What significance should the subjective experiences of poor people have in a normative philosophical critique of poverty? In this paper, we take up this question and answer it by looking at two different normative theories: the capability approach of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum and the recognition approach of Axel Honneth. While Sen and Nussbaum are largely quite reluctant toward the role of subjective experiences of poor people, the recognition approach views them as central for its social critique of poverty. We will defend the thesis that a more inclusive view on the role of the subjects of suffering and injustice is needed, that such subjective experiences and the unique first-hand knowledge it produces cannot be substituted by objective criteria, while such criteria are needed to bolster – and in some cases also criticize – the poverty knowledge of poor people.
© 2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston