Solidarity and Flourishing – a short exchange

Dagmar Wilhelm--see here her video conversation on solidarity with Darian Meacham-- has been consulting her students’ views on the same subject.

Dagmar Wilhelm
25 March 2015
Europe, the Very Idea

Europe, the very idea is a series on the philosophical notion of Europe and what reflection upon it can lend to the sphere of concrete politics.


Student exchange on solidarity and flourishingThanks go to Jake Newman, Lowri Turton, Rebecca Coombes, Joseph Coppin, Daniel Thomas, Kathryn Springett, Christopher Burdett,  Rosemary Fletcher, Jennifer O’Neill, Andrei Solamka, Mathew Roome, Rowan Courtice, Hakon Evjemo-Lekshmanan,  Thomas Drennan, Joseph Tate, Joshua Hipkin, Laura Cavannagh, James Weller, Alexander Wilshaw and Chloe Wilson.

DW: Is Solidarity necessary for flourishing?

J: Solidarity becomes necessary for flourishing upon our entrance into a society. It is possible for a human to flourish in an isolated state of nature, and no solidarity is necessary or even possible in this state. However, as soon as one enters into societal relations and begins communicating actively with others, solidarity becomes a necessary precondition for any person in that situation.

C: Yes, solidarity is necessary for flourishing if the person involved was brought up within society. If hypothetically someone were brought up outside of society in a context which is completely alien to our own, then that person could still achieve flourishing, even if they had no concept of language. Although this conception of flourishing would differ vastly from our own conception, it would still be flourishing for that being in question.

L: What do you mean by society?

JA: Is a family a society?

J: Yes because a family actively requires communication.

JA: So a society is communication between a groups of people?

Jo: Communication is necessary but don’t you also need mutual collaboration?

J: But does mutual collaboration not depend on solidarity?

Jo:  So does that mean we are defining solidarity as mutual collaboration? Well, what else would solidarity be?

D: Solidarity is a feeling of mutual respect for each other in a group.

J: Solidarity is the recognition that other people are also subjects who undergo lived experience.

L: Solidarity is restricted to a group or community I am emotionally bound to, people I care for and trust.  Otherwise we would feel solidarity for everyone. We have to have personal connection with the individuals we are in solidarity with.

J: It is the case that I feel solidarity for every human being on the planet.

L & Jo: Solidarity requires belonging to a community. While you can feel solidarity for someone that you don’t respect it is not enough that one person feels solidarity for everyone; they must be people with similar views coming together to agree on something.

J: The solidarity isn’t there unless you recognise that others are autonomous beings in the same way that you are. If you don’t recognise someone’s autonomy there cannot be any solidarity. Masters and slaves don’t have solidarity. I can feel solidarity with someone that doesn’t recognise my autonomy, but they wouldn’t be in solidarity with me.

D: J, You can’t reduce solidarity to autonomy, but it is a necessary part of solidarity. You also require a mutual respect between the autonomous individuals.

Jo:  But it still requires people with similar views coming together.

L: I agree, solidarity is achieved through a feeling of belonging or home within a group of individuals. Feeling solidarity within the scope of the entire globe is simply unobtainable.

Ja: Do we need to have something in common? I think that we just have to have mutual respect for others and respect that they have an opinion.

L: We need to have some shared interests, some personal connection or common ground.

Is solidarity among strangers possible?

JA: Yes, I can go to a gay pride march and feel solidarity with a bunch of strangers.

D: If the stranger is someone I know absolutely nothing about, then no. If you go to a gay pride march, you already know something about the “strangers” there. You know that you share some values. But if you don’t know anything and possibly don’t share any values, you cannot feel solidarity. 

JA: Maybe there are two types of solidarity: The first type which we can have with anyone. It’s situational. And there is a second one, where we do not have to share the same views but are in relations of mutual respect. When we respect that we each have to offer something – that’s a personal solidarity which is not situational. But in this second type of solidarity you need to know the people and have some connection, some regular personal interaction. The solidarity actually develops from these interactions.

J: I wish to suggest a third type of solidarity, this being an abstract form of solidarity that can persist through death. When I read a brilliant writer, I have Camus in mind in particular, and feel as though his/her words perfectly describe and understand my lived experience, I feel a sense of solidarity that cannot possibly be mutual, other than in an abstract sense. That is to say that I can read Camus’ writing and judge from this that he would have respected my subjectivity, had we existed at the same time.

What is flourishing ?

Jo: Flourishing is just being the best version of yourself.

K: Flourishing and solidarity have a ‘reflective form’ within the confines of a communicative action and a societal consensus. It is through the application of a “discourse principle” which enables us to demand and provide justification for our claims in common discourse that we build relations of solidarity with other participants. It also in these discourses that we form a conception of flourishing (and develop our autonomy). This discourse principle that we mutually recognize and respect our autonomy and particularity (i.e. the degree to which we are all different, unique individuals). Such a discourse leads to open communication, which the realisation of solidarity and flourishing requires.

Ja: Flourishing is dependent on solidarity, but solidarity cannot exist without flourishing.

J: Flourishing is consequent upon solidarity, but Solidarity could not be defined as such without some form of flourishing to aim towards.

L: I would argue that flourishing requires a degree of self-awareness, and self-awareness cannot be achieved without some form of community and relations of solidarity. So in that respect solidarity is required for flourishing.


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