Contribution to Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation Conference:
“The Politics of Recognition: Identity, Respect and Justice,” 30/31 July 2005
by Andy Blunden

Subjectivity, Redistribution & Recognition


Nancy Fraser (Fraser 2003) observes that the norm of participatory parity allows the adjudication of claims for social justice, irrespective of whether claims are made in terms of redistributive justice or cultural recognition. Yet despite the importance of this observation for social movement struggles, it remains unclear, the actual terms on which claims made against participatory parity should be redeemed. Fraser assumes that although the claimant is a social movement, parity of participation is claimed on behalf of individuals.[1]

I propose that the reason for this unclarity is that modernity has engendered a widespread, universalist consensus in favour of the equal moral worth of all persons,[2] while efforts to grasp this theoretically tend to misfire because the person as a sovereign subject is wrongly taken to be a fact, or at least a norm, rather than the end of a still-unfinished, long drawn-out historical process.

To presuppose a world of sovereign individual subjects begs the question. The majority of people today feel powerless, and lack effective agency in their own lives.

From the perspective of an Hegelian-Marxist with a pragmatist twist, I will argue that the problem of agency is the main driver of social injustice today.


Some time in the early 17th century, the word ‘subject’ took a turn from being the passive bearer of attributes and obligations to being the individual, knowing moral agent distinct from its historical and cultural determination. Hegel recovered the subject as a cultural-historical formation by uniting the individual, universal and particular in one concept of subjectivity.[3] Although linked for Hegel to a metaphysical conception of social action, this concept is open to a pragmatic interpretation which points to a democratic concept of justice.

In her writing, Nancy Fraser talks alternately of subjects (in the usual contemporary usage, meaning individual agents) and ‘collective subjects,’ corporate entities and social movements. Neither of these notions can capture the complexity of modern subjectivity, but I believe that Hegel offers an alternative approach.[4]

Subject and Object

In the critical tradition, problems of social justice are often posed as issues of intersubjectivity. But this is a mistake, as relations may be either intrasubjective, intersubjective or subject-object relations.

Most people experience institutions as objects not subjects, in fact. Rather than the intersubjective relation, it is the subject-object relation, the activity of a subject in the world around it, which is the subject’s primary and most fundamental relation.[5] Before a subject knows anything about another subject, it assimilates the properties of its environment by objectifying, or institutionalising itself, and accommodates itself to the world by internalising properties of its environment.

Although it is only through its objectification that we get to know about a subject, a subject is not equal to its objectification; in fact, a subject is alive only to the extent that it opposes its objectification. A trade union, for example, which has no other life than performing the functions set out for it in its industrial agreements, and has no plans to overthrow those agreements, is dead.

This subject-object relation is distinct from and prior to the subject-to-subject relation. For example, you can negotiate with another subject, but you don’t negotiate with an object. Your relation to a bureaucrat or a supermarket is purely instrumental.

The relation of a person to a subject in which they participate, a subject which expresses their own will and aspiration, is different again. For example, we reserve the right to scold a member of our own family that we would not extend to an outsider.[6] Further, within a subject, participation and recognition do not imply equality. In fact, when people start demanding equality within a subject, this is the first sign of its disintegration.[7] Families, unions, parties, companies, social movements, ... are all hierarchical. Nevertheless, modernity continues to generate a contradictory type of egalitarian individualism.


Ethical principles take on the character of moral axioms only once they have become embedded in institutions. The individuation of the notion of subjectivity began with the growth of bourgeois society in the early 16th century. Globalisation and the marketisation of social relations has by now created a firm prejudice in our minds for the equal moral worth of all persons.[8]

But from the Chartists of the 1830s onwards, social movements have aimed to achieve their objectives by broadening the franchise, ultimately leading to the normalisation of universal suffrage.[9] I suggest that it is this institution which has been crucial in creating the illusion of the individual as a sovereign subject. As Axel Honneth said: ‘under the conditions of modern societies, every conception of justice must have an egalitarian character from the start.’ (Fraser 2003)

But with this moral egalitarianism has come enormous differences in wealth and power. The cogenesis of external moral equality and sharpening instrumental inequality is a form of ‘neo-colonialism[10] – the essential problem of our times. I believe that we can shed some light on this contradiction and the location of injustice within it, by the further clarification of some of the basic notions used in Nancy Fraser’s analysis.

