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Parity of esteem and the politics of recognition

Thompson, Simon


Simon Thompson
Associate Professor in Political Theory


This article begins from the premise that, in contemporary conditions of immense cultural, social and ethnic diversity, a just and stable political order must be one in which all citizens are able to enjoy due recognition. In order to determine what form such a politics of recognition must take in practice, the article focuses on the case of Northern Ireland. More specifically, it examines the principle of ‘parity of esteem’ which forms the keystone of the Belfast Agreement of 1998. A detailed examination of this idea is conducted by developing a contrast between it and an alternative principle of ‘due recognition’. It is contended that, despite initial impressions, parity of esteem and due recognition are not direct rivals since they aim to occupy different places in a politics of recognition. To be specific, while the former describes a vertical relationship between state and citizen, the latter depicts a horizontal relationship between citizens themselves. Building on this analysis, it is claimed that this examination of the principle of parity of esteem reveals something interesting and important both about the specific case of Northern Ireland and about the necessary features of a politics of recognition in general.


Thompson, S. (2002). Parity of esteem and the politics of recognition. Contemporary Political Theory, 1(2), 203-220.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jun 1, 2002
Journal Contemporary Political Theory
Print ISSN 1470-8914
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan (part of Springer Nature)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 1
Issue 2
Pages 203-220
Keywords Belfast Agreement, esteem, Northern Ireland, parity, recognition
Public URL
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