Nancy Fraser Part 2

So the themes in Fraser’s work thus far consist in the dual strands of critical social theory: claims for redistribution and claims for recognition. The two are at odds when persons who are emphasizing redistribution of money or power fail to acknowledge or recognize the importance of the maligned identities that are the source of the disparity of money and/or power. The two ways of addressing these claims that Fraser highlights are affirmative and transformative. The first consists in end-stage products–the redistribution of wealth via government subsidies and tax rebates for the poor, or something similar to reparations for the wealth lost by persons whose ancestors were enslaved. In terms of recognition, the affirmative approach is exemplified in the multicultural movement’s emphasis on valuing identities that have previously been maligned.

On the other hand are what Fraser labels “transformative” approaches to remedy maldistribution and misrecognition. The transformative approach looks at the structures that lead to such inequality and seeks to deconstruct these unjust structures, replacing them with more equitable ones.  For instance, a social democracy for redistributive claims that sets up fairer access to living wages for all persons, and a deconstructive approach to identity that challenges the ways identity has been reified and essentialized. Ultimately, the goal in remedying these injustices is to work towards parity of participation, which means that all persons have access to full inclusion and participation as equals in society. This goal address both economic and cultural barriers to participation, both the ways that poverty prevents persons from full participation as well as how the devaluing of certain cultural identities prevents persons from being considered as peers.

In drawing from the deconstuctionists and post-structuralists, Fraser is clearly conversant with figures such as Foucault, a scholar she addresses in an early 1980’s article publishing in Unruly Practices. While I’m not sure the deconstruction of identities is necessarily the best route, I am interested in how the fogging of identites and the de-essentializing of identities is crucial for the building of coalitions across diverse populations. That is, holding to certain standards of what counts as a particular oppressed identity can obscure the goals of coalition-building for the sake of social change. At the same time, there seems to be moments when the lifting up of particular identities is essential to that same social change because of the ways considerations for the accommodation of such difference has been ignored or unconsidered.

As I read more from Fraser, I hope to get a clearer idea of how deconstruction and “fogging” of identity works in her schema of institutional change.

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