy than the phenomenological one to overcome the conventionalist difficulties of a Sittlichkeitslehre.

[4] I read Robert Brandom (2002, Ch. 7) as suggesting this ”less robust” thesis about processuality.

[5] A.V. Miller (Hegel 1977, § 112) translates ”Doppelsinnigkeit” as ”double significance.”

Axel Honneth: The law of freedom – Institutionalization of freedom in modern societies – A reconstruction and some remarks



Introduction: A theory of institutionalization of freedom

I understand Honneth’s book Das Recht der Freiheit (Suhrkamp 2011) as an argument for human freedom and autonomy in modern society that is based on a normative interpretation of legal, moral and social institutionalization of freedom in modern societies. In this sense Honneth’s book represents a re-interpretation and application of G.W.F Hegel’s concept of Freiheit als Sittlichkeit der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft. I would argue that the central theme of the book is the description of processes of institutionalization that lead to the emergence of freedom as the most important legal, moral and social value of the modern society.


The book begins with a presentation of Honneth’s method that can be characterized as a kind of normative sociology or sociological philosophy in the sense that he characterizes theory of justice as analysis of society. The method is based on “normative reconstruction” of the basis of the social institutions of liberal democracy. Here we can say that the starting point is closer to the later Habermas’ idea of facticity and validity and to the later Rawls’ idea of overlapping consensus than it is to the more idealist and metaphysical positions proposed by these authors in their early works (p. 21). Honneth describes the prevailing norms of justice and morality of freedom in liberal democracies of the Western world with Hegel’s philosophy of rights as points of inspiration. Normative reconstruction also means reconstruction of the legal and moral legitimacy of the institutions of liberal democracy. Normative reconstruction leads to an analysis of the social reality of liberal democracies. The idea is to describe the institutionalized conditions of normativity. The premises for this are: 1) Social reproduction of a society is determined by the shared universal values of such a society; 2) Justice cannot be understood independently of these generally shared values and ideals; 3) The plurality of these values and ideas can be found in the social practices of this society that must be distilled out of the society; 4) This leads to the understanding of the Sittlichen institutions and practices of this society (p. 30). This concept of justice is to be considered as a post-traditional concept of Sittlichkeit in society.


Honneth begins by considering the historical conditions of the emergence of the values and ideals of justice of modern society (p. 35). Important for the emergence of modern society is the idea of individual autonomy and authenticity as the meaning of life. Individual freedom has replaced collective conceptions of the good. Honneth sees the focus on autonomy and self-determination as essential to modernity. In particular we can speak about a negative, a reflective and a social conception of freedom that express a differentiation of the concept due to the complexity of modern society. Negative freedom is linked to the philosophy of the social contract coming from Hobbes. But we also find this concept of negative freedom in Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy and finally in Nozick’s his philosophy of the social contract. Honneth argues that this concept is not enough to constitute the goals for the subject, because something must be presupposed. Therefore the reflective and the social conception of freedom become important. The reflective concept implies that the free individual can determine rationally his or her actions. This is based on a distinction between heteronymous and autonomic action. Rousseau and Kant are representatives of this conception. Autonomy and self-realization according to the idea of rationality are important dimensions of this concept, which forgets however the institutional dimension of freedom that we find in the social concept of freedom. This concept of freedom goes beyond the individual concepts of freedom in Habermas and Apel and goes back to the concept of freedom in Hegel’s philosophy of right. Mutual recognition in social institutions is an important part of this idea of freedom (p. 85). This is what Hegel calls the mutual institutions of mutual recognition. In this context, the central aspect of Honneth’s argument is Hegel’s concept of recognition of freedom as essential to the institutions of liberty in the modern society that are realized not only in the state, but also in the market and in civil society. Honneth gives a detailed account of the concepts of recognition and institutions at the basis of Hegel’s concept of law and justice as emerging as a part of the social institutions of the “Sittlichkeit of society” (p. 85-118).


On the basis of this discussion of Hegel, Honneth is able to present his own conception of “democratic Sittlichkeit” as essential to the institutions of freedom in modern liberal societies (p. 199) . Here Honneth understands his theory of democratic freedom as a theory of the legitimacy of the social order. He researches into the institutionalizations of values and conceptions of justice in liberal democracies where the value of freedom and equality through recognition become integrated in the institutional spheres of action in society. In this sense the idea of freedom is essential to justice and we can use this concept of universal freedom and recognition as a defense for correction of social pathologies and deviances in relation to the generally accepted normative ideas of freedom and justice. In this, through the research on the conditions for freedom and justice, the normative ideas of the democratic Sittlichkeit are explained.


On this basis Honneth discusses the possibility of freedom (p. 129) in relation to law and ethics. He begins with the presentation of the concept of legal freedom. This freedom is the condition of collective autonomy in civil society’s cooperation and also for democratic decision-making based on collective autonomy. The ethical idea of legal freedom is the effort to ensure private autonomy. In this sense legal freedom is understood as individual freedom. Honneth defines legal freedom on the basis of Hegel’s concept of personal rights (p. 134). Hegel proposed a system of positive rights in modernity. With Hannah Arendt we can refer to legal personhood as “protective mask” of the individual. The law of freedom implies this development of the legal rights of the subject. Subjective and negative rights are essential for the freedom of individual action, as suggested by Mill in his defense of the rights of belief, opinion and freedom of expression. This category of subjective rights includes rights of freedom and of participatory rights as the foundation of democratic communication and decision-making. However, it is also a limit to this idea of freedom that it is built on private autonomy and rights defined by its negative character. It is true that the law shall protect personal autonomy and freedom, but this is not enough – behind this lies the development of a society built on communal practices and cooperation in civil society (p. 156). 


Indeed, Honneth is well aware of the social pathologies of legal freedom in modern society. Social pathology is defined as something that emerges when people don’t understand the meaning of social norms of freedom and law and here we can speak about social pathologies. These pathologies can be people who misuse the system and ignore the rationality of subjective rights. They use the law to promote their own interest. This happens for example in the increasing tendency of legalization of the human life world and of life communities. This dynamics of the social pathology can for example be found in the movie with Dustin Hoffman Kramer vs. Kramer, where a divorce ends in a bitter fight about the custody of the child in court. The pathology is that the life world is ignored and the legalization of human affairs becomes an end in itself and we experience alienation and misunderstanding of the significance of moral freedom (p. 172).


Honneth describes the institutionalization of moral freedom in modern society as closely related to the institutionalization of legal freedom. Originally morality was the regulation of desire and a sort of rationalization of life in nature. Morality can be said to constitute the intersubjective limitations on actions. Moral autonomy comes from the idea of self-determination, as discussed in Rousseau and Kant. The Kantian idea of moral freedom is built on the concept of moral autonomy. This implies that human beings should strive to be moral persons and valued by others as moral persons. Respect and recognition of human dignity in the social life world is an essential dimension of this concept of morality (p. 181). To have dignity is not only due to intrinsic dignity as being created in the image of God, but indeed also a social dignity to which the individual him- or herself is important. Dignity can be defined as linked to the moral self-definition and self- creation of individuals with good moral identity. Kirstine Korsgaard has in this context defined the Kantian approach as an approach to the building and construction of one’s own practical identity. What are important are not only the categorical imperatives but indeed also the practical identity of the subject. To have a moral identity is to have a moral aim with your own life where you take responsibility for your own humanity. Self-legislation and moral autonomy in the Kantian sense means to take responsibility for your own life as the moral self-legislator of your life.


Habermas contributes to this discussion by emphasizing the importance of the moral socialization process. Legal freedom is interpreted through social freedom. Here we have the institutionalization of moral freedom in modern societies. We can refer to a cultural idea of moral in post-traditional societies where the cultural institutionalization of freedom is a part of this institutionalization of recognition. This process is a communicative and dialogical process where there is an on-going public discussion about conceptions of dignity and appropriate intersubjective moral norms in civil society.


Like his description of the legal social pathologies Honneth also describes the social pathologies of morality. Here we can observe a focus on personal absolute morality in contrast to intersubjective norms. The pathologies of morality could for example be the moralism of personal autonomy, where the duty to follow a certain kind of universalism means that the individual fails to take into account the social context (p. 209). This kind of focus on personal autonomy leads to rigid morals where the moral conception can lead to personal moral self-destruction. This is for example described in the novels of Henry James where the will to do good is in danger of leading to self-destruction (p. 212). Here personal autonomy leads to bad moralism and ignorance of social conditions of recognition and dignity. A similar pathology can be found in the moralist political extremism of terrorism, for example in the position of Ulrike Meinhof, who adopted a personal leftist moralism as the justification of her terrorist actions.


