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Agency, Authority, and the Logic of Mutual Recognition



The “Cartesian” model of the rational subject is central to the political philosophy of Hobbes and Locke and is “transcendentally” affirmed in Kant's account of ethics and legality. An influential body of Hegelian inspired critique has suggested, however, that the dialectical deficiencies of the dominant models of Liberalism in late modernity inhere in this “atomistic” or “self-supporting” characterisation of the individual. The “atomistic” perspective appears as an obstacle not only to the coherent articulation of the compatibility of liberty and equality, but also to the attempt to express the mutuality of recognition between agents that might offer a genuinely communal conception of constitution and subject. Employing as a frame of reference Alan Brudner's analysis of these issues in his comprehensive Constitutional Goods (Brudner 2004) it is argued that legal and political theory might usefully adopt an understanding of Hegel's notion of “recognition” (Anerkennung) in this regard without drastic phenomenological reconstruction of the Cartesian or Kantian subject.

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