Four Uses of “Solidarity”

  • Kurt Bayertz
Part of the Philosophical Studies in Contemporary Culture book series (PSCC, volume 5)


The term “solidarity” has its roots in the Roman law of obligations. Here the unlimited liability of each individual member within a family or other community to pay common debts was characterized as obligatio in solidum. Since the end of the 18th century, this principle of mutual responsibility between the individual and society, where each individual vouches for the community and the community vouches for each individual, has been generalized beyond the law of obligations context and applied to the field of morality, society and politics.1 “Solidarity” is now comprehended as a mutual attachment between individuals, encompassing two levels: a factual level of actual common ground between the individuals and a normative level of mutual obligations to aid each other, as and when should be necessary. Without clearly acknowledging the difference between the two levels or their relationship to one another, it has repeatedly been supposed that factual common ground is sufficient justification for normative obligations. This supposition has been made easier by the assumption that actual common ground is not simply objective, but has an emotional dimension: from common ground a feeling of obligation thus spontaneously emerges, bridging the gap between what is and what ought to be.


Human Nature Welfare State Social Movement Common Ground Labor Movement 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kurt Bayertz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MünsterGermany

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