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  • Introduction:Solidarity and Utopia
  • Artur Blaim (bio) and Ludmiła Gruszewska-Blaim (bio)

The present special issue of Utopian Studies is devoted to utopia and solidarity considered from philosophical, sociopolitical, cultural, and literary perspectives. It was inspired by the 18th Utopian Studies Society Conference "Solidarity and Utopia," which took place in Gdańsk in July 2017. As the papers presented at that conference clearly demonstrated, the most immediate connotations of the word solidarity used in different contexts tend to be positive, invariably inducing utopian or messianic thinking, despite the fact that solidarity is "not morally good per se, it is good only to the extent that its inclusiveness, goal and implications for the individual are morally acceptable."1 Unless it concerns deviant groups (e.g., criminals, terrorists, etc.), the different meanings that the concept of solidarity generates within different semantic fields—for example, moral responsibility, sentiment, legal obligations, or public policy—form a complex paradigm that we readily oppose to all kinds of antisocial modes of behavior. Nebulous and undertheorized as the concept is, its usage in the last two centuries can be easily traced in major works of social theory, politics, and theology Paradoxically, the career of solidarity, with its aura of justice in the background and the direct precursor fraternité, [End Page 127] or "brotherhood," is said to have been launched when "traditional feelings of togetherness and social bonds were torn apart in the process that gave birth to modern society"2 in the early decades of the nineteenth century An impressive range of European thinkers of the last two centuries—as different in their stances as Charles Fourier, Pierre Leroux, Auguste Comte, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, Karl Marx, Józef Tischner, Pope John Paul II, and Richard Rorty to mention just a few3—formulated theories attempting to contextualize and explicate the "desire for solidarity." Originating, as different theoreticians suggest, either in human nature, conditio humana, or in the regulations/requirements of one's own semiosphere (sensu Lotman), solidarity signifies the preparedness to share sentiments, responsibility, and/or "resources with others by personal contribution to those in struggle or in need" as well as "readiness for collective action and a will to institutionalize that collective action through the establishment of rights and citizenship."4 It could be argued that the desire for solidarity intensifies whenever excesses of totalitarian power or liberal individualization tear apart social networks—the former in the name of the state and the latter in struggle for the individual's right to freedom. Out of three historically important expressions of solidarity, the labor movement (the other two being the welfare state and international civil society) has a long and turbulent tradition that can be traced back to the early stages of industrialization. Its latest achievements include, among others, the rise of the Polish independent workers' union "Solidarność" in Gdańsk in August 1980, with its legendary leader and future president Lech Wałęsa. Viewed as a powerful and ultimately successful weapon against the communist regime, the First Solidarność—as it is nowadays called for the sake of accuracy (i.e., to distinguish it from the present union, which shares nothing but the name with the original movement)—initiated a series of events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the restructuring of the social, political, and economic landscape of the world (Ewa Majewska, "The Utopia of 'Solidarity' Between Public Sphere and Counterpublics: Institutions of the Common Revisited"). Unsurprisingly, therefore, the period of sixteen months between its birth and the introduction of martial law in Poland continues to be called the utopian "carnival of Solidarność." However, the carnival—the anarchic moment and nonground of communitas—never serves the making of a utopian architecture, although "in no other state of social life is universal equality and solidarity felt with such intense liberating joy"; so even if the assumed future goal is the coming of a better world, the mass movement that undermines the existing [End Page 128] sociopolitical order and sheds, if only for a brief period of time, social bonds and roles by dedifferentiation should be inscribed into a different tradition—messianic rather than utopian (Agata Bielik-Robson, "The Messiah and the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2154-9648
Print ISSN
1045-991X
Pages
pp. 127-132
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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