Redistributive Justice

We know that redistributive justice is real, because it is objectified in systems of progressive taxation and welfare payments, with which it is co-extensive, that is, on the whole confined to within national borders. The principle is internalised by us all to one degree or another in the conviction none of us should be too poor. But where did this objectification come from?

I contend that ideas of redistributive justice come from the ‘dirty compromise’ made by the elite with, in the first place, the socialist movements of the nineteenth century, demanding the right to organise, and access to the corridors of power, and later with the organised working class in the aftermath of the Second World War. I say ‘dirty compromise,’ because these movements were not essentially campaigns for redistribution of wealth, but for democracy and socialism. The socialist movement is a subject; redistribution may have been a remedy to the strife it caused, but it was never a remedy to its claims of injustice. Redistribution and the absorption of workers’ mutual aid into the welfare state functioned to weaken the socialist movement.

The progressive taxation and transfer payment systems and the corresponding notions of fairness that we share today are not the expression of a movement for redistributive justice, but the internalisation of the principles objectified in the industrial courts, tax offices, welfare payments, etc. – the outcome of settlements made by dominant subjects to demobilise radical subjects[11]. If they are the expression of the aspirations and needs of any subject, it is not that of the poor, but that of the better-off, for whom these institutions provide social peace.

None of this is to deny that redistribution is a real ‘paradigm of justice,’ as it would have to be, after more than a century of regulated wage determination, progressive taxation and welfare systems.[12]


The position in relation to the recognition movements is different. Despite its use by Fichte and Hegel and in international law in the early 19th century, the modern notion of Recognition originates in the movements of those who objected to the post-World War Two settlement I referred to earlier.[13] Firstly, the National Liberation Movements, then the Civil Rights Movement in the US, and the Women’s Movement. These movements objected to being excluded from the deal between the ruling elites and the Soviet Union and organised workers’ movement; they demanded recognition and inclusion as equals in this deal.

These movements were objectified in various institutions from the United Nations to anti-discrimination laws, multiculturalism and so forth.

Like the tax and welfare institutions, these objectifications are not to be equated with the social movements themselves, but the various ‘anti-discrimination’ and ‘affirmative action’ institutions still provide a real basis for moral philosophers to adopt ‘recognition’ as a principle of justice.

However, Nancy Fraser (Fraser 2003) is entirely right, in my view, in rejecting Axel Honneth’s proposal to subsume all radical subjects under the concept of recognition. Historically, recognition arose specifically as a claim made by those who were excluded, in opposition to the deal made with the workers’ movement. To re-cast the workers’ movement as a recognition movement is to do exactly what the participants in social movements most object to: dismissing their specific subjectivity, and subsuming it under that of another movement.

Axel Honneth (Fraser 2003) reduces the workers movement to a shared psychological condition, but millions of workers feeling misrecognition makes a sociological category but not a social movement, not a subject. But I don’t agree that the socialist movement can be subsumed under ‘redistribution,’ reducing the workers’ struggle to being one remedy amongst others for distributive injustice. It would be more true to say that distributive justice was a remedy to having a socialist movement.[14]

Since about the 1950s, the workers’ movement has been overtaken by other radical subjects whose claims also cannot be reduced to claims for a greater share of resources for themselves. These include the peace movement, the environmental movement and the recent anti-corporate movement. These ‘radical subjects’ provide many of today’s social justice activists. What they all have is a critique of the entire social system, rather than a demand for inclusion. Such radical subjects must be central to the concerns of moral philosophers if the normative foundations of their theories are to have empirical backing.[15]

Nancy Fraser’s multi-perspectivalism provides a social-theoretical orientation in the contemporary moral terrain, by correlating the main coordinates in the objectified ethical landscape resulting from this history.

However, the importance of ‘parity of participation’ is that it engages the subjective element.


Radical subjects do not seek parity of participation of their members in the dominant culture. They aim to overthrow the dominant subjectivity. But their history is inseparable from the movement for democracy.[16] The Chartists and early communists believed that their objectives could be achieved by the extension of democracy. What they achieved was universal individual suffrage, but this has proved to be problematic. The claim for ‘majority rule’ is objectified in still-unsatisfactory arrangements, which leave the majority excluded from the corridors of power. This objectification deserves to be critiqued in the same way that the post-war settlement left the majority excluded and was critiqued under the banner of recognition.

Nancy Fraser’s concept of parity of participation has attractions therefore because it is a formulation of the requirements of justice which engages with the aspirations of both those who see their oppression as rooted in political economy and those who see their oppression as rooted in cultural discrimination, and those who see their oppression as rooted in democratic structures.

The problem is that ‘equal voice,’ conceived in terms of individuals, leaving out of account the construction of subjectivity, fails in its emancipatory function. Further, the fragmentation of the social fabric brought about by the commodification and individuation of social relations is denying more and more individuals any semblance of self-determination.

Democratic justice needs a form which accords with the principle of the moral equality of all persons, without presupposing the atomisation of humanity, without declaring the individual a sovereign subject.


Let us take it that persons are bearers of moral rights, not subjects or citizens, but persons, children as well as adults, felons, men and women alike.[17]

Let us further take it that the content of post-traditional justice is to be determined dialogically. But if we recognise that ‘subject’ is not equal to ‘person’, then the meaning of ‘dialogical’ is indeterminate: dialogue between who? Let us be clear that we have neither populations divided into mutually exclusive independent ‘collective subjects,’ nor 6 billion autonomous individual subjects. Subjectivity is multiply determined, overlapping and mediated. But the majority of the world is denied effective subjectivity altogether. People can have a say in their own life only by participation in forms of collective self-determination, including education and health services, politics and so on. The worst injustice in today’s social arrangements is precisely the exclusion of the majority of people from participation in the determination of their own lives.

The notion of parity of participation is enormously valuable and Nancy Fraser is right in suggesting that it has traction across different folk paradigms of justice, and it could be argued that it constitutes the essential idea of the radical subjects which have fought for extension of the franchise. The problem is that this demand is still objectified unsatisfactorily.

If the idea behind universal suffrage is that people have a right to a critical voice in the forums where their lives are really determined, then isn’t it clear that existing democratic institutions fail to deliver this? Isn’t this an injustice?[18]

We must retain the universalist principle that persons are bearers of rights, but incorporate the fact that autonomy is exercised by participation in social subjectivity. (Whether one extends solidarity to what someone does with that subjectivity is another question.[19])

For example, we recognise the rights of a child, but we know that children are not yet subjects in their own right. Likewise, multiculturalism does not legitimate female circumcision, because we suspect that the female victims are not genuinely free to choose.[20] But we cannot demand that ‘parity of participation’ extend to relations within a subjectivity.[21] If I freely choose to join the ALP or the Catholic Church, where I will have no say at all on matters of doctrine, that’s my choice; it is not a question of justice. If the Pope or the Party leader is silenced, then an justice is done to me, because it is my voice which is thereby silenced. On the whole, liberal egalitarian autonomy is not the norm within the ‘thick ethos’ of an in-group or habitus, but prevails only in the ‘thin ethos’ of the broader civil society.[22]

But the greater problem of justice is that so many people do not participate in subjectivity at all[23], that is to say, they do not have a critical voice in decisions which affect their own life.

By ‘critical voice’ I do not refer to an individual’s personal voice. Effective participation is always mediated and issues of justice are rarely raised only by those individuals who are suffering,[24] but the majority of people do not have a voice where it matters to them. Having a vote in a federal election means very little to the majority of people. The greatest generators of injustice are social arrangements which frame people out of decisions about their own lives and thereby consign them to poverty – for being born on the wrong side of a border or the wrong side of the tracks.


It goes beyond the scope of this short talk to outline a suitable conception of subjectivity. My point is only that such a conception – incorporating the mortal individual, their particular on-going social ties, and the universal cultural-historical constructs they share – is required in order to construct a viable concept of democratic justice, that is, ‘participatory parity,’ in which having a critical voice in decisions affecting your own life is normative.

‘Parity of participation’ can lead to an effective dialogic framing of justice, which avoids the sectarian threat posed by a ‘master’ theory of justice. But instead of relying on the utopian ideal of the sovereign individual, a developed notion of subjectivity is needed. Such an approach would link up with the new paradigm of justice found in the anti-corporatist and anti-war movements of today, continuing the project which began in the streets of Paris and the industrial towns of England in the 1830s.

Nancy Fraser has provided one of the richest sources of perspectives into modern problems of justice we have seen for some time. My proposal is to introduce an additional nuance, namely a more developed notion of subjectivity and its distinction from objectification, into the domain she has opened up.


Blunden, A., 2003. For Ethical Politics, Heidelberg Press.

