The Sociology of Law
Online ISSN : 2424-1423
Print ISSN : 0437-6161
"The Politics of Recognition" at Stake
Liberation or Equal Right
Yayo Okano
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2006 Volume 2006 Issue 64 Pages 60-76,276


Legal recognition of same-sex marriage is one of the biggest political issues of gay and lesbian movements in both Canada and the U.S. While same-sex marriage was legalized in July 2005 in Canada; the equal right to marriage for gays and lesbians is far from being established in the U.S., as suggested by the debates during the 2004 elections. What makes so much difference between the two countries on this issue? In searching for a key to answer this question, this paper intends to trace the difference to different understandings of "the politics of recognition."
Comparing theories of "the politics of recognition" in Canada and the U.S., as represented by two distinguished thinkers, Nancy Fraser and Charles Taylor, this paper explores the critical points made by each thinker and the inevitable dilemma which "the politics of recognition" reveals. Unlike Fraser's argument that claims for social justice since the 90s are increasingly divided into two conflicted claims-one seeking redistributive justice and the other, the politics of recognition-Taylor points out that "the politics of recognition" is deeply rooted in the modern liberalism, especially the politics of equal respect.
Following the Hegelian idea of constructing self-consciousness, Taylor views recognition by others as crucial for self-formation, and misrecognition as fatal to it, especially in the modern age. Through the recent changes in the gay and lesbian movement in Canada, we can realize that seeking equal rights under the law paradoxically de-politicizes the claims of the liberation movement of the 70s, and worse than that, forces the multiple actors into the single category listed in the law.
"The politics of recognition" à la Taylor discloses that "identity politics" does not result from claims for recognition, but from claims for equal respect. Or rather, a superficial understanding of self formation under the politics of equal respect and uncritical belief in the reversibility of a self and others gets claims for recognition more acute and serious in the modern age.

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