recognition and redistribution

[Nancy Fraser]( isn’t a name I’d come across until last week, when I [read]( a fascinating [interview]( with her for Eurozine.
Fraser is a political-scientist-cum-philosopher, who has attempted to sum up the political culture of the last few decades in a shift from ‘redistribution’ to ‘recognition’. That is, people stopped mobilizing around inequalities of wealth and power, and instead dedicated their energies to demanding respect for their identities within the same market structure. So out went tax-and-spent, benefits were cut, the rich got richer and the poor stayed poor. But there were massive sttrides forward in feminism, gay rights, reducing racism, and the like. [I’m butchering her ideas.
I’m obviously butchering Fraser’s ideas here, but her generalisation holds up surprisingly well. From Tony Blair to the culture wars to the issues exciting student campaigners, the left gave up on fighting economic inequality. Those who did keep a focus on redistribution — notably, the unions — were depicted as dinosaurs.
This ties in to the soul-searching happening on [Liberal Conspiracy]( and elsewhere. It’s hardly surprising that we have nothing to say about the financial crisis, if we’ve spent the past 2 decades looking the other way when it comes to poverty.

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