Solidarity in Europe and the World
We think of solidarity as “the ability to engage in cooperative activity to strive for common goals, and a sense of unity and bonding” (Jeffries, 2014, p. 7). Following Mbembe’s lead, solidarity entails the mutual recognition of our common vulnerability and finiteness and in turn creates a basis for dealing with it.
In the multi-layered network of structures of living together, solidarity can find an expression at different levels and in a variety of intensities. The extent of solidarity that can serve as basis for collective action also arguably varies with the sources of vulnerability. These may vary from the human condition itself, in line with Mbembe’s cosmopolitan argument, to less inclusive definitions of “we” based e.g. on pre-existing “bonds which unite men with another”, as Durkheim (in Lukes, 1972, p. 139) or Sen (2009) would argue, or constitutional bonds, in line with Rawls or Habermas (Banting & Kymlicka, 2017, pp. 5-47, p. 3-4).
Historically, solidarity has come to be centrally anchored at the level of the nation-state, where the “nation” defines a “we” that claims to rule itself (Appiah, 2018, p.147) and that therefore also can both invoke national sovereignty to fend off external influences and, internally, justify the enforcement of particular entitlements and duties. Consequently, the predominant role of supra-national structures has been seen as merely to support national-level structures in fulfilling this role. This tradition is deeply rooted in European Humanism (Grotius in Nussbaum, 2019, pp. 105-55), which has been a rich source of inspiration not just to reflect on solidarity but also to justify a model of civilization imposed through colonization or other strategies of western domination.
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