Bourdieu, P., 1984. Distinctions, Harvard University Press.

Fichte, F., 2000. Foundations of Natural Right, ed., Frederick Neuhouser, Cambridge UP.

Fraser, N. and Honneth, A., 2003. Redistribution or Recognition? A political-philosophical exchange, Verso.

Fraser, N., 2000. Rethinking Recognition, New Left Review, May 2000.

Hegel G. W. F., 1971. Hegel’s Philosophy of mind: being part three of the Encyclopedia of the philosophical sciences (1830), translated from the German by William Wallace. Clarendon Press.

Hegel G. W. F., 1952. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Translated by T. M. Knox. Oxford UP.

Hegel G.W.F., 1979. System of Ethical Life and First Philosophy of Spirit. Edited and translated by T.M. Knox, SUNY Press.

Heller, A., 1987. Beyond Justice, Blackwell.

Leontyev, A.N., 1977. Activity and Consciousness, Progress Publishers.

Marx, K. 1996. Max-Engels Collected Works Volume 35 (Capital), Lawrence & Wishart.

Nkrumah K., 1966. Neo-Colonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism, International Publishers.

Sen, A., 2000. Development as Freedom, Oxford UP.


1. For example, ‘what requires recognition ... is not group-specific identity but the status of individual group members as full partners in social interaction.’ (Fraser 2000). That is, the claim is formulated by a group, or misapplied to the group by the dominant culture, but it is individual members who need to be full partners. There are therefore two agencies involved – the individual and the group, but the relationship between these two agencies is taken for granted.

2. I should add that among the various writers in this debate, Nancy Fraser is probably the least guilty of this unclarity. My criticism is directed at her, because her approach seems the most likely to provide the opportunity to overcome this unclarity. In Axel Honneth’s case, the failure in conception of subjectivity is catastrophic, in my opinion, marked as it is by an unbridgeable gulf between an individual subject conceived in psychological terms, and social action conceived in abstract-general terms.

3. Originally, in the 14th century, ‘subject’ meant ‘under some obligation to a social superior’ and later specifically to being the subject of a Monarch. It came to mean that which carried attributes of any kind, not just obligations to a feudal superior. In the early 1600s, it took on the modern grammatical meaning of a ‘subject’ whose attributes are expressed in a ‘predicate.’ But verbs can be active as well as passive. The subject thus became the doer of the verb.

Descartes used the word ‘subject’ to mean the thinking and cognising agent in which all ideas inhere and to which all representation and practice are attributed, as opposed to an outside, material world.

Kant continued the posing of the problem in terms of a reasoning and experiencing mind, an individual, organising its perceptions of the material world, and gave ‘subject’ its modern ethical meaning, as the moral agent. Kant’s subject transcended its specific cultural and historical location.

Hegel did not begin from the posing of the problem in terms of mind vs matter. Human culture develops, and consciousness develops along with all the artefacts and practices, languages, art, industry and so on, while the mental and material are just two sides of one and the same activity.

So with Hegel, ‘subject’ meant the self-conscious, self-legislating social actor which is both corporate and individual. His basic unit of analysis is a ‘self-conscious system of activity’ which from the very beginning has individual, universal and particular aspects, as well as being duplicated as both ideal and material.

4. In Hegel’s conception, the subject that develops historically and logically through a process of differentiation; the individual is both producer of the activity of ‘collective subjects’ and the product of their differentiation. It also highlights the role of cultural mediation in individual freedom which offers an alternative to the abstract intersubjectivism of Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth.

5. In the early parent-child relation, the child cannot know the parent as another subject like itself; its first task is to differentiate itself from an objective world, and only later does the child realise that that objective world contains other subjects. Likewise, states do not treat other states as subjects like themselves until to compelled to do so by those others; in the beginning other states or cultures are just part of the outside world.

6. Similarly, the aphorism, associated with Kant and Rousseau, that we see as binding only those rules which we can be deemed to have participated in making, has a corollary that it is only such rules that we have a right to challenge.

7. Membership of a subject represents a form of moral equality which has ancient provenance; but liberal, individualistic autonomy is not generally the basis of such equality. Membership of a subject infers an equality which requires that an individual be treated according to their station, without prejudice or favour, and according to the rules of that subject. Equals should be treated equally. Agnes Heller has written on the contrast between the ‘thin ethos’ within which moral egalitarianism prevails, and the ‘thick ethos’ within institutions where the ‘master and servant’ and other hierarchical relations prevail.

