Nancy Fraser, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy and Political Science
New School University, New York
Born in 1947 in Baltimore, MD
Studied Philosophy at the City University of New York
Postnational Democratic JusticeUntil recently, most theorists of justice have tacitly assumed the Westphalian sovereign state as the frame of their inquiry. Today, however, given the acceleration of globalization, questions of social justice need to be reframed. Whether the issue is structural adjustment or indigenous land claims, immigration or global warming, unemployment or homosexual marriage, the requirements of justice cannot be ascertained unless we ask: Who precisely are the relevant stakeholders? Which matters are genuinely national, which local, which regional, and which global? Who should decide such matters, and by what decision-making processes? I propose to address such issues by theorizing the relations among three dimensions of justice: distribution, recognition, and representation. I shall argue that today's questions of distribution and recognition are inextricably imbricated with questions of representation. As a result, there is no alternative to a politics of representation, in which the framing of questions of justice becomes a matter for democratic deliberation. Thus, a politics of redistribution and recognition must be joined to a politics of representation, and the theory of social justice must become a theory of democratic justice.
Fraser, Nancy. Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press and Polity Press, 1989. German edition: Widerspenstige Praktiken: Macht, Diskurs, Geschlecht. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1994.
-. Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the "Postsocialist" Condition. New York: Routledge, 1997. German edition: Die halbierte Gerechtigkeit: Schlüsselbegriffe des postindustriellen Sozialstaats. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 2001.
Fraser, Nancy and Axel Honneth. Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange. London: Verso, 2004. German edition: Umverteilung oder Anerkennung? Eine politisch-philosophische Kontroverse. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 2003.
Tuesday Colloquium, 28.06.2005
Globalization is changing the way we argue about justice. Not so long ago, in the heyday of social democracy, disputes about justice assumed a "Keynesian-Westphalian frame." Debated within national publics, such disputes concerned relations among fellow citizens and contemplated redress by national states. Whether the issue was redistribution or recognition, class differentials or status hierarchies, it almost always went without saying that the unit within which justice applied was the modern territorial state.
Although it went unnoticed at the time, the Keynesian-Westphalian frame gave a distinctive shape to arguments about social justice. Taking for granted the modern territorial state as the appropriate unit, and its citizens as the pertinent subjects, such arguments turned on what precisely those citizens owed one another. Engrossed in disputing the "what" of justice, the contestants apparently felt no necessity to dispute the "who." With the Keynesian-Westphalian frame securely in place, it went without saying that the "who" was the national citizenry.
Today, however, the Keynesian-Westphalian frame is losing its aura of self-evidence. Faced with global warming, the spread of AIDS, international terrorism, and superpower unilateralism, many believe that their chances for living good lives depend at least as much on processes that trespass the borders of territorial states as on those contained within them.
Under these conditions, disputes about justice are exploding the Keynesian-Westphalian frame. Arguments that used to focus exclusively on the question of what is owed as a matter of justice to community members now turn quickly into disputes about who should count as a member and which is the relevant community. Not only the "what" but also the "who" is up for grabs. Not only the substance but also the frame is in dispute.
The result is a major challenge to our theories of social justice. Preoccupied largely with first-order issues of distribution and/or recognition, these theories have so far failed to develop conceptual resources for reflecting on the meta-issue of the frame. As things stand, therefore, it is by no means clear that they are capable of clarifying problems of justice in a globalizing age.
In this lecture, I shall propose a strategy for thinking about the problem of the frame. I shall argue, first, that in order to deal satisfactorily with this problem, the theory of justice must become three-dimensional, incorporating the political dimension of representation, alongside the economic dimension of distribution and the cultural dimension of recognition. I shall also argue, second, that the political dimension of representation should itself be understood as encompassing three levels. The combined effect of these two arguments will be a paradigm shift: what the Keynesian-Westphalian frame cast as the theory of social justice must now become a theory of postwestphalian democratic justice.