Recognition, Multiplicity and the Elusive International

Alexander Hoseason

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This article argues that the normative promise of recognition theory in International Relations has become increasingly inadequate to the cross-cutting and intersecting issues characteristic of a globalised and fragmented world. Engaging in critical readings of cosmopolitan forms of recognition theory, the critique of sovereignty and Markell’s influential critique of recognition theory, I suggest that the increasing ontological specificity of recognition theory in IR has come at the expense of its ability to develop links between different areas of international politics. The result is a failure to deal with recognition’s simultaneity, or the co-existence of analytically distinct and internally coherent recognition orders that is characteristic of the international. Building on this insight, I argue that a more historically-sensitive and materialist approach to recognition can be grounded in the concept of multiplicity. By opening recognition up to processes of interaction, and not merely reproduction, multiplicity frames the international more clearly as a historical presupposition, rather than a limit, of recognition. Furthermore, placing recognition struggles within the state, international institutions or transnational movements in relation to each other ensures that IR can contribute to the further development of recognition theory by situating recognition struggles at the intersection of different moral geographies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Political Theory
Early online date29 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 May 2021

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