This introduction provides the motivation for the development of a new theory of solidarity. It defines and explores three central concepts: solidarity, democracy, and conflict. In doing so, it positions the central arguments of the book in the tradition of critical theory and radical democratic thought.
This chapter begins with a rumination on the possibility of solidarity today. While solidarity was once a normative concept that structured much of social life from religious practice to marriage to labor, it has since been reduced to the barest of ideas. Mere cooperation and ethical consumption stand in for a robust solidarity that would structure the entirety of sociality. I develop a critical genealogy of the marginalization and reduction of solidarity in democratic life, beginning with Reagan- and Thatcher-era individualism, and trace the contours of political thought that take such individualism as granted. The chapter concludes by arguing that many contemporary theories of solidarity are lacking in social elements and focus solely on moralistic or individualistic elements of the concept.
I argue that solidarity is two relations: a relation of individuals within the group to the whole group, and a relation of the group to the outside. In each case, solidarity functions nonexclusively. A formative value of the group is to exclude as few people as possible. The nonexclusive nature of solidarity is at once the source of conflict and the source of its democratic character. This chapter uses concrete examples of democratic and feminist solidarity to develop a theory that attends to solidarity as a set of two relations, as well as attending to the differing character of those relations. It does so by explicating the oppositional-emancipatory and unifying-democratic aspects of solidary groups.
This chapter develops a systematic distinction between solidarity organizations aimed at domination and those aimed at building a more democratic and liberated world. It argues that melancholia is the basis of a psychic life of domination; as such, it serves as the foundational basis of solidarity organizations that fail to fulfill the democratic possibilities of solidarity. The chapter contends that dominative groups function by virtue of a socially imbricated psychic solidarity. They tend to be poor at developing material forms of solidarity, due to the aim of domination: antisocial solidarity requires that eventually the group begins to dominate its own members, thus excluding them and undermining the social features necessary to maintain solidarity.
This chapter argues that solidarity has largely been ignored in contemporary political thought due to the rending of political philosophy from social theory. I trace the idea of solidarity as conflict back through to Enlightenment thinkers via the idea of an unsocial sociability. I then read the idea forward to the Frankfurt School, in the work of Georg Simmel. I argue that given our current social context, conflict is a constituent feature of democratic social life and organization. To provide an exemplar, I discuss the history of LGBT rights in Canada as they were historically advanced by labor organizations, even when those organizations were largely composed of homophobic members.
This chapter responds to the primary objection to agonistic theories of democracy: that if there is no enemy, the enemy must be invented It argues against the notion that it is possible to generate an ideal democratic theory, largely because democracy is a theory and practice of politics for a nonideal world. The theory becomes distorted in idealized considerations because they do not reflect the conditions for which the theory and practice are designed. I argue that while the theory of solidarity presented in this book takes conflict to be a necessary feature of solidaristic practices, that is because conflict is a constitutive feature of a nonideal world.
This conclusion applies the theory developed in this book to the wave of unrest in the summer of 2020. It shows how solidarity groups can form on the basis of a desire for liberation as well as for a desire for domination. It concludes with final thoughts on the "infighting" in solidarity movements.