THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Few Thoughts on Solidarity

While researching an upcoming book on economic personalism we delved a little more deeply into the subject of solidarity than we had previously.  This is natural, for solidarity and personalism are inextricably linked with the social doctrine of Pope Pius XI on which the Just Third Way is, in part, based.

Louis O. Kelso
Economic personalism as understood in the Just Third Way integrates the insights of Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler in the area of finance and, most importantly, the principles of economic justice with the social doctrine of Pius XI.  The three principles of economic justice are:
·      Participation or participative justice,
·      Distribution or distributive justice, and
·      Social justice, or the principle of feedback and correction when participative justice and distributive justice get out of balance.
As we said, however, today we’re interested in solidarity, which is more than just a “feel good” word.  In the Thomist personalist thought of Karol Józef Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II), the concept of solidarity holds an important place.  It provides a link between individuals as individuals, and individuals as members of groups, a key distinction in the social doctrine of Pope Pius XI.
Pope John Paul II
Thus, as Wojtyła would later state after his elevation to the papacy, solidarity is a “virtue,” but not in the strict philosophical sense.  In the encyclical he issued on the twentieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio he explained that solidarity —
. . . is above all a question of interdependence, sensed as a system determining relationships in the contemporary world, in its economic, cultural, political and religious elements, and accepted as a moral category.  When interdependence becomes recognized in this way, the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a “virtue,” is solidarity. (Solicitudo Rei Socialis, § 38.)
Specifically, solidarity, a characteristic of groups per se, is a principle that fulfills and completes that general justice which permeates all virtue, a sort of “general charity.” Thus, solidarity appears to relate to social charity as legal justice relates to social justice, viz, a general virtue as it relates to a particular virtue.  A general virtue is one that, unlike a particular virtue, does not have a defined act or a direct object.

General Virtue
Particular Virtue
Legal Justice
Social Justice
Social Charity

Pope Pius XI
Solidarity is not a particular virtue, nor does it exclude non-Christians, as some authorities have tried to maintain. That is, solidarity is a virtue Christians necessarily have, not one that is exclusive to Christians: “Solidarity is undoubtedly a Christian virtue. In what has been said so far it has been possible to identify many points of contact between solidarity and charity, which is the distinguishing mark of Christ's disciples.” (Ibid., § 40.)
In the context of Wojtyła’s Thomistic personalism, then, solidarity describes an awareness of rights and duties within a particular group that define how sovereign individuals relate as persons to one another and to the group as a whole.  All people as members of a group have solidarity because they are members of a group.
In Wojtyła’s thought, solidarity is an essential prerequisite for social justice, for (as we have discussed elsewhere) only members of groups can carry out acts of social justice.  By this means cooperation is achieved, not by absorbing people into the group or collective, but by mutual interaction and give-and-take in exercising rights and attaining the common goals and aspirations of the group.
David Émile Durkheim
Solidarism as conceived by Wojtyła is in sharp contrast to that of, e.g., the sociologist David Émile Durkheim (1858-1917). Durkheim, whose conception of God was a “divinized society” (Fulton J. Sheen, Religion Without God.  New York: Garden City Books, 1954, 54), held that only the collective has rights.  Individual ethics are merely expedient and necessarily give way before the demands of social ethics.  As Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950) put it, for Durkheim, “religion is the group’s worship of itself.” (Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1954, 794.)
Thus, commentators who assert that solidarity is a Christian version of collectivism are attempting to analyze a key concept of social virtue by excluding an important aspect of all social virtue.  That is, they fail to take into account the fact that human beings are “political animals”: individuals with inherent rights (and thus personality) who naturally subsist in a social environment with others who also have rights.