On the basis of this reconstruction of the foundations of freedom Honneth goes on to describe the reality of freedom in democratic liberal democracies. The reconstruction of the social life practice as based on recognition and personal autonomy in moral decision-making has to be demonstrated as being institutionalized as patterns of social action in different aspects of society. Honneth distinguishes between three important spheres of institutionalization of the norms of freedom and moral autonomy: 1) friends, love and family relations; 2) market relations; 3) relations in the political community. The intersubjective dimensions in these different groups illustrate different determinations of decisions based on freedom in the different institutions of society.


Honneth emphasizes that personal relations between friends and love relations in personal relations and in the family are based on freedom rather than on paternalism or pre-established social norms and hierarchies. Although it is considered informal, friendship may be conceived as social institution today. There is a difference between the ancient and modern concept of friendship, because friendship today is build on mutual affection without interest. Friendship is based on the romantic concept of the free encounter between friends. As an institution friendship can be said to illustrate the institutionalization of common ideas of community in a common normative structure. Even though it is based on freedom and mutual affection we can now say that friendship based on freedom has become an important institution in modern society.


With regard to love and intimacy, freedom is also considered an essential concept. Honneth argues that we can perceive the institutionalization of the principle of romantic love as the basis for intimate encounters. We are free to make our intimate connections and these are built on our own moral responsibility. Autonomous morality and freedom are proposed as the basis for sexual relations. The relations are based on love and freedom and the emergence of all kinds of couples or singles show this principle of freedom as essential in modernity.


The principle of free sexual relations has had an impact on the concept of the family where the encounter of man and women is also based on social freedom and the family as such is today becoming a place of social freedom. The family is now a place for individual self-realization. We see the emergence of different forms of constructed families that to a large extent are built on principles of free self-realization. Equality rather than authority is an important principle for organizing the family. Equality in families is indicated by the fact that the relation between man and woman is built on partnership between father and mother. Also recognition plays a much bigger role in the relations between children and parents in a situation where people live longer and mutual recognition between generations is emerging. In this sense moral autonomy plays a great importance in the social roles of family members. We see the institutionalization of a much more democratic family built on freedom and moral responsibility. This is a family based on mutual cooperation, love and recognition in contrast to a family based on authoritarianism and paternalism.


We can, according to Honneth, also see the emergence of the new law and morality of freedom if we look at the economic market. Honneth argues that the economic market also contributes to the institutionalization of social freedom in the capitalist economy. Honneth wants to provide a normative reconstruction of the contribution to social freedom of the market economy. He goes back to Adam Smith and takes up his problem about the morality of the market. The problem is how the market can be said to mediate social action. Here we can consider the market freedom as an extension of social freedom in the spheres of consumption and production. However, the question is whether this is an error in capitalism – a subversive doctrine that leads to the dissolution of capitalism.


Honneth defines capitalism and its markets as free economic exchange of goods and services. Historically speaking it was the legal subject (most of the time a man with property) who had the right to exchange in the market. The basis for behavior in the market was strategic utility maximization and calculation of cost/benefits. According to Honneth, both Hegel and Durkheim tried to investigate the normative dimensions of the capitalist system in order to go beyond that system and propose a new economic order with another value-orientation of the economic institutions. Honneth finds a paradox in this line of question that ask the questions about why the market should refer to pre-market norms when the market is about individual utility and utility maximization. The answer of Honneth is that intersubjective norms govern the market when we consider the market from the point of view of normative institutionalism, where morality is considered to be a part of the economic exchange. Honneth refers to Polanyi and Parsons to explain this dimension of the market economy. The question is “What is the Sittlichkeit of the Market System?” (p. 343) Such question have occupied the communitarian philosopher Etizioni and the German economist Hirsch and they search for the capacity of coordinating social action within the economy itself and contribute to legitimacy of the market system in society. With the focus on the principles of social cooperation it the market, Honneth wants to overcome Marx’s negative concept of capitalism and give a normative reconstruction of the concept of freedom within the market economy in liberal society.


Honneth focuses on the sphere of consumption and in particular the development of consumer culture where the market receives legitimation from the norms of the consumers. In fact, the culture of consumption can be seen as a medium for recognition, whilst the moral reaction of the consumers to corporations has an impact on the corporations. Honneth emphasizes that today the capitalist system requires its legitimacy from the consumer and these new conditions of consumption and production contribute to the legitimacy of the market through the consumer. We see how globalization of the market is realized through mass consumption and we see the emergence of morally and legally responsible critical consumers, what we can call “the consumer citizen” (p. 377). This critical consumer is aware of the necessity of having respect for human dignity (p. 377). At the same time reference to consumer citizens may be able to incorporate the critique of consumer society, since there is a struggle for recognition and a possible mutual recognition implied in the moral economy between seller and consumer where they struggle for the realization of the mutual legitimate recognition (p. 381). So Honneth emphasizes that the principles of legitimation are implicit in the consumer market. There is a search for ideal perfectibility regarding consumption built into the individual and corporations have to respond to this in order to get legitimacy. Moreover the consumer citizen takes up the criticism of mass consumption (Adorno, Arendt) and act critically in relation to this. In contributing to establishment of international institutions the consumer citizen also pushes for the establishment of national and international institutions that contribute to the moralization the economy.


After this normative reconstruction of market mediated consumption Honneth looks at the labor market. He reminds us that work was important for Hegel in his Philosophy of Right. Honneth also considers work and the labor market as central for the emergence of a moral economy. The capitalist organization of work has historically implied manipulation and oppression of the workers. Then they organized themselves in workers movement and organized struggle for recognition and social freedom on the labor market. This fight for social freedom implies a struggle for cooperation and recognition in the labor market (p. 431). The organization of workers in trade unions is an important dimension for establishing freedom in the capitalist system. It is important to humanize the work in this world. In particular, democratic organization of the economy and of business can contribute to this. Honneth argues that social freedom in the organizational sphere of corporations and business is dependent on the struggle for recognition by the workers. It is important to contribute to this humanization of work. Since the 1970s there has however been a neoliberal rationalization and technification of the capitalist system and workers have more to fight for in order to achieve freedom in the organized capitalism of the Western world. Here, all kinds of organizations, for example trade unions or welfare organizations, can contribute to the mutual recognition. In particular transnational unions in times of globalization are important for creating freedom in a civilization of capitalism.


The final section of the book presents the reality of democratic will formation in liberal democracies in a historical perspective. Honneth focuses on democratic public spheres, the democratic legal state and political culture. He begins by emphasizing that the potentiality of public deliberation in a free public sphere is essential to understand the reality of freedom in a modern society. Since the French revolution and the enlightenment this has been essential for creating social freedom in the public sphere. Deliberative decision making in a public sphere is an essential legitimation principle of a liberal democracy. We can say that we have experienced the social institutionalization of principles of democracy through the emergence of the free public sphere in Western democracies. Here equality of citizens and liberal rights of freedom based on the constitution are essential for creating a democratic public sphere. The morality of citizens is created through the institutionalization of social and democratic public spheres and debates. The normative idea of social freedom is a result of a democratic public sphere (p. 500). Public exchange of opinion is essential for this democratic public sphere in modern society. As Arendt and Habermas have shown, the media are important for democratic politics. Communicative freedom and the deliberative public sphere contribute to exchange of opinion and different points of view. With Habermas we can emphasize the importance of having both a national and international public sphere. With the new media and digital divide and the development of the internet we face, however, both possibilities and possible limitations of democratic freedom in open and free public spheres.


The democratic legal state built on the rule of law implies the realization of social liberty. The rule of law is a reflexive dimension of the state. The state is a reflexive notion and the democratic state was conceived as the opposite of National Socialism. This state is based on the legitimation by the people’s sovereignty in democratic legislation processes. Constitutional states follow specific norms of Sittlichkeit with a reflexive distance to the democratic legal state. The normative self-understanding of the European states implies a reaction against totalitarianism and in particular the rule of law against Hitler. In particular, we can talk about totalitarianism as the opposite to democracy. The universal declaration of human rights that was very modern even for modern democracy was established as a counter-reaction to the totalitarian regimes of the Second World War. We can also talk about the tension between nationalism and the rule of law in the Rechtsstaat or the tension between nationalism and people’s democracy. The concept by Habermas about Verfassungspatriotismus has been proposed to deal with this topic.


Finally Honneth discusses the concept of political culture as essential to the reality of the Rechtsstaat. Political culture is the reality of the realization of freedom in a democratic society. This institutionalization of the rule of law of the Rechtsstaat today also has an international dimension in the sense that the political public sphere, for example in the EU goes beyond the national borders towards the international community.


Some critical remarks to Honneth’s theory of the liberal state follow.

How should we evaluate his approach to the institutionalization of freedom in modern society? I will now propose three critical remarks for discussion.