8. “The secret of the expression of value, namely, that all kinds of labour are equal and equivalent ... cannot be deciphered until the notion of human equality has already acquired the fixity of a popular prejudice. This, however, is possible only in a society in which the great mass of the produce of labour takes the form of commodities.” Marx, Capital, Volume I, Chapter 1.

9. The evidence from the history of philosophy and language is that the shift of subjectivity from collective to individual dates from the early 17th century, associated with the rise of bourgeois society. My contention is that the collapse of forms of collective subjectivity, leading to the notion of individual sovereignty, is a much more recent shift.

10. The notion of ‘neo-colonialism’ which we owe to Che Guevara and Kwame Nkrumah, describes a form of domination which rests on recognition of the formal equality of nation-states, and on the ability of imperialist nations to use the world market to dominate others. I take this as a metaphor for the predominant forms of suffering within modern capitalist countries.

11. In For Ethical Politics (Blunden 2003) I trace the evolution of the radical subject, under which I include both socialist movements and “recognition” movements as well as the more recent anti-corporate movement.

12. Nancy Fraser has expanded the concept of ‘redistribution’ to include all those conceptions of injustice as rooted in political economy; wealth distribution and revolutionary socialism are seen then as simply affirmative or transformative remedies for the same injustice of maldistribution rooted in the political economy. A century of bureaucratic incorporation of workers’ mutual aid into the state has created a genuine social basis for such an amalgam. But because I see this incorporation as one of the main causes of injustice today, I must oppose reproducing this amalgam in theory. So long as the workers’ movement was buoyant and rising, the incorporation of the workers’ movement into the state was an expression, not a negation of its self-consciousness. But as Nancy Fraser points out, ‘non-reformist reforms’ which are productive in a favourable context, go feral when the institution ceases to be an expression of a living subjectivity and becomes simply an institution.

13. Use of the term ‘recognition’ in philosophy dates from Fichte in 1796 (Fichte 2000). Arguing against Kant’s deduction of Right on purely logical grounds, Fichte showed that a person becomes aware of themselves as a free agent only through external evidence of their freedom in the external world, and this is provided by an already-free agent who recognises them as a free person. Hegel held that Fichte deduced the State from the Ego, rather than conversely. This Hegel achieved through the logical-historical differentiation of the individual from society.

The term originates, however, in 14th century Scottish law, referring to the resumption of unused land from a vassal by a feudal superior. The word is derived from the same roots as ‘cognate,’ co + gnatus (born), meaning related by birth, akin; thus ‘recognise’ essentially meant ‘bring back into the family estate.’ It was later generalised to mean the registering of something as already known and derivative usages. In the sixteenth century, ‘recognition’ was transferred from being the act of the ruler, to mean the acknowledgment by a subject of a ruler’s rights over them. By the early 19th century, it was used in international law to refer to the explicit acknowledgment of the rights of a state by another state. Thus, its original usage was only in relation to corporate or social subjects, not individuals. Hegel used the term Recognition [Anerkennens] in connection with the interaction between independent social subjects.

The concept of recognition did not figure largely for a century after Hegel’s death, during which the dominant paradigm of politics was class struggle – something unknown to Hegel in its modern sense. In 1937, Alexandre Kojève gave a series of lectures in which he built a philosophical position exclusively around Hegel’s ‘master-slave dialectic.’ After World War Two, this notion was picked up by French intellectuals and through them, the national liberation movements, and via the civil rights movement, was introduced into the Women’s Liberation Movement. Recognition thereby became the key concept for the whole series of cultural and political struggles sometimes referred to as the ‘new social movements,’ in contrast to notions of class struggle.

Later, ‘recognition’ moved into the psychological register, somewhat closer to the sense given the term by Fichte, as a necessary condition for the development of identity. Nancy Fraser has proposed instead a ‘status model’ in which recognition means participation in the dominant culture without discrimination, locating both recognition and misrecognition in structural elements of the wider society, rather than in the activity of the subject itself.

I use the term ‘recognition’ in the historically specific sense as a relation generated by the post-war social movements. I share with Nancy Fraser the view that it is properly regarded as a category referring to the status order rather than the political economy, and to the ethical, not to the psychological, register, but I see recognition as essentially a relation of the subject to other subjects, not of a relationship between an individual and the social structure.

