A raised fist in solidarity of the worker movement

Solidarity or solidarism is an awareness of shared interests, objectives, standards, and sympathies creating a psychological sense of unity of groups or classes.[1][2] Solidarity does not reject individuals and sees individuals as the basis of society.[3] It refers to the ties in a society that bind people together as one. The term is generally employed in sociology and the other social sciences as well as in philosophy and bioethics.[4] It is a significant concept in Catholic social teaching and in Christian democratic political ideology.[5] Although being interconnected concepts, solidarity, by contrast to charity, takes a systems change approach.[6][7]

What forms the basis of solidarity, and how it is implemented, vary between societies. In Global South societies it may be mainly based on kinship and shared values while Global North societies accumulate a variety of theories as to what contributes to a sense of solidarity or social cohesion.[citation needed]

Solidarity is also one of six principles of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union[8] and December 20 of each year is International Human Solidarity Day recognized as an international observance. Solidarity is not mentioned in the European Convention on Human Rights nor in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has hence lesser legal meaning when compared to basic rights.

Concepts of solidarity are mentioned in the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights,[9] but not defined clearly.[10] As biotechnology and biomedical enhancement research and production increase, the need for distinct definition of solidarity within healthcare system frameworks is important.[editorializing]


Socialisation of the concept

The terms solidaire and solidairement already appeared in French legal language in the 16th century. They are related to the Roman legal concept in solidum, which was derived from the Latin word solidus, meaning "on behalf of the whole". In Napoleon's code, solidarity meant the joint liability of debtors towards a common creditor and was not a primary legal principle.[11]

Conservatism, following the French Revolution, introduced the concept of "solidarity", which was detached from the legal system, as a reaction against rapid social change and as a longing for a stable society. During the July Monarchy, Pierre Leroux, a utopian socialist who is also said to have coined the term socialism, also introduced the concept of non-legal solidarity.[11] Auguste Comte, the so-called founder of sociology, adopted the concept in the sense of social interdependence between people. Comte linked solidarity to the concept of altruism as the opposite of egoism. Instead of emphasising the individual, altruism emphasises common responsibility and solidarity. The interpretations of Pierre Leroux and Auguste Comte gave rise to the idea of a specific social solidarity as the basis of the social order.[12]

After the French Revolution, new scientific and ideological interpretations of solidarity emerged in France in the second half of the 19th century. The concept took on sociological (Émile Durkheim), economic (Charles Gide), legal (Léon Duguit) and political (Léon Bourgeois) variants. Thinkers with different emphases shaped the meaning of the concept of solidarity to suit their own purposes.

The Paris Communards, for example, exchanged the revolutionary slogan of "fraternity" for "solidarity". Some French liberal economists also began to use the term "solidarity", but they changed its meaning in an individualistic direction. Liberalists argued that interdependence between people meant that people also had to take responsibility for their actions without the state intervening.[11] Charles Gide, an economist who opposed liberalism, developed his own interpretation of the concept and even proposed solidarity as the name of a new school of economics.[12]

Through these stages, by the turn of the 20th century, solidarity had become a generic term that could be associated with almost everything that was considered good and progressive. The Paris World Fair in 1900 was accompanied by a congress on "social education and the new solidarity". The Catholic Church also began to use the popular concept of solidarity. According to sociologist Steven Lukes, solidarity played a role in France at the time that was almost as strong and influential as individualism did in the United States at the same time.[11]

Émile Durkheim's theory

According to Émile Durkheim, the types of social solidarity correlate with types of society. Durkheim introduced the terms mechanical and organic solidarity[13] as part of his theory of the development of societies in The Division of Labour in Society (1893). In a society exhibiting mechanical solidarity, its cohesion and integration comes from the homogeneity of individuals—people feel connected through similar work, educational and religious training, and lifestyle. Mechanical solidarity normally operates in traditional small-scale societies.[14] In tribal society, solidarity is usually based on kinship ties of familial networks. Organic solidarity comes from the interdependence that arises from specialization of work and the complementarities between people—a development which occurs in modern and industrial societies.[14]

Although individuals perform different tasks and often have different values and interests, the order and solidarity of society depends on their reliance on each other to perform their specified tasks. "Organic" refers to the interdependence of the component parts, and thus social solidarity is maintained in more complex societies through the interdependence of its component parts (e.g., farmers produce the food to feed the factory workers who produce the tractors that allow the farmer to produce the food).