The first remark concerns Honneth’s method of analysis. This method is very promising and I think that this constitutes the real novelty of the book. The focus on institutions and institutionalization is very important to make the bridge between philosophy and the social sciences. Moreover, I agree that this approach is very important for the definition of the relation between ethics and law in modern democratic states. However, it may be argued that this approach has already been worked out before. This is for example the case in Ricoeur’s work One-Self-as-Another from 2002, where the concept of institution as inspired by Hegel is a central concept. Ricoeur has an advantage with regard to Honneth because Ricoeur is able to introduce the concept of the good life that is not really there in Honneth’s approach. Ricoeur talks about “the good life for and with the other in just institutions”. Moreover there is no reference to the whole tradition of institutional theory within the social sciences in Honneth’s book. This is sad because then we don’t really have the dialogue between philosophical institutionalism and other kinds of institutionalisms. Moreover, it may be argued that the kind of combination of normative and descriptive analysis that Honneth proposes makes it difficult to advance any real argument of normative ethical, legal or political theory. In fact, this book is not so much a normative argument as a presentation of some lines of development in modern society. As such the book is confronted with competing arguments, as for example the Danish professor of political science Ove Kaj Petersen with his book about the recent developments of the state from welfare state to competition state in the book Konkurencestaten (the competition state). Why is the story that Honneth presents more compelling than the more negative story that is presented by Ove Kaj Pedersen? Here we need better and more advanced argument.


The proposal of the theory of law and morals may be conceived as the strongest part of the book. However, we can also propose some critical questions to this theory. In particular, we can address the substance of the theory that focuses so much on individual rights. I may be argued that it is not individual rights that are so important in the Rechtsstaat but rather democracy as community. It is not clear how this focus on individual rights makes the move from negative freedom to positive freedom. Indeed, it may be argued that the concept of rights may destroy the possibility of really founding a political community based on shared interests in the good. What Honneth seems to propose seems to be a very liberal theory that does not really correspond with his Hegelian starting point. Moreover, we may criticize his use of Kant to define the basis of his approach to the morality of freedom. It seems very idealistic to presuppose that people today act according to the moral law when they create their identity. Rather, we may refer to existentialist or postmodern concepts of identity, which seem much closer to the reality of life in the modern state and correspond to the elimination of politics in favor of individual rights. I cannot see that Honneth really achieves his point by reintroducing the Kantian concept of morality as a case of identity. In fact, Honneth’s position also becomes nearly neo-liberal, because so much emphasis is laid on individual rights rather to present the common good in the Res Publica as important. Here I also think that Ricoeur’s concept of the good life with and for the other in just institutions gives the communitarian elements of analysis that we really need to make Honneth’s argument convincing.


When we deal with the reality of freedom in modern society there are many problems in the book. The analysis of the spheres of recognition in the family seem to forget all the power relations that still persist in society and a Foucauldian approach to the family would be able to show many contradictions of the freedom of individuals in the family. Moreover, there are many critical questions to ask in relation to Honneth’s analysis of romantic love as the basis of intimacy. There may also be the manipulation of individual through forcing them to be free. As Rousseau says “L’homme est libre mais partout il est en fer”.


Moreover, the analysis of economic life and freedom in the market is far from convincing, although the general intention of moralizing the economy is very important. Honneth has understood the necessity of rethinking the capitalist economy in the perspective of virtues and ethics, but his Marxist basis of analysis and the prejudices of critical theory make it impossible for him to take the final step and understand the real emancipator elements of the idea of the moral economy. Here we should look at the whole basis for ethical interaction in the economy and, taking the Weberian perspective of looking at the ideal values of economic exchange, make it possible to understand much more of the functions of the moral economy. Honneth mentions the work of Etizioni on this point but he does not get into deeper analysis of much more recent literature on business ethics and corporate social responsibility and this makes his analysis rather general and not very innovative in relation to the recent debates in business ethics and management ethics.


Honneth has a good argument for the political consumer and legitimacy of consumption but he does not include recent literature in business ethics and institutions and therefore he does not really contribute something new or relevant. To propose unions as the basis for political freedom in the workplace also seems to be not very new in today’s discussions. Much more detailed analysis is needed here. For example of the interactions between unions and top management and how they contribute to develop stakeholder management in large corporations.


Indeed, in his final discussions of the deliberative politics and the importance of critical public space as essential for a democratic political culture, I can hardly see that Honneth presents anything new in comparison with Habermas. In fact we may argue that Honneth is much too positive to the reality of this political culture and that he does not take into account the many recent distortions of that culture. However, the critical remarks on the internet and the digital divide and democracy show a certain awareness of the important contradiction of democracy in the present context of society.



Axel Honneth: Das Recht der Freiheit. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2011.


Where Categorizations of Self and Others Meet. Some Remarks on Erik Allardt’s Theory of Struggles for Recognition between Ethnic Groups

The title of my paper is meant to express what recognition is all about from an Allardtian point of view.[1] In his 1979 book on Implications of the Ethnic Revival in Modern, Industrialized Society, the sociologist Erik Allardt understands recognition as the process, in which self-categorizations and categorization delivered by relevant others are reconciled (or at least coincide) (Allardt 1979). The subtitle in turn claims two things: firstly, that Allardt indeed does have a theory about struggles for recognition between ethnic groups – a fact that few if any scholars working on recognition have noted. Secondly, that I will deliver some remarks on this circumstance. Allardt has not presented this theory anywhere in great detail, and I will be able to present here a theory about Allardt’s theory to an even lesser degree.  My paper will therefore have the character of some remarks on what I see as the key points underlying Allardt’s approach to recognition as he has presented it in the afore mentioned book on ethnicity.

In a first step, I present the outlines of the Allardtian conception by highlighting five central aspects to it. I argue that Allardt proposes a dialogical, processual, classificatory and maybe even hermeneutical conception of recognition, which furthermore foresees some of the critique that has been directed against contemporary accounts of recognition. Secondly, I very briefly sketch out his typology of different ethnic conflicts of recognition as well as his analysis of the ethnic conflicts of post-1968 Europe in order to underscore the diagnostic power of the Allardtian recognition-theoretical vocabulary. Finally, I will briefly note how Allardt tries to justify his conception of ethnicity recognition-theoretically and developmentally.


Before I dwell more systematically into his use of the concept of recognition, I wish to point out a couple peculiarities about Allardt’s book. It is namely important to note that Allardt is a sociologist in a classical Nordic sense: He is not mainly a grand social theorist with a fine taste for abstract philosophical disputes, but an empirically oriented social researcher setting out pragmatically to work out some problems of social science. This concerns Allardt’s approach to recognition as well, and it prepares two difficulties for the contemporary philosophical reader:

Firstly, this empirical approach to recognition, although it at a first glance might seem attractive due to the very theoretical nature of the contemporary recognition discourse in philosophy, makes it hard to see from where Allardt derives his conception of recognition. Allardt himself does not give any clue at all about the sources for his use of the concept. In his book, there is not a single reference to any work, in which the concept of recognition would be elaborated systematically. It seems farfetched to assume a direct Hegelian origin here. Rather, one might speculate about Mead, Parsons or Bourdieu as social-theoretical sources, although Allardt’s conception does not really resemble any of those options.

Secondly, with an overly empirical approach there necessarily arises the question about the theoretical and conceptual validity of the empirical work done. The empirical data as well as the analysis in Allardt’s book are restricted to the linguistic, territorial minorities in Western Europe. Nevertheless, Allardt hopes that “the results and the theoretical discussion will… throw some light on the impact of ethnicity generally and on the political mobilization in terms of ethnic characteristics other than language such as race, culture, and perhaps even religion” (Allardt 1979, p. 9). In today’s Western Europe this restriction to linguistic minorities would obviously be highly problematic, since many parties of significant ethnic conflicts do not constitute linguistic groups and many linguistic groups do not regard themselves as ethnic groups. Allardt, himself a Finland Swede, treats the Swedish speaking Finns as an ethnic group, even if, according to Svenska Finlands Folkting (2005), a vast majority of the Finland Swedes do not regard themselves as an ethnic group, but as a cultural and linguistic minority among the Finns. This treatment seems even stranger considering that according to the conception of ethnicity Allardt wishes to defend in his book, it is constitutive for an ethnic group that “some significant part of it desires to be categorized… as a distinct ethnic entity” (Allardt 1979, p. 10).

These two circumstances make it somewhat difficult to reconstruct the Allardtian theory of recognition philosophically. Accordingly my reconstruction will not consist in a close reading of what is manifest in Allardt’s book. Instead, much of what I will be saying in this paper is to be understood as a conceptual explication of what is philosophically implicit in Allardt’s very empirical approach to the study of struggles for recognition. The shady side of such a procedure is, of course, the distance it creates between the interpretation and the text. The advantage, however, is that the outlines of a not yet considered account may appear before our interpreting eyes and enrich our understanding.

