Recognition and Moral Progress: A Case Study about Discourses on Disability in the Media



This article aims to discuss the notion of moral progress in the theory of recognition. It argues that Axel Honneth's program offers sophisticated theoretical guidance to observe and critically interpret emancipatory projects in contemporary politics based on ideas of individuality and social inclusiveness. Using a case study – the investigation, through frame analysis, of transformations in the portrayal of people with impairment as well as in public discourses on the issue of disability in major Brazilian news media from 1960 to 2008 – this article addresses three controversies: the notion of progress as a directional process; the problem of moral disagreement and conflict of interest in struggles for recognition; and the processes of social learning. By articulating empirically based arguments and Honneth's normative discussions, this study concludes that one can talk about moral progress without losing sight of value pluralism and conflict of interest.