skip to Main Content
Looking to read the latest articles? Please click here
Recognising Recognition – Realising The Ambition To Introduce The Thinking Of Axel Honneth To English RCC

Recognising Recognition – realising the ambition to introduce the thinking of Axel Honneth to English RCC

NCERCC has the ambition to bring the thinking of Axel Honneth to an English RCC audience. We have been looking for an introduction that we thought could best promote English RCC curiosity.

We think we have found it.

This link is an article that is an excellent place to start Axel Honneth · Recognition Theory · Social Pedagogy (

Axel Honneth writes:

“We all need recognition – to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. We crave this recognition from loved ones, of course, but we also need recognition from entities like the State, because it secures our constitutionally protected rights, as citizens. In our professional life, we also enjoy when our work is appreciated, and when we feel acknowledged as valued colleagues. In the absence of recognition, we suffer, unloved and unseen”.

Danish social pedagogy, like some English RCC, has a pedagogy of recognition.

The article explains that:

“It’s about seeing people and letting them know that you do. A smile, a nod or a friendly pat on the back can make someone’s day. It’s about listening to people and being curious about what you hear, instead of jumping to conclusions. It’s about validating someone’s emotions, even though you cannot fully empathise. Over time, this practice of recognition means that we can build meaningful relationships with the people we support – and ultimately cultivate social inclusion”.

Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition

For Axel Honneth we are constantly seeking recognition. Relationships and recognition are how we develop our identity.

Recognition requires someone to do the recognising, between two people, or groups or communities.

Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition operates in three spheres: the private sphere, the legal sphere, and the sphere of solidarity.

In addition to the different spheres of recognition, Honneth describes three levels of relationship that an individual can have with themselves: self-confidence, self-respect and self-worth.

Yes, it’s very like Winnicott and also Maslow. It adds something too.

First level – self-confidence is achieved when individuals recognise for themselves their physical needs and desires and can articulate them to themselves and others. This means being able to assert oneself confidently about physical needs and desires.

Those closest to us are key. Self-confidence develops when we are recognised by” significant others” – meaning receiving lots of love, attention and care. We experience that we are treated as valuable, unique human beings and that our needs and desires are taken seriously. If we are recognised in the private sphere during our childhood, we develop self-confidence.

Second level, self-respect, exists when individuals recognise their own moral accountability and the value of their personal judgment. This means being able to stand your ground, even when your opinion is unpopular.

These capabilities are absorbed from the environment. Growing up with rich relationships is to be within an environment that is respecting and recognising, self-respect will follow.

Third level, self-esteem, is achieved when individuals recognise and celebrate the certainty of their own capabilities and positive qualities.

The solidarity of those around us is the key. Self-esteem emerges from the recognition of others who acknowledge one’s capabilities and qualities as making a valuable contribution to a group, collective or community.

And it is not just us as individuals but ‘us’ having a group dimension, a culture as English RCC has explained it. Honneth describes a sense of community solidarity – a sense of well-being founded on respect and recognition of the contribution being made to achieve common goals, with like-minded people.

Which level of self-relation a human being can achieve, depends on the experience they’ve had in the three spheres of recognition. The more positive feedback and recognition we’ve had in our lives, the higher degree of self-appreciation we enjoy.


Accessed: Zone of Proximal Development Example · Vygotsky · Pedagogy 4 Change