Allardt distinguishes first of all between two different kinds of recognitive relations that may be of relevance for the sociology of ethnicity. First, there is what Allardt calls relations of recognition within ethnic groups: Persons are recognized as members of an ethnic group by other members of the same ethnic group. To Allardt this kind of ethnic recognition is relevant for theories of processes of ethnic identity formation. Allardt’s book, however, does not claim to contain any such theory. Therefore Allardt turns his interest to the second kind of recognitive relation relevant for the sociology of ethnicity: The subject matter of a theory of ethnic conflicts is according to Allardt reducible to the study of recognitive relations between ethnic groups. Allardt’s study is concerned with asymmetrical relations between dominant and dominated ethnic groups (paradigmatically between majorities and minorities). This is the dimension in Allardt, which is of utmost interest and will be exposed further in this paper.

In the following I present in five steps the Allardtian conception of recognition by highlighting five important aspects of his use of it:

1. Allardt’s conception of recognition is, first of all, dialogical. It has become a common place in political theory to refer to any political action concerned with difference or identity as struggle for recognition. In these accounts, recognition is often regarded as a “monological” act directed at persons or groups. Recognition is in such theories conceived monologically since the attitudes, values etc. of the recognizee do not have any effect on the recognitive act of the recognizer.

According to Allardt, by contrast, ethnicity becomes politically salient and sociologically relevant in the moment when ethnic self-categorizations and external categorizations conflict (Allardt 1979, p. 32). This is a case of ethnic misrecognition. At this point, it is for us important to note merely the fact that in Allardtian ethnic conflicts both the dominated and the dominant group claim recognition. Allardt seems to conceive relations of recognition in a manner anticipating what Ikäheimo and Laitinen later have called a “two way complex of recognitive attitudes” (Ikäheimo & Laitinen 2007, 38), meaning that a mere recognitive attitude of one person or group towards another does not suffice to constitute a relation of recognition. On the contrary, according to a dialogical conception of recognition, it takes the attitudes of both parties to constitute a relation of recognition. In other words, in order for a recognitive relation to exist between two groups, one group’s recognitive attitude towards the other group must be recognized by this other group as relevant. The basic structure of recognition in Allardt can thus, at this point of argument, be said to be dialogical: Group A recognizes group B as X, whereas group B recognizes group A as an authoritative recognizer of X’s.

This shows that Allardt, albeit lacking any direct reference to Hegel or Hegelian literature on recognition and preceding recognition theorists such as Axel Honneth and Charles Taylor by more than a decade, may be on this point placed in the same Hegelian tradition of theorizing recognition as these.

It is important to note, however, that this dialogical and mutual character of recognition does not necessarily imply that the relation is symmetrical. One might imagine several constellations, in which a dominated group under some constraint might be in need of recognition by a dominant group and recognizes it as its superior, whereas the latter recognizes the subservient group merely as a competent recognizer of its superiority. If such asymmetrical relations are deemed to fail, is another question of dispute. (This kind of recognitive relation is paradigmatically exposed in Hegel’s story about Master and Bondsman in his Phenomenology.) 

To sum it up: According to the dialogical aspect of the Allardtian conception, recognition is a complex of mutual acts and attitudes.

2. A second aspect of Allardt’s approach – namely, its processuality – also separates it from most non-Hegelian, everyday political jargon accounts of a politics of recognition. Allardt does not describe recognition essentially as an act or a condition. Rather, in Allardt’s story recognition seems to be rendered as a series of mutual acts, or even better, as a complex process of mutual acts and attitudes. Recognition is something that happens in time, has a number of phases, has a certain “logic” or “grammar,” constitutes a sort of achievement and induces change in the shared life-world of both parties.

As a preliminary Allardtian definition of recognition at this point we may thus suggest that recognition is a processually conceived complex of mutual acts and attitudes happening under constraint of time.

3. But what kind of process is recognition? To Allardt it is first of all a classificatory process, and that brings us to the third aspect I wish to emphasize. Allardt describes misrecognition in ethnic conflicts as a qualitative mismatch between the self-categorizations of an ethnic group on the one hand and the external categorization of it by a more dominant group on the other. It often seems that Allardt understands recognition as not much more than a process of intersubjective categorization between groups of persons. It is indeed difficult to find Allardt saying explicitly much more about what recognition is than this:

A classifies B as X, whereas B classifies A as an authoritative classifier of X’s.

At this point, I think, it is relevant to ask: What exactly is recognized here? Classifications of groups?

According to Allardt ethnic conflicts begin in general by some hegemonic group claiming acknowledgment of some standards of public life that involve such categorizations of a dominated ethnic group that the group cannot endorse; in contrast to this, the dominated group claims recognition of its right to self-categorization. On the one hand, the object of recognition seems to be rights, standards, categorizations and classifications. On the other, we have the mutual recognition of groups as authoritative categorizers, classifiers and bearers of rights and duties.

It seems, however, that what is to be recognized in Allardt is the ethnic group as an authoritative classifier/categorizer. To recognize an ethnic group as an authoritative classifier/categorizer would then imply some kind of an acknowledgement of the rights, standards, categorizations and classifications it endorses.

Now, in saying this, it also becomes clear that Allardt is committed to an unusually thick conception of recognition. Because the recognizee is constituted by two different species of classifiers/categorizers (self-categorizers and external categorizers), the “two-way complex” is expanded to a “high-way complex,” in which A does not merely recognize B as a X, whereas B recognizes A as an authoritative recognizer X’s – but also vice versa! Recognition in Allardt seems namely to be constituted by the following complex of attitudes, in which A stands for a dominant group and B for a dominated group:

A recognizes B as an authoritative self-categorizer,

whereas B recognizes A as an authoritative categorizer of self-categorizers;

this, however, commits B to recognize A as an authoritative external categorizer,

whereas A recognizes B as an authoritative categorizer of external categorizers.

However, it remains unclear, whether Allardt conceives this complex of attitudes as a series with a fixed sequence, or simply as those relations, which, in whatever way, constitute the necessary conditions of a recognitive complex.

It might also be worth noting, that to Allardt, the majority group does not stand in need of recognition of it as an authoritative self-categorizer, nor does the minority have any anticipation of recognizing it as such.

To summarize this third point, Allardt understands recognition as a processually conceived complex of classifying mutual acts and attitudes happening under constraint of time.

4. Furthermore Allardt appears to comprehend recognition as a hermeneutical process. The way in which he treats ethnic conflicts seem to open for the interpretation that to him struggles for recognition are interpretive struggles, although the concept of an interpretive struggle does not come up in his book (cf. Allardt 1979, p. 31). To Allardt, in struggles for recognition the issue is not directly about recognition or misrecognition of identity as something external to the process of recognition itself. Following this processual, classificatory and hermeneutical account, the struggle for recognition could therefore be understood as an interpretive process, in which the classifications of ethnicity brought about in external and self-categorizations constitute better or worse interpretations of identity (and Allardt sees these categorizations as at least partly constitutive of identities). Recognition in Allardt would, accordingly, be a processually conceived complex of mutual classifying acts and attitudes happening under constraint of time in a social context of a shared, diverse and (at least partly) interpretation-dependent value horizon.

5. Following the lead of this hermeneutical and processual conception of recognition, Allardt does not have to suppose that legitimate recognition is dependent on some external standard of an authentic identity that should be recognized. To recognize an ethnic group would then not (necessarily) involve recognizing some “true” or “authentic” identity. On the contrary, the normatively important point for Allardt’s recognition policy recommendations seems to be to recognize the dominated group’s right to self-categorization and the duty of the majority or the otherwise dominant group to take such self-categorization into account when dealing with issues that affect the group in question. It is thus important to note that the process of recognition, according to this account, does not, to begin with, necessarily involve regarding the self-categorization of the dominated group as true or as even the best possible categorization. By contrast, it is in the process of recognition itself that the standards are sought for and found.

In this manner, Allardt manages to avoid the standard objection to theories of recognition that recognition in identity politics reifies identities. On the contrary, his theory is internally opposed to such stigmatization and conceives it as the mode of misrecognition, whereby groups are imposed such (external) categorizations that the members cannot endorse. This form of reification of identities is in his theory already internally conceived as a form of misrecognition that is to be overcome by open and fallible conceptions, categorizations and interpretations brought about in the dialogically, processually and hermeneutically comprehended complex sequence of recognition.

Nevertheless, this conception of recognition remains open to the normative relevance of authenticity. That is, authenticity is something that may be rendered relevant in the process of recognition, but it is, however, not a self-evident object of recognition.

Finally, we arrive at the standpoint that recognition is a processually conceived complex of mutual acts and attitudes oriented towards matching self- and external categorizations, happening under constraint of time in a social context of a shared and (at least partly) interpretation-dependent value horizon.



