The uses of Solidarity
Cain Shelley (LSE)
Callum MacRae (The Graduate Center, CUNY)
Keynote Speaker: Carol Gould
Solidarity is routinely evoked in public debates on a wide range of issues, from the politics of public health and welfare provision, to questions surrounding climate change and mass migration. For example, responding to the news that the official global death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic had passed 2 million people, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, recently decried the fact that ‘science is succeeding – but solidarity is failing’ and called on the world to ‘act with far greater solidarity’. Despite the prevalence of talk of solidarity in public discourse, however – and a growing interest in the concept among political theorists and philosophers – a number of major open questions remain regarding the basic shape and utility of the concept. This workshop aims to put this oft-invoked concept centre stage, and invites contributions which investigate questions such as the following:
- In what ways exactly does solidarity represent a conceptual tool for contributing fresh perspectives on existing debates in political theory? Can solidarity be given a proper place in political thought within the broad framework of contemporary liberalism? In what ways might solidarity challenge that framework, and can such challenges be met? What exactly can deploying the concept of solidarity bring to normative theorizing that discussion of freedom, equality, justice and so on, cannot?
- What is the relationship between institutions and policies advocated by contemporary social justice theorists – workplace democracy, liberal socialism, basic income, etc. – and bonds of solidarity? Is greater solidarity a precondition for the realization of these schemes? What political practices, collective agents and institutions might foster or obstruct solidarity? What role is or ought to be played by deliberative discussion, community organizing, political partisanship, the news media, and so on?
- What sort of concept is solidarity, anyway? Is it a largely sociological concept, picking out a particular type of empirical phenomenon? Or does it make sense to speak of solidarity as a value or ideal – in the way that we might speak of justice, freedom or equality? How is solidarity related to and differentiated from concepts such as trust, empathy, collective action, reciprocity, altruism, fellow-feeling, mutual aid, civic friendship, fraternity, and so on?
- Under what conditions, and among which social groups, might solidarity be valuable or desirable? If it is of value, is it of inherent, or only instrumental value? Are there duties, rights, or obligations of solidarity? And if so, what is their nature and in what conditions do they apply?
- What does it mean to ‘act in solidarity with others’? What value, if any, does such action have – and why? Oft-cited forms of solidarity include class solidarity, black solidarity, feminist solidarity, national solidarity, transnational solidarity and neighbourhood solidarity. Are these solidary relations necessarily in tension with one another, or might these differing bonds network together?
- Finally, how might empirical work from sociology, social psychology, anthropology, and so on, help to inform theorizing about solidarity? And what figures in the history of political thought should inform attempts to (re-)theorize solidarity?
If you want to apply, please submit an abstract (max. 500 words) of your paper prepared for blind review by the 17th of May. All abstracts and enquiries about the workshop should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. We aim to allow for presentations of roughly 30 minutes, with 30 minutes of Q&A. The workshop will run online, and we are very much open to being flexible with scheduling to allow for people to participate across different time zones. With your completed abstract, please also let us know the time zone from which you intend to present, and any dates or times you would be unable to attend within the workshop’s provisional date range.
Please note that we especially welcome and encourage abstracts from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in political theory.
Registration will open in May. All participants must register in order to attend.
This year’s fees are:
Graduate students, retirees, and unaffiliated attendees: £20
Non-speaker/non-presenting attendees: £15
A small number of bursaries (for graduate students only) are available. Please state in your application to our panel whether you intend to apply for a bursary.