Léon Bourgeois's solidarity

Although the concept of solidarity had already been used in the labor movement in the mid-19th century, it was only the liberal republicans who brought solidarity into the mainstream of French political debate. In 1896, Léon Bourgeois published his book Solidarité, which introduced the concept of solidarity into political language. Bourgeois's solidarity was based primarily on the interdependence between people, a double-edged sword that produced both security and threats. On the other hand, it was also based on the idea of social debt. According to Bourgeois, man owes society the technical and intellectual capital that social development has produced for him.[11][12]

Bourgeois also introduced the term solidarism to describe a political ideology based on solidarity. Solidarism was a precise and clear structure of ideas which radicalism was also able to assimilate, and it came to regard it as its own ideological expression. After the turn of the century, Bourgeois solidarism came to be regarded almost as an official idea of the Third Republic. His solidarism combined elements of Durkheim's theory of solidarity with the theories of Louis Pasteur and Charles Darwin, and constituted an alternative to the confrontation between classical liberalism and workers collectivism. Bourgeois emphasised the solidarity generated by interdependence between people as a positive factor for all human growth. Solidarism thus combined the natural interdependence of human beings with solidarity as a moral goal. Although the idea of solidarity had different successors and interpretations, they had in common the emphasis on both the social responsibility of the state and the cooperation of citizens.[11][12]

Charles Gide's economic theory

Solidarity also played a central role in the thinking of the French economist Charles Gide (1847–1932). Gide set out to challenge the dominance of the liberal school of economics in France. His thinking was influenced by both biology and sociology. He was particularly influenced by Charles Fourier, who had criticised the social ills created by free market competition. Solidarity became a fundamental concept in Gide's thinking. He found manifestations of solidarity in nature, in the economy and in the social interdependencies of society, but for him solidarity was only ethically valuable when it was consciously voluntary. He created his own national economic doctrine, called Solidarism, according to which society could gradually move towards a cooperative economy in which workers themselves controlled the means of production. In Gide's thinking, the values and goals of solidarity could be pursued through cooperative associations, 'the voluntary association of well-meaning people'.[15]

In Gide's solidarity, the common property created by free cooperative associations is their own and the added value created by their activities is returned in the form of profit sharing. Solidarism preserved the foundations of the free market economic system and also accepted differences in people's economic status. However, large income disparities were not in line with the idea of solidarity, as Gide considered them to break the ties that bind the individual to society.[15] Gide is considered a major representative of the French historical school, and his ideas were quite different from the mainstream liberal economics of the time. Gide's social philosophy was close to that of Léon Walras, the developer of neoclassical general equilibrium theory, and he was one of the few supporters of Walras during his lifetime.[16]

Solidarity is still the core value underlying cooperatives today, alongside self-reliance, ownership, equality and justice. Cooperative members have a duty to emphasise the common interest and to ensure that all members are treated as fairly as possible. In addition to solidarity with its own members, the cooperative now also emphasises social responsibility beyond the cooperative itself.

Peter Kropotkin's theory

Anarchist theorist Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921) connected the biological and the social in his formulation of solidarity. In his most famous book, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902), written partly in response to Huxleyan Social Darwinism, Kropotkin studied the use of cooperation as a survival mechanism in human societies at their various stages, as well as with animals. According to him, mutual aid, or cooperation, within a species has been an important factor in the evolution of social institutions. Solidarity is essential for mutual aid; supportive activity towards other people does not result from the expectation of reward, but rather from instinctive feelings of solidarity.

In his introduction to the book, Kropotkin wrote:

The number and importance of mutual-aid institutions which were developed by the creative genius of the savage and half-savage masses, during the earliest clan-period of mankind and still more during the next village-community period, and the immense influence which these early institutions have exercised upon the subsequent development of mankind, down to the present times, induced me to extend my researches to the later, historical periods as well; especially, to study that most interesting period—the free medieval city republics, whose universality and influence upon our modern civilization have not yet been duly appreciated. And finally, I have tried to indicate in brief the immense importance which the mutual-support instincts, inherited by mankind from its extremely long evolution, play even now in our modern society, which is supposed to rest upon the principle "every one for himself, and the State for all," but which it never has succeeded, nor will succeed in realizing".[17]

Kropotkin advocated an alternative economic and social system, which would be coordinated through a horizontal network of voluntary associations with goods distributed in compliance with the physical needs of the individual, rather than according to labor.[18]