As we have seen, Allardt regards ethnic misrecognition as the mismatch between self- and external categorizations and recognition as the process, in which such categorizations are brought to reconciliation. On the basis of this conception of ethnic recognition, Allardt now works out a typology of ethnic conflicts. Following what has been said about recognition so far, two kinds of ethnic conflicts can be distinguished: namely, conflicts, in which a dominant group imposes external categorizations on an inferior group, on the one hand, and conflicts, in which the self-categorizations of an inferior group are rejected by the dominant group, on the other (Allardt 1979, p. 43-52).

a) Conflicts of imposing external categorizations: In this first case, we have a hegemonic (paradigmatically majority) group imposing on an inferior (paradigmatically minority) group a categorization that this group cannot endorse (and that may be implicit in some policy, cultural scheme or whatever). Paradigmatic cases for Allardt here include Nazi policy toward Jews and hegemonic North American cultural schemes in their relation to African Americans). This kind of ethnic domination typically is played out as stigmatization and material exclusion of the inferiors to the advantage of safeguarding the material privileges of the hegemonic group. It is as a rule based on a strong hierarchical ethnic division of labor.

b) Conflicts of rejecting self-categorizations: In this second case, we have a hegemonic (paradigmatically majority) group rejecting the self-categorization of a dominated (paradigmatically minority) group. Here the hegemonic group does not dominate the inferiors by imposing external categorizations, but by not taking its self-categorization into account. Domination takes the form not of material exclusion, but of coerced cultural assimilation. Paradigmatic cases for Allardt here include the Basque-Castilian conflict in Spain and Friulian activism in Northern Italy. This kind of ethnic domination typically is played out as hegemonic monopolization of “neutral” standards of public life. Such domination is possible, even expected, in societies with weaker ethnic division of labor.

In a next step, Allardt turns this distinction into what he calls “a historical pattern of majority-minority relations” (Allardt 1979, p. 43). In a vain that anticipates Taylor’s later distinction between a politics of universalism and a politics of recognition (cf. Taylor 1992), Allardt distinguishes between the politics of discrimination and the politics of recognition. These two political schemes are founded on the two types of ethnic conflicts just mentioned. Whereas ethnic conflicts before the Second World War were based on hegemonic nationalist imposition of external categorizations on minority groups, the ethnic conflicts of Allardt’s coeval post 1968 era follow the grammar of struggles for recognition, in which anti-hegemonic nationalist minority groups claim acknowledgement of their self-categorizations. Furthermore, Allardt takes the politics of discrimination to be based on a more “primitive” kind of majority-minority relation, where the criteria of ethnicity were the categorizations performed by the majority; the politics of recognition, by contrast, constitutes a more “refined” majority-minority relation, in which the categorizations and criteria of ethnicity themselves have become a subject-matter of conflict (Allardt 1979, pp. 43-44). Allardt is convinced that the central problems of a politics of discrimination (material exclusion, strong ethnic division of labor, stigmatization etc.) should be solved, in order for the problems of a politics of recognition to appear on the scene at all (Allardt 1979, p. 45).

By the distinction between a politics of discrimination and a politics of recognition it is not meant that the former would be based on a non-recognitive conflict. On the contrary the politics of discrimination is based on stigmatizing misrecognition of minority groups, and in this respect also it represents a kind of politics of recognition. The point that Allardt seems to make, is rather that there are two different grammars of recognitive conflicts, that these are typical of two different phases in the history of majority-minority relations, and finally that they demand distinct policies.



Politics of discrimination 


Politics of recognition 






Post 1968


Form of conflict 


Conflicts of imposing external categorization


Conflicts of rejecting self-categorization


Form of domination 


Material exclusion


Cultural assimilation


Motivational ground of domination 


Safeguarding material privileges, persecution


Monopolizing standards of public life


Form of resistance 


Fight against discrimination


Fight for recognition


Form of emancipation 


Emancipation from coercive determinacy to indeterminacy


Emancipation from indeterminacy to non-coerced determinacy




Inclusion (basic material needs)


Well-being (needs of belonging, esteem, self-realization)


Cultural division of labor 






Paradigmatic cases 


Civil rights movement of African-Americans


Basque activism




Allardt further argues, that this historical development, or more precisely the transition from a politics of discrimination to a politics of recognition, comes with a transformation of the nature ethnicity itself: On the basis of the recognitive conflict constituting the politics of recognition also the socially shared understanding of what ethnicity is changes. In the transition from conflicts of imposing external categorizations with their politics of discrimination to conflicts of rejecting self-categorizations with their politics of recognition, primordial elements in the socially effective conception of ethnicity give way for what Allardt calls “subjective” elements.

Whereas in societies, in which the conflicts of imposing external categorizations and the politics of discrimination constitute ethnic policy, distinctive cultural patterns and common ancestry are seen as criteria of ethnicity, the “subjective” conception of ethnicity, by contrast, is recognition- and self-categorization-based. The only constitutive criteria for ethnicity in the post 1968 era are, according to Allardt, collective self-categorization and the existence of some formal social organization, by means of which the group might seek external recognition.

Conception of ethnicity 






Criteria of ethnicity 


Distinctive cultural patterns


Common descent or ancestry


Self-categorization & identification


(Formal) Social organization


Dominating categorization 


Coercive external categorization (politics of discrimination)


Collective self-categorization (politics of recognition)


This development is, to Allardt, to be understood as progress and emancipation since the new “subjective” conception of ethnicity allows many more options for cultural action than the earlier one. The self-categorization-based ethnicity is “functional in modern society as it provides a (more flexible) social bond where old ascriptive structures have eroded. Ethnicity is less divise than integrating in many respects” (Allardt 1979, p. 67). It also pacifies ethnic conflict since it “clearly lessens the importance of ascriptive demands and increases the options open to individuals” (Allardt 1979, p. 67).

In this, Allardt also justifies his own conception of ethnicity recognition-theoretically and developmentally: Struggles for recognition between dominant and dominated ethnic groups, ranging from conflicts of imposing external categorization to conflicts of rejecting self-categorization, have brought about a conception of ethnicity that is more reflexive and aware of its own social foundations than the earlier one, which originated in the coercive external categorization practices of a politics of discrimination. The “subjective” conception of ethnicity has a kind of developmental validity, since not endorsing it would mean returning to some kind of a primordial conception of forcing external standards on dominated groups and therefore falling behind the struggles and learning processes separating the post 1968 generations from pre WW II Europe.


Allardt, Erik (1979), Implications of the Ethnic Revival in Modern, Industrialized Society. A Comparative Study of the Linguistic Minorities in Western Europe, Helsinki: Societas Scientarium Fennica.

Svenska Finlands Folkting (2005), “Folktingets undersökning om finlandssvenskarnas identitet – Identitet och framtid”, Helsinki: Folktinget.

Ikäheimo, Heikki & Laitinen, Arto (2007), „Analyzing Recognition. Identification, Acknowledgement, and Recognitive Attitudes towards Persons,” in: van den Brink und Owen (eds), Recognition and Power: Axel Honneth and the Tradition of Critical Social Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge Univerity Press.

Taylor, Charles (1992), “The Politics of Recognition,” in: Amy Gutman (ed.), Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition”, Princeton: Princeton University Press.



[1] I am grateful to the participators at the Winter Session of NSU Study Group in Turku and at the philosophical seminar at University of Jyväskylä both in February 2012 as well as to Federica Gregoratto for challenging and illuminating comments and questions, most of which have found no sufficient further elaboration in the paper. I thank professor Peter Kraus for making me aware of the existence of an Allardtian approach to recognition.

The Dialectics of Democracy



Modern democracy cannot be conceived only in terms of political equality, mass participation, competition, or tolerance. Nor can it be defined as a system where the public good is determined through rational or ethical deliberation. All these are, at least in principle, possible even in autocratic or oligarchic systems. What is peculiar for modern democracy is that opposition and dissent are not only tolerated, but they are recognized as necessary aspects of the system. Governments need oppositions, because their right to govern is legitimized only through the presence of an opposition. The task of the opposition in a democratic system is to express distrust: to criticize the actions of the government and to provide an alternative. The opposition institutionalizes distrust, and, paradoxically, the presence of this institutionalized distrust is, for the citizens, one important reason to trust the democratic system. Insofar as the opposition is incompetent, or bribed or otherwise made toothless, the system appears as less democratic, and the democratic legitimacy of the government is consequently diminished.

The idea that an organized or institutionalized distrust embodied in the opposition could ultimately be the basis of legitimacy is complex and even paradoxical. It is no wonder that the classical normative theories of democracy have not been able to conceptualize the role of opposition. The idea of democracy as the sovereignty of the People was born in the French Revolution. Typically it conceived the People as united and homogeneous. The Marxist and nationalist conceptions of democracy (for example, that of Carl Schmitt 1985; 2008) are direct descendants of this idea. Even when it was admitted that the “Will of the People” could, in practice, only mean the will of the majority, the unavoidable presence of a distrusting minority was conceived as a defect, a deviation from the pure ideal of democracy. The perfect democracy was, ideally, based on unanimity and a complete identity between the rulers and the ruled (see Rosanvallon 2006, ch 3.). There was no room for organized opposition in this conception.

