Diminishing solidarity

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 1 (3):355-373 (1998)
Abstract
Cases of acts of solidarity can be divided into at least two groups. Solidarity in a narrow sense of the term refers to what I label project-related solidarity; it is prevalent in the modern world at least as much as it was found in past worlds. In contrast, the philosophical discussions of "solidarity" refer to the altruism and mutuality typically found in close human relationships. This concept of "solidarity" is theoretically unfruitful and even misleading. I propose to abandon the term "solidarity" in order to regain sight of the individual phenomena. When these are taken into consideration, a return to the community is no longer called for. I rather argue that modern societies are perfectly capable of inspiring feelings of loyalty and civic virtues, though not by resorting to the old sources of "solidarity". Modern forms such as free associations, participation and, not least, the existence of a liberal society itself are sufficient. Public discussions of solidarity are additionally distorted by frequent appeals to a normative sense of the term. The argument put forward in this collectivist context that an obligation of solidarity results from gratefulness to the community is not found to be convincing. Individuals are not obliged to be grateful to a nation in a way that would be normatively binding.
Keywords community  family  personal relationships  liberalism  solidarity  social cohesion  welfare state
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