Solidarity in the insurance system

The political philosophy of the early twentieth century, condensed into the concept of solidarity, sought to offer both a scientific theory of social interdependence and a moral solution to social problems. According to some scholars, the emergence of this new rationality was made possible by the concept of social risk and the idea and technology of insurance developed to manage it. Social risk is defined as the risk to a group of people, statistically speaking, which is caused in one way or another by their living together and which can be mitigated by a technique of joint and several liability such as insurance.[12]

It has been said that insurance can be seen as one of the institutions of the social contract. The way insurance works requires individuals to take a collective responsibility or the events they feel the need to prepare for. Society can be said to have become 'modern' when insurance becomes social insurance and when, thanks to the techniques and institutions of insurance, the insurance model becomes both a symbolic and a functional basis for the social contract.[12]

Solidarity and justice are key principles underpinning the insurance system, according to Risto Pelkonen and Timo Somer. In the context of voluntary personal insurance, solidarity means that the insured share the benefits and costs between themselves, while justice means that each insured contributes to the costs according to the actuarial probability. Social insurance, on the other hand, is available to all citizens, regardless of their choice and health status, as the costs are covered by tax revenues and statutory contributions.[19]

Solidarity as the foundation of the welfare state

Solidarity, or solidarism, is widely seen as the central foundation of the welfare state.[12][20][21][22] Among other things, the advent of statutory social insurance and social law in the 20th century changed social thinking and enabled the breakthrough of the solidarity paradigm. The emergence of solidarity in social law can be thought of as being based on the norm of collective provisioning as the foundation of social justice. On the other hand, it can be argued that the justification for social regulation and solidarity is not necessarily a positive normative logic, but rather general civil rights. Human rights are intended to apply equally to all people and are more akin to a legal 'law' than to a normative logic. The formation of welfare policy can therefore be thought of as being based on human and civil rights with a completely different logic, rather than on a collective norm.[12]

According to Professor Heikki Ervast, however, three basic concepts can be associated with Nordic welfare states: macro-collectivism, universalism and solidarism. In simple terms, macro-collectivism means that recipients and payers of transfers do not need to know each other. Universalism means that the social protection and services of the welfare state apply to all citizens. Solidarism means that the welfare state is not simply an instrument designed to guarantee social peace, but is based on solidarity, human dignity and equality. Pauli Forma, Associate Professor of Social Policy at the University of Turku, has summarised the central role of solidarity as the ethical basis of the welfare state in a nutshell: 'The welfare state is an institution of collective solidarity'. In other words, a welfare state is a democratic and prosperous state that collectively shows solidarity by taking responsibility for the social security and equality of its citizens and for helping the disadvantaged. The welfare state can be said to be the "invisible hand of solidarity", in the same way that the "invisible hand of the market" is at work in a free market economy.

Solidarity tax

Main article: Solidarity tax

A solidarity tax is a fee imposed by the government of some countries to finance projects that serve, in theory, to unify or solidarize the country. It is usually imposed for a short period of time in addition on income tax of individuals, private entrepreneurs and legal entities.[23][24][25]

In Germany, the solidarity tax was first introduced after German reunification. The tax amounted to 7.5% of the amount of income tax payable (for individuals) and income tax payable (for legal entities). It was later abolished and reintroduced from 1995 to December 31, 1997, after which it was reduced to 5.5% on January 1, 1998.[26][27] The legality of the tax was repeatedly challenged, but it was recognized by the German Federal Financial Court as not contrary to the German Constitution. The long-term assessment of the solidarity tax was considered unconstitutional in Germany.[23]

In Italy, the solidarity tax was first introduced in 2012. All individuals whose annual gross income exceeds €300,000 are required to pay a 3% tax on the amount exceeding this amount.[28]

In France, the solidarity tax on wealth was introduced in 1981; in September 2017, the French government abolished the solidarity tax and replaced it with a wealth tax on real estate starting in 2018. It was paid by all citizens and married couples whose property exceeded 1.3 million euros on January 1. The tax ranged from 0.5% to 1.5% of the value of property exceeding 800,000 euros.[29]

In 2013 the solidarity tax was also introduced in the Czech Republic in response to economic recession and was cancelled in 2021. In this country it was 7% for all residents earning more than CZK 100,000 per month.[30]


Solidarity is discussed in philosophy within its various sub-fields of law, ethics, and political philosophy.[31] Ancient philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle discuss solidarity from within a virtue