Applying the Idea of Solidarity to Europe

  • Ulrich SteinvorthEmail author


The chapter by Ulrich Steinvorth deals with the application of the concept of solidarity to Europe. He starts by analysing solidarity as a virtue, considering individuals who have similar goals, are on the same legal level, reject unnecessary domination and authoritarianism, demand equality, presume fraternity and help each other when one of them is in a plight that none of them is responsible for. Steinvorth argues that this implies that while justice requires me to compensate for a damage D suffered by B only if I am responsible for D, solidarity requires me to help B—as long as I have the resources to help—even if neither B nor I are responsible for D. However, Durkheim showed that, nonetheless, solidarity and justice are compatible, because without solidarity individual liberty will be defeated by authoritarianism, which will always prove stronger than any single individual fighting alone for their liberty. Yet without individual liberty and responsibility, solidarity will degenerate into parasitism. With regard to the contemporary problems in the field, Steinvorth points out that solidarity has been appealed to from the outset of the European unification, but the concept was obscured by (a) the idea that the subjects of solidarity can be nations rather than individuals and (b) the failure to call upon solidarity in a crisis that no member is responsible for. The latter scenario meant that there was insufficient help for the Mediterranean states that were the place of first arrival for most refugees, whereas the former has meant that European unification is most often measured according to whether it helps nations rather than individuals, thus neglecting the interests of individuals and the unemployment that economic unification causes. To prevent this, Steinvorth argues not only for measures to recognize rising unemployment as something that can be good rather than evil (e.g. by introducing a basic income) but also for taking subsidiarity seriously by promoting regionalization and secessionism and decentralizing European administrations.


  1. Archibugi, D. (2008). The global commonwealth of citizens. Toward a cosmopolitan democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barber, B. (2013). If Mayors ruled the world: Dysfunctional nations, rising cities. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bayertz, K. (Hg.). (1998). Solidarität. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  4. Caney, S. (2005). Justice beyond borders: A global political theory. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Durkheim, E. (1893). De la division du travail social. Paris: Alcan.Google Scholar
  6. Engelhardt, H.T., Jr. (1998). Solidarität: Postmoderne Perspektiven. In K. Bayertz (Hg.), Solidarität (pp. 430–452). Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  7. Frey, B. (2003). Flexible citizenship for a global society. Politics, Philosophy and Economics, 2, 93–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Frey, B. (2012). Flexible government for a globalized world. In D. Archibugi, M. Koenig-Archibugi, & R. Marchetti (Eds.), Global democracy (pp. 150–159). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Hazony, Y. (2016, September 6). Nationalism and the future of western freedom. Mosaic.Google Scholar
  10. Metz, K. H. (1998). Solidarität und Geschichte. Institutionen und sozialer Begriff der Solidarität in Westeuropa im 19. Jahrhundert. In K. Bayertz (Hg.), Solidarität (pp. 172–194). Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  11. Norris, P. (2000). Global governance and cosmopolitan citizens. In J. S. Nye Jr. & J. D. Donahue (Eds.), Governance in a globalizing world (pp. 155–177). Washington, DC: Brookings.Google Scholar
  12. Slaughter, A. M. (2005). A new world order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Steinvorth, U. (2014). Capitalism, unemployment, and basic income. Homo Oeconomicus, 31(1–2), 125–143.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HamburgHamburgGermany

Personalised recommendations