Solidarity in the European Union: Fundamental Value or “Empty Signifier”

  • Andreas GrimmelEmail author


The chapter by Andreas Grimmel explores the practical dimension of solidarity as one of the EU’s core values. More concretely, the chapter scrutinises the recurring use of the concept of solidarity and how it is mirrored by corresponding practices in the EU. By arguing that even though there is a link between the concept and the corresponding actions that define the meaning of solidarity, the density of this link cannot be measured by relying on either the textual or the practical side. Rather, both have to come together to fill solidarity as a concept and value with life and give it a central role in the integration process. The argument is developed by building on the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein and discussing three of his most influential concepts: meaning in use, rule-following and private language. The author claims that such a Wittgensteinian perspective has the potential to arrive at an understanding of solidarity that discloses a major shortcoming of the value in the context of the EU—namely, a lack of commonality in terms of what solidarity practically implies, i.e. what it means to act in solidarity in actual cases. It will be further maintained that the only way to overcome this shortcoming is to follow a somewhat pragmatic agenda in applying the value in concrete cases and, by doing so, making its common meaning explicit.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute for European IntegrationEuropa-Kolleg HamburgHamburgGermany

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