Dusk falls on Europe and North America at somewhat different times, and so it should not surprise us if the owl of Minerva adopts different flight paths in the two places. In the work of Axel Honneth, Hegel's long shadow is unmistakable. In Honneth's continental context, it takes the form of a focus on social struggles and conflict, on oppositional social movements and other extra-government social actors. In the work of John Rawls, Hegel's shadow is no less present, though perhaps less noticed. There, however, it takes the form of a focus on social institutions, and in particular, the institutions of government and its agents.
Once we see that these seemingly very different theories have a common root, a possible project of reconciliation, or at least cross-fertilization, presents itself. We can ask how political institutions might be set up so as to be responsive to struggles for recognition, and how such struggles might appeal to such responsiveness. Such questions become particularly urgent in cases where the group struggling for recognition has achieved what I will call “basic respect,” in the form of legal status, and even a measure of social esteem, but are nonetheless still denied what I will call “fully equal respect.” That is, they fail to be recognized by those who maintain power over them as fully co-equal authors of the contours of their mutual relationship.