Sovereign Equality as Misrecognition

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Zarakol, Ayse 

This article makes two contributions. First, I argue that contrary what is usually assumed in the recognition literature, social hierarchies (as in the master-slave dynamic) are very stable. Though they are relationships of misrecognition, they nevertheless allow for the simulation of recognition and sovereignty for the master, and trap the slave in that role through stigmatisation. Second, I make a historical argument about the state and its role in recognition struggles. The modern state is unique historically in being tasked with solving the recognition problems of its citizens but at the same time it derives its sovereignty from the recognition of those same citizens. There is an inherent tension between these two facts, which forces the modern state to turn increasingly outward for recognition. This is why the master-slave dynamic was increasingly projected onto the international stage from nineteenth century onwards and international recognition has come to play increasingly larger role in state sovereignty. This is also why social hierarchies came to dominate international politics around the same time, along with the norm of sovereign equality.

4408 Political Science, 44 Human Society
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Review of International Studies
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Cambridge University Press
European Research Council (680102)