Solidarity in Modern Liberal Societies


The question of the relation between the individual and society has recently gathered momentum in the debate on the universality of human rights. Communitarian critics like Charles Taylor -- or more recently Otto Depenheuer -- argue that due to emphases on inalienable rights of individual freedom, solidarity between members of society is vanishing, as people no longer feel strong bonds that tie them together . I will argue against this position, claiming that liberalism based on human rights does not necessarily result in a loss of solidarity. Liberal societies are rather structured by a complex arrangement of different forms of solidarity that permeate every area of social life. This view is in line with Émile Durkheim’s concept of solidarity, as he argues that individual freedom less destroys than creates new bonds of solidarity in modern societies. I will show that the underlying definition of solidarity used by the critics of human rights does not conform to the complexity of pluralistic societies. This is mainly due to the fact that they are based on the idea of a common good, providing one and only moral basis for society. Apart from this perspective of facticity, I will argue on a normative level that using such a mono-dimensional definition of solidarity supports antagonisms between social groups that promote intolerance and social exclusion. Therefore such a way of thinking leads to conflicts rather than to unity as originally intended.

Author Information
Martin Jungkunz, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen/Nürnberg, Germany

Paper Information
Conference: ECSS2014
Stream: Politics

This paper is part of the ECSS2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon