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Classifying practices: Representations, capitals and recognitions

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Charles Taylor (1994) and Nancy Fraser (1995) document the move in the 1990s away from a class politics based on concepts of exploitation to a politics based on the ‘right to recognition’ by different identity groups who present cultural domination as the fundamental injustice.1 This claim for recognition has been generated by groups who feel proud to be recognized as ‘something’ (insert as appropriate categories of sexuality, race, nationality). This enables the dispersal of claims for redistribution based on structural inequalities into a movement for identity politics. As many feminist critiques have shown (see Parmar, 1989; Probyn, 1993a) identity politics often restricts political struggle to one singular difference which is promoted as an ‘authentic subjective experience’ to the detriment of connections to other differences and the making invisible of inequality. This shift from redistributive to recognition politics has significant problems for the articulation of class and has been part of the reason why class has disappeared from the feminist agenda.2 The ability to claim and promote an ‘identity’ is often based on access to sites of representation such as higher education and the media; the working class (women and men, black and white)3 have always had restricted access to where these claims are most frequently made.