In Freedom’s Right, Axel Honneth articulates the social freedom of friendship with reference to its institutionalised norms. These action norms, however, are not specific to friendship; they apply to modern intimacy per se. Such non-specificity cannot adequately account for the experience of social freedom in friendship. Addressing this issue, I evaluate friendship as a form of recognition and identify a generative recognition deficit functional to its relational autonomy. Then, taking Honneth’s institutional approach to friendship as a point of departure, I ascertain an institutional deficit that both sustains friendship’s autonomy and constrains the generalisability of its social freedom by way of institutional connectivity to heterosexuality. I suggest that only a differentiating approach to friendship that fathoms its extraordinary position among interpersonal relationships can yield new insights. That done, friendship can in turn provide a prism through which to assess the conceptual approaches deployed in its analysis.
- social freedom