14. Honneth’s attempt to develop the concept of recognition through three stages fails because of his individualist-psychological concept of subjectivity. His attempt to subsume human need, in the main provided via the economic division of labour, under ‘love’ is unconvincing to say the least; the third category of ‘merit’, i.e., monetary reward, is untenable as a category of psychology. But at the social-political level, Honneth knows only abstract-general collectivities, not subjects, and it is only subjects which can claim recognition.

15. ‘The grounding norms and the value premises of both the philosophical theory and the ideal model of the best possible socio-political world cannot be termed ‘empirical’, but they must have, and indeed do have, an empirical ‘backing’. There must be at least some people committed to the very values, and guided by the very norms, which constitute the ‘normative foundation’ of the theory and the ideal model of the best possible socio-political model. ... The ‘empirical backing’ may be understood as a bet, ... the philosopher bets on ... actors of the present committed to the same value premises and norms in their actions, ... life-styles ... in which the future society, ... a good society, must be grounded.’ (Heller 1987)

16. Babeuf’s 1796 ‘Manifesto of Equals’ explicitly rejected equalisation of property in favour of equality of rights. The Barnsley Manifesto of 1838 makes a claim for redistribution of wealth, though is not restricted to that; the People’s Charter of 1839 makes no claim for redistribution of wealth at all and is exclusively concerned with democratic reforms; August Blanqui’s 1832 defence speech, the earliest statement of the aims of the first communists, is more concerned with exploitation than inequality, and like Marx and the German communists, is clearly looking to socialism rather than affirmative redistribution and clearly seeking transformations in the political sphere as a matter of principle, not just instrumentally. Marquis de Condorcet may be the founder of redistributive justice, but brilliant as he was, he anticipated later institutions, rather than expressing contemporary social movements.

17. The People’s Charter of 1839, for example, specifically excluded foreigners, the insane, felons, women and people under 21. Other documents of the kind, such as the Declaration of the Rights of Man made similar exclusions. The extension of rights to children and the insane are not regarded as moral agents, but modern consciousness extends rights to them nonetheless.

18. This injustice is not confined to a ‘political sphere’ analytically distinguishable from the political economy or cultural arrangements. The kind of injustices which I see as being picked up in the mooted third, ‘political dimension’ of Nancy Fraser’s conception of justice are issues like proportional representation, unequal size of electorates, age qualification for the vote, payment of representatives, limitation of election costs, etc.

19. A person has a right to be a fascist just as much as she has a right to religious and sexual freedom, but they do not have the right to act fascistically. I.e., a person has a right to participate in a subjectivity of their choice, but the question of whether solidarity is extended to the activity of that subject is not given by right, but is voluntarily extended or withheld by other subjects. That is, we suppress the fascist subject, but do not to deny the fascist person their fascist beliefs. This roughly corresponds to the Voltairean maxim.

20. Nancy Fraser (Fraser 2003) opposes female genital mutilation on the grounds that it harms the victim’s ‘parity of participation’ in enjoyment of sex. But such an interpretation opens ‘parity of participation’ to an infinite scope of meaning. I presume that ‘parity of participation’ means ‘... in the determination of the subject’s own life.’

21. To demand the observance of ‘parity of participation’ within a subjectivity, with respect to individuals, is to impose on it the thin ethos of modernity. The demand for ‘parity of participation’ in respect to individuals within a subject may be a sign of the break-up of that subjectivity, and the intention of the agents to assert rights against what was formerly an expression of and vehicle for their own subjectivity. Such a demand is actually paradigmatic of the fragmentation and destruction of social ties by neo-liberal capitalism.

22. C.f Agnes Heller’s thick and thin ethos, Pierre Bourdieu’s habitus and public culture, Hegel’s Subjective Spirit and Objective Spirit. All these writers are talking about the same dichotomy.

23. More precisely, poverty and maginalisation means that a person’s subjectivity is isolated from the broader culture. An individual who participates in a subjectivity which is isolated is in much the same position as an individual who participates in no subjectivity at all. Social disadvantage is much the same in a small rural community as it is in a poor urban suburb.

24. In using the term ‘critical voice’ I allude to Amartya Sen (Sen 2000). I find the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu (Bourdieu 1984) very useful here, especially how he has demonstrated that ‘public opinion,’ is a construct of abstract general forms of information-gathering, which by-pass the actually modes of opinion-formation and social action determination.