Saturday, March 15, 2014

on solidarity: culturally-based, not politically

part of Habermas and the EU

The M-W Unabridged Dictionary defines ‘solidarity’ as one might expect: “an entire union of interests and responsibilities in a group : community of interests, objectives, or standards.”

This is not a primarily-political notion, to which Habermas confines the term in his Athens lecture (properly, given his context). Indeed, the English dictionary’s exemplar is Joseph Conrad: “...solidarity that knits together innumerable hearts.”

In his Athens lecture, he’s concerned to retain the political substance of solidarity by not binding it to thoroughly decontextualized deontological form. But the limited interest occludes attention to the wider reality of solidarity which is the social basis for interest in its political employment and the social basis for sustaining political interest by durably embedding political solidarity in the long-term, lived interests of psychological, cultural, and social life. Depoliticization of persons’ live is not remedied by insistences that solidarity should be more political because there are greatly systemic reasons for stronger political union. Instead, one requires being brought to feel that lifeworld solidarity in the status quo is very importantly not good enough.

In dwelling with the problem of solidarity in Habermas’s Athens lecture, I would want to dwell with the lifeworld knitting, as such, vis-à-vis our interest in union and community (communion?), which is not primarily political. There is an appropriate distance between the communal ground of solidarity and development of that into sustained political motivation. The distance is integral to the lived finitude of most lives, so a derivativeness of sustained political interest reflects that finitude (or life-based degree of interest in political life).

What is the nature of our communal belonging that creates sustained group union, and how can that be sustainably politicized? (This is the converse side of Habermas’s insistence to the SPD elite that national leadership needs to “create” support for greater EU political union.)

Dwelling with this doesn’t, to me, portend undermining Habermas’s designs for EU integration or political internationalism. Yet, a more-culturally based understanding of solidarity (which may be based in ethnolinguistic history and differences, rather than willful nationalism; susceptible to transcultural humanisms, rather than spiritual fundamentalisms?) might fruitfully improve one’s sense of what lifeworld community needs in order to feel critical need for difficult changes in political thinking and in order to work for trans-national community. I think that Habermas’s view can be enriched by cultural-theoretical prospecting, not undermined by it. Yet, one should need to respect the intelligence of a populace that doesn’t yet feel enough need for political union that they will largely support more centralized political control of the economic union.

Martha Nussbaum’s recent Political Emotions may be found important for understanding the “nature” of political solidarity (in a philosophically apt way) in complement to pleas for identification with systemic transnational union. Such pleas can be made more effective through a cultivating of our sense of shared grounds and sense of shared humanity as integral to one’s sense of self or being in the world for the sake of our heirs. (A philosophical review of Nussbaum’s book is here.)

Of course, the distance may be great from “why love matters” in one’s life, through care for Our long-term well-being across generations, to support for large scale projects seeking justice that require greater political union. Yet, we might be drawn into durably loving going the distance?

March 31, 2014

I wrote at the Facebook/Habermas project (somewhat redundantly here, but…): How can solidarity be cultivated? Solidarity cannot be compelled.

Martha Nussbaum's endeavor to enrich a Rawlsian sense of political union—to avoid rationalistic tendencies seen in Rawls’s work—somehow has a complement in an enrichment of a Habermasian appeal for greater transnational European solidarity, but how so is a mystery. Certainly, it’s difficult to understand how Habermas is not rationalistic. (He is not rationalistic, but showing that is elusive.)

Anyway, the informative review of Nussbaum's Political Emotions is useful all the more maybe because the reviewer is European and overtly concerned with comparative aspects between U.S. and European political traditions.

Inasmuch as Nussbaum is “completing” Rawls (which has been claimed of her, I believe), what can that mean for enriching one's understanding of Habermasian solidarity vis-à-vis cultivating strong public support for greater, formalized political union?

Is the reviewer's focus on the libertarian problem informative for thinking about Euro-nationalist disinterest in greater European political union?