The liberal version of popular sovereignty presented in John Locke’s Second Treatise (Locke 1988) was not based on the hypothetical identification of the rulers and the ruled. According to Locke, the government was based on trust. Trust was, unlike a contract or identity, an asymmetrical relationship. The people or the community could unilaterally withdraw its trust and replace the government by another. If the rulers refused to obey, the ruled had a right to resist the rulers, and if necessary, rise to arms. Nevertheless, trust was for Locke, the normal and natural situation. Distrust remained exceptional and external.

The epistemic conception of democracy as a method to find the true, best or most justified solutions to problems which concern all derives from Aristotle’s Politics. There, Aristotle famously argues that a decision-making group may be wiser or better informed than any of its individual members. In The Social Contract Jean-Jacques Rousseau expressed this idea in the following terms:

When in the popular assembly a law is proposed, what people is asked is not exactly whether it approves or rejects the proposal, but whether it is in conformity with the general will, which is their will. Each man, when giving his vote, states his opinion on that point; and the general will is found by counting votes. When therefore the opinion that is contrary to my own prevails, this proves neither more nor less than that I was mistaken, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so. (Rousseau 1973, p. 250)

In this conception, disagreement is the starting point. Yet, opposition becomes irrational and unjustified when the democratic decision has been made. The legitimacy of democratic decisions is based on the hypothesis that a democratic majority is more likely to find the correct solution than any individual voter or a sub-group of voters. Hence, post-decisional opposition must be a sign of irrational stubbornness. The contemporary theories of deliberative democracy (for example that of Jürgen Habermas 1986) are partly based on the epistemic conception. Habermas and his followers (Benhabib 1994; Cohen 1989) argue that in the ideal conditions constituted by free, unlimited discussion, the discussion partners would ultimately agree on reasons as well as on conclusions. This rational consensus would guarantee the truth or validity of the conclusions, for, ideally, it would incorporate into itself all imaginable counter-objections and criticisms. The deliberative theorists are ready to admit than in the real life, disagreements are unavoidable. But, again, such disagreements only show that the democratic process falls short of the ideal. Again, the presence of a persistent opposition appears as a (perhaps unavoidable) defect.

Finally, the “realist” theorists of democracy (for example, Weber 1994, or Schumpeter 1962) conceive democracy in terms of power struggle. For them, struggle for power is the essence of all politics, and democratic competition is one form of it. The “realists” admit the unavoidability of disagreements in democratic politics. However, when conceptualizing democratic politics as “war by other means” they neglect an important difference between the democratic competition and other forms of power struggle. In democracy, unlike, say, in international politics, the relations between the competing parties are internal rather than purely external and contingent. True, parties compete for power. However, power in a democratic society is not simply an ability to realize one’s own will. The winning party, which forms the government, has power only because it is obeyed by the citizens, and it is obeyed (at least partly) because the citizens see its claim for power as legitimate; it deserves its power. It is perceived as legitimate because it has temporarily won its opponents in a fair competition, yet those opponents may challenge it again. Hence, the permanent presence of an opposing force is a necessary condition for the power of the government. Within the democratic political body, the idea is thus not to press into consensus, or to silence the parties which do not belong to the government after the last elections. The winners are winners because there are losers who recognize their defeat, but still continue to disagree. While competition for power may be a near-universal phenomenon (as the “realists” claim), this mutual dependence between competitors is a unique property of democracies.

Opposition as an internal controller

I would characterize democracy as a necessarily contradictory whole, in which the parties are internally related to each others. The idea is to continue the struggle over matters which concern “all”. This internal struggle between mutually contradicting parties serves democratic purposes. There can, of course, be no opposition without a government which it opposes, but equally, there cannot be a democratic government without an active opposition. The opposition provides, by its public criticism and inspection of the government’s actions, a “system of checking” of whether the government is doing what it has promised to do and whether it is acting in the best interest of “all”. In fact, the role of the opposition is to try to reveal that the government is actually not acting in the best interest of the community as a whole, but, instead, pursues more or less parochial aims i.e. it pursues too much the aims of the party which has last won in the elections. Interestingly, a system which comprises of a government, checked and radically criticised by a sort of “internally external” opposition that also provides an alternative choice for voters in the next election, is considered a trustworthy democratic system. While an external controller, for example a Supreme Court or a body of scientists or experts, are supposed to present impartial, disengaged, neutral and apolitical (“power-free”) evaluation, the role of opposition is to be fully engaged concerning the things under discussion. One important aspect of the opposition is to criticise the rationale, by which the government legitimizes its decisions, for being biased or parochial.

In her article ‘Unpolitical Democracy’ Nadia Urbinati (2009) discusses the role of contestation and criticism in various theories of democracy (for example, in those of Pierre Rosanvallon and Philip Pettit). She promotes the idea that democracy, as a system in which things that concern “all” are decided by all, should not diminish the role of partisan, engaged opposition. If the evaluation of things is transferred away from the area where politically engaged parties confront each others, into an area where neutral parties are supposed to evaluate or judge the public good impartially (from the point of view of an apolitical judge or a scientist), democratic decision making is compromised. Power becomes hidden behind the veil of a neutral judge or some other external evaluator. Issues under discussion become easily divided into “political” and “apolitical” parts, into issues which can be struggled upon politically and issue which are thought to belong to the sphere of external evaluation. Urbinati writes:

It prefigures a transformation of the meaning of politics according to goals and criteria that recall the nineteenth-century utopia of the rational power of the experts. It suggests that politics is a cognitive practice for reaching true outcomes, solving problems, and moreover eradicating “politically-relevant reasonable disagreement. (Urbinati 2009, 74)

For Urbinati, one problem with the external controlling is that experts typically give evaluations on a restricted frame of questions, the framing of which is not part of the political process itself:

in the deliberative fora the formation of the agenda and the frame of questions to be discussed by the selected citizens are not part of the political process. They are instead kept outside the forum as the task of the mediators and organizers of these deliberative experiments. In clear violation of the democratic principle of autonomy, both the issues to be discussed without prejudice, and the procedures regulating the discussion, are not decided and chosen by the participants. (Urbinati 2009, 74)

The practice of splitting issues into political and apolitical aspects is not itself part of the democratic (political) process. It is done externally by actors which are not themselves exposed to democratic criticism. The grounding idea of democracy is that it exercises autonomous power over things which concern “all” (res publica). There is no party external, beyond or not accessible to it, which would determine the problems to be discussed, or which would set the frame, outline or circumscribe the politically relevant aspects of things under discussion. When issues are divided into those aspects which are discussed politically and into those which are left to neutral, external experts, it can be forgotten that there are hardly any aspects which do not relate to questions of power or carry ethical implications. Few aspects are purely technical, power-free or abstract. Moreover, even that neutral parties, like judges, scientists or various selected citizen bodies are important sources of knowledge and opinions, they are not external in the sense of being completely “power-free”. Scientific or legal expertise is always practiced in a cultural context and, hence, it should not be considered as beyond democratic criticism and analysis.

Hegel and the dialectics between the self and the Other

The claim defended here is that the relationship between the government and the distrusting, internal opposition can be understood in terms of Hegel’s dialectics. At the first sight, Hegel is not a promising starting point for democratic theorizing. His main political work, Philosophy of Right, is not a particularly democratic work. Admittedly, Hegel does defend representative institutions, constitution, and the basic rights. Thus, the once widespread claim that Hegel was simply an apologist of the contemporary Prussian state is mistaken, for Hegel’s Prussia had none of these. Moreover, in the lectures held before the publication of Philosophy of Right Hegel did discuss the principle of opposition (see, for example, Hegel 1974, 707-9). Nevertheless, in the published version of Philosophy of Right Hegel conceived the State basically in terms of a unity. Conflicts appear at the level of the civil society where parochial aims are pursued; nevertheless, they are superseded and reconciled rationally at the level of the State. Thus, it is not surprising that both Hegel’s right-wing adherents and his liberal and leftist critics have emphasized the unifying aspects of his philosophy: disagreements are solved by rational communication. Even his radical interpreters, who – like Alexandre Kojève – have emphasized the more conflictual aspects of Hegel’s theory, have seen a “homogeneous state” as the ultimate outcome of the historical process.

However, other readings are possible. The British Idealist political theorist Sir Ernest Barker (1942; 1951), while accepting the standard liberal criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, nevertheless argued that the other aspects of Hegel’s philosophy had democratic potential:

His conception of the eternal debate of thesis and antithesis, and of the opposition of thought to thought in the operation of Mind [Geist], involves the necessary conclusion that debate and discussion must always be at work in any society of minds, now emphasizing this idea, and now emphasizing that, but always seeking to achieve a synthesis, or as we also say, in one of our common terms, ‘to find a compromise’. If we think of political parties as representing thesis and antithesis, and of Parliament as seeking to find a reconciling synthesis, we can defend parliamentary democracy in terms of Hegelian ideas. We can even argue that Hegel himself was untrue to his own ideas when he became a political absolutist. He failed to see that the sovereign thing in political thought, as in all the thought of the world is the process of thought itself, as it works its way between the clashing rocks of thesis and antithesis. (Barker 1951, p. 23)

According to my interpretation, the dialectics between the self and the Other, presented in Hegel’s earlier work, Phenomenology of Spirit, offers still a valid theory of why the on-going clashing of thesis with antithesis is the base for democratic equality and freedom between people. An important instance of this dialectics appears in the contemporary parliamentary systems where the government clashes with the opposition. In the next chapter I will go shortly through Hegel’s theory of the dialectics between the self and the Other. Then I will offer an interpretation of how it relates to the theme of democracy and distrust.

For Hegel, self-consciousness – in short, “self” – is a complex construction. The basic feature of the self is thinking. Thinking is situated: it is conditioned by time, place, cultural context and various individual, personal and material factors. Consequently, thinking makes up a limited, interpretative system, a particular universe. Thinking is a universalizing and generalizing activity, yet, at the same time it is parochial and limited. By conceptual and abstract thinking the thinker may obtain a critical distance towards itself and its cultural limits. However, even abstract thinking is situated because it is internally linked to, and it mediates with, the subjective parts of the thinking system. Thinking is always subjective. The Other is, like the self, a complex construction: subjective particularity is one of its features. Like the self, the Other is an interpretative, meaning-giving system: a particular universe. A grounding idea in Phenomenology of Spirit is that with the Other or, ideally, from a point of view which is constituted jointly by the self and the Other, the self can go over its respective limits. In fact, only by trying to see the world from the point of view of the Other, the self can acknowledge that it’s own universe is particular and limited. With the Other, the self may go over its limits and see the world, including its own self, from a new perspective which can be called a more democratic perspective, even that democracy did not belong to Hegel’s terminology. However, the new perspective is also a located perspective. The self cannot rise above perspectivity as such, because subjectivity continues to be a basic feature of its thinking. (Hegel 1977, pp. 109-112)

Self’s way to relate to the Other is, however, not easy. The relationship between the self and the Other can be called a radical difference, or, mutual otherness. It might, however, be also called a radical similarity. The Other is, like the self, its own, self-determining, internally differentiated system of subject-object-relations. Both the self and the Other are centres of their own universes. Consequently, both selves appear to be, from the point of view of the other, threatening. Freedom of the Other – the Other as a self-determining being and a universalizing, generalizing being (a being who has views about things which concern “all”) – appears as a threat. (Hegel 1977, pp. 111-119.)

Nevertheless, the dialectical narrative in Phenomenology shows that the self is not satisfied until it creates a relationship of reciprocal recognition with Other. What self yearns for most is freedom and only reciprocal recognition – or, actually an ethical society which is based on reciprocal recognition of parties which are “other” to each other – satisfies this yearning.

According to Hegel, the self strives for a contact with the Other because, ultimately, it wants to be free. Freedom includes various inter-related aspects such as epistemological freedom (knowledge which is not parochial, instead, constituted in mutual recognition, for self and for Other), inner freedom at a psychological level, and social freedom. For Hegel, the self can live a satisfactory life – at these various levels – only if it acknowledges Other as its equal and enters into a recognizing relationship with it. In recognizing the Other as an equal self and, reciprocally, recognizing itself as the Other’s Other, the self is able to reconcile contradictions at the aforementioned levels. In Hegel, freedom means that people and societies can, both, reconcile contradictions, and, at the same time, see contradictions as the permanent part of a free, ethical society. This means that both the self and the Other, as bearers of mutually contradicting world-views, are recognized as valid sources of knowledge, views and opinions over things which concern “all”. A free society does not try to silence contradicting world-views because that would mean that some specific, parochial world-view, of some specific particular self, would gain a dominating position in the society. Freedom as reciprocal recognition is a process where the existence of, and the on-going clashing together, of contradicting world-views are recognized as a permanent part of the society. Contradicting world-views clash together, yet, the clash is considered a source of freedom and good, ethical life. Mutually contradicting selves can all contribute to the constructing of the society, its basic principles, institutions and laws. The clashing together of mutually contradicting selves cannot be disposed of because, at any given time, the particular synthesis which governs or which has a hegemonic status in the society (i.e. displayed at the level of, for example, commonly shared beliefs) cannot take all possible views into consideration equally.

In Hegel, the complex structure of the thinking self is shown also in the complex structure of the things, which are thought by the self. Thought things are complex structures which means, for example that limited subjectivity is always an internal aspect of them. Things cannot be divided into parts which are external to each others in the sense that they would not affect each others. We can not bracket off subjective aspects from things and think of them as pure abstractions. When things are thought rationally, or as abstractions, subjective limitedness continues to be present, too. Things are complex constructions in which political, ethical, cultural and personal aspects are internally mediated with each other.

Hegel, democracy and distrust

According to my interpretation Hegel’s seemingly abstract figures “self and “Other” may be seen to stand for groups, comprising of like-minded individuals. Thinking, which is the basic feature of both the self and the Other, does not develop in a social vacuum. Instead, individuals are, to a great extent, born into those “particular universes”, which render them social subjects. By linguistic, communicative internalization of selfhood, individuals become thinking selves and subjects. Like-minded individuals can be thus seen to constitute the particular universes. These universes may be also called as discursive, cultural contexts. Within them meanings, ethical and moral principles and world-views are generated and kept alive by the individuals committing to them and reproducing them. Hegel suggests that in order for the society to be free, these groups as well as individuals comprising them, need to acknowledge that there is an outside (Other) to their own group. In order for the society not to be parochially constituted – which would mean the suffocation of some groups and closing them out from amongst those who determine what the society as a whole is like – the groups and their world-views would need to clash together. This clashing together of one particular universe with another, or, one thesis with its antithesis, would mean that contradictions are acknowledged as an internal part of the society.

How can Hegel’s theory of the need for contradicting parties to clash together inside a social community be seen to promote an idea of the need for an institutionalized distrust in democracy, embodied in the government-opposition-relationship? As said above, Hegel is often seen to promote the idea of unifying and synthesizing rationality as the way to reconcile disagreements at the level of the state. Theorists like Habermas, with his idea of communicative ethics, draws from this line of thought. To claim that Hegel’s theory would support an idea of an institutionalized distrust and government-opposition- relationship would mean that conflict or distrust between parties, which decide about matters of state concerning “all”, is seen as an internal aspect of a free society. Freedom as reciprocal recognition between its members would not be understood in terms of reaching consensus by rational communication only, say, in the ordinary way of continuing discussion until agreement, compromise or consensus is found. Instead, it would emphasize the clashing together – feature of the mutually recognizing parties as well as the idea that genuine and even passionate conflicts and distrust are a necessary part of how the parties relate to each other in order to produce ethically sound and free decisions concerning “all”. This way to interpret Hegel’s notion of freedom as the on-going clashing together of the self and the Other – thesis with its anti-thesis – implies that the syntheses are temporary and open for further debate and revision.

For Hegel, the self, as a thinker, is a complex system where different aspects influence each others internally. This implies, importantly, that rational thinking, also at the state level, is not neutral or impartial in the sense that it would take place in a power-free or apolitical vacuum. It also supports the idea that any synthesis, resulting from the clashing together of selves and Others with their theses, makes up a new thesis, a particular universe, which should be open to further dialectical revision. Every state-level synthesis is limited because one of its aspects is material objectivity, i.e. the level of limited economical and material resources. When ever a synthesis is made, it is based not only on what the outcome is from the struggle between the conflicting parties in the last elections. When elections are over, the parties, forming the government, make decisions, on how various material resources are concretely distributed between all the members of the society. The government often also makes some alterations to laws, institutional principles and so forth, according to the deliberations of its member parties. In other words, the struggle between conflicting groups leads, through elections, to the formation of a new government and, by the government’s deliberations, to some alterations at the level of the objective reality. The transformation of any synthesis into a new thesis, open to the criticism of opposition, takes place at this point. The government is formed by some parties, enough like-minded to be able to make decisions and compromises together and execute its will through administrative and bureaucratic bodies. The decisions must be particular and limited in order to mean something concrete. The decisions cannot be vague or ambivalent; otherwise they would give room for arbitrary interpretations and arbitrary application. Nevertheless, this rationality, shared by the “like-minded” members of the government renders the government also a “particular universe”. The government provides rational arguments for the decisions it executes, and claims to act in the best interest of all. This claim becomes, however, the base for criticism – or, in Hegelian words claim for recognition – coming from those who claim that it, nevertheless, acts more in the interest of just some, not all. It needs to be checked and critically analyzed by its outside, and clash with its outside (the Other as opposition), in order for its rationality not to fall into parochialism which compromises the democratic idea that the state ought to be governed by “all”.

The agonistic theory of democracy

The Hegelian dialectic insight of democracy, presented in this paper, resembles in some ways the agonistic theory of democracy. Especially the political theorist Chantal Mouffe has spoken for an idea of democracy in which a permanent, agonistic conflict between mutually contradicting parties (between “we” and “them”) is considered as a constitutive and an indispensable feature. Mouffe’s idea of the relationship between “we” and “them” resembles in some ways the dialectical relationship between the self and the Other, defended in this text. However, there are important differences between the dialectical notion of democracy defended in this paper, and the theory of Chantal Mouffe. I shall argue that the idea of agonism as formulated by Mouffe is actually incoherent.

In criticizing consensus-oriented authors like Rawls or Habermas, Mouffe uses the following argument: The criticized authors try to solve the “paradox of democracy” by presenting a comprehensive theory of democracy, and claim that all consistent democrats should agree with them. However, an actual consensus on the truth of any particular interpretation of democracy would, in effect, destroy the agonistic tensions which are central for democracy. An agreement on the basic principles of democracy would stop the movement of democratic society, create a stasis. It is this very process, produced by the tensions and differences that is really important and valuable in democracy. Thus, all attempts to provide a comprehensive theory of democracy are (indirectly) self-defeating. If the correct, true theory of democracy were to be found, and if it were generally accepted it would undo the whole democracy. If a theory of what the relations between the various mutual “others” (the political subjects) were recognized by the political subjects themselves, there would be no attitude of exclusion any more. The political subjects (which constitute each others “others”) would not exclude each others any more from their vision of the ideal society, and try to gain universal recognition just for their own particular ideal any more. This kind of “reciprocally recognitive” attitude would undo the democracy itself:

To believe that a final resolution of conflicts is eventually possible – even if it is seen as an asymptotic approach to the regulative idea of a rational consensus – far from providing the necessary horizon of a democratic project, is something that puts it at risk. Indeed, such an illusion carries implicitly the desire for a reconciled society where pluralism is superseded. When it is conceived in such a way, pluralist democracy becomes a “self-refuting ideal” because the very moment of its realization would coincide with its disintegration (Mouffe 2000, 32)

For Mouffe, pluralism and difference are themselves positive goods. They are something we should “valorize” and “be thankful for” (Mouffe 1993, 139). All attempts to “close” the democratic process are dangerous because conflicts and confrontations are the very essence of democracy:

One of the keys to the thesis of agonistic pluralism is that, far from jeopardizing democracy, agonistic confrontation is in fact its very condition of existence (Mouffe 2000, 103)

Of course, not any confrontation or conflict would do. Pure power-struggles between self-interested actors or clashes of forces between fanatical groups are not radical in the required sense. A radical agonist does not praise all conflicts. Democratic conflicts are, in a sense, always conflicts about democracy, about its content. They arise between principled and sincerely held views:

Without a plurality of competing forces which attempt to define the common good, and aim at fixing the identity of the community, the political articulation of the demos could not take place. (Mouffe, 2000, 56)

According to Mouffe, the existence of different genuinely competing conceptions is essential:

Ideally, such a confrontation should be staged around the diverse conceptions of citizenship which correspond to the different interpretations of the ethico-political principles: liberal-conservative, social-democratic, neo-liberal, radical-democratic, and so on. Each of them proposes its own interpretation of the ‘common good’… A well-functioning democracy calls for a vibrant clash of democratic political positions. (ibid.., 103-4)

Thus, Mouffe shares the idea that a dialectical conflict is fundamental for democracy. However, her own view remains thoroughly relativistic. No dialectical synthesis is possible. This makes her own position ambivalent. Obviously, all the proponents of the different democratic conceptions are expected to defend their own conception as true (correct, valid). Otherwise the views would not “clash”. The theorist of agonistic democracy appears here as a stage-master, as someone standing outside and above the confrontation. She knows that none of the protagonists playing their part in the democratic drama is actually defending the true view, for there cannot be any correct interpretation of the common good or the democratic basic principles – that was her starting point. Nevertheless, because the confrontation between different conceptions of citizenship and/or common good is the very condition of the existence of a working democracy, it is important that there are sufficiently many people around who sincerely hold these various convictions, however misguided they might be.

To conclude, Mouffe’s theory can be criticized by using the same form of argument she herself uses against Rawls and Habermas. The theory of agonistic democracy is self-defeating in the same way as the criticized theories are claimed to be. If all (or sufficiently many) citizens would actually accept the agonistic view that there are no justifiable solutions to the problems of justice and of common good, the essential agonism would disappear. In order to work, the agonistic democracy has to presuppose that most people do not share the agonist view. To put it in Hegelian terms, it presupposes a Lord-Bondsman –relationship.

For this reason, the agonistic theory cannot work as a basis for the self-understanding of those subjects who themselves participate in political struggles. In Mouffe, politics is divided dualistically into two realms. There is concrete politics, where hegemonic claims are made. This realm is conflictual, and its processes take place through a “struggle for recognition”. Then there is the realm of the observing theorist, who does not itself take part in the struggle for recognition. Instead, the external theorists just observes how the various “terms” such as “common good” become politically constructed within the various struggles. This agonistic democracy is possible only when most people continue to believe in something which, according to this theory, is actually impossible, a “necessary error”. I claim that my account does not have these paradoxical consequences. The rival parties are not simply clashing and struggling for hegemony. They may also recognize each others as legitimate rivals who are continuously needed as rivals, because only their continuous presence makes the process itself democratically legitimate.

Conclusion: distrust as the basis for trust

In modern western democracies people are expected to trust a political system which consists of a government and a contradicting, distrusting opposition. Acting and decision-executing government ought to be controlled and checked by an alert opposition, in Hegelian words an Other. The Other provides a necessary “look from the outside” which cannot be disposed of in order for the political system to be considered democratic. According to my analysis Hegel’s theory of the dialectics between the self and the Other, presented in Phenomenology of Spirit, supports this idea. Through it, it can be argued that any government which produces particular decisions, based on specifically circumscribed arguments and rationale (as governments always necessarily and rightfully do, in order not to give room for arbitrary governing) constitutes a “particular universe”. Particular universes carry within them an aspect of particular political subjectivity, democratic checking of which cannot be left to the hands of disengaged external controllers, like judges or experts. Instead, internal controlling of those Others who are fully engaged and fully affected by the governments decisions, is necessary, in order for not only some specific aspects of government (falling under the expertise of for example juridical experts) to be scrutinized. In order for the various inter-related aspects of the acting governments actions to be critically evaluated “from the outside”, the political realm of the outside opposition should not be diminished. The central and seemingly widely acknowledged reason why the existence of an institutionalized opposition is considered as the base for the legitimacy of the political system is that democratic changes in the substantive inside of the government takes place through the distrusting criticism, coming from the outside. The criticism comes from those who are inside the democratic society yet not under the pressure to consent to or comply with the government’s rationale, because of a joint membership in the present synthesis (unity) of the government. In fact, it is considered the ultimate role, even a democratic and ethical duty, of the opposition to look at the government from a critical distance.

The idea that an institutionalized and internal conflict (carried by an institutionalized distrust embodied in the opposition) is the source of general good and ethical life is a novel development. It challenges most of the traditional political theories which considered conflict as a potentially dangerous defect, feared to lead into disorder or possibly even to a violent disintegration or fragmentation of the political body. The important idea in the internal conflict and its capacity to give legitimacy to the political system, lies in the fact that through the dialectics between the government and opposition, things concerning “all” (the present synthesis, unity or “substance” of the state, shown as positive laws, institutions, distribution of material resources and so forth) is in a constant democratic process and under critical ethical evaluation “from the internal outside”.

I have argued that an organized distrust, in the form of opposition, is the fundamental source of trust in democratic societies, and that this paradoxical unity of trust and distrust can be conceived in terms of the dialectics of Hegel’s early philosophy. Would this kind of view help us to understand any real-life political phenomena? Let me conclude this essay with an example. An example of a political community which is often said to suffer from a “democracy deficit” is the European Union. One possible reason why the EU is perceived as undemocratic is the absence of a recognized government-opposition dimension. The Commission is officially an “apolitical” government of technocrats, while in the European Parliament the majorities are built on issue-by-issue basis. While the Parliament is constituted in a democratic way – by free and equal elections – the lack of a responsible government and of an organized opposition which would channel the distrust is the main cause of the perceived “deficit”. According to my hypothesis, the low turnout in the elections of the Parliament and the increasing scepticism and even cynicism towards the Union itself reflects this problem. The Euro-citizens, in Finland for example, are not convinced that the power-holders within the Union have really deserved their power in a meaningful, democratically dialectical process. Without an opposition, this distrust may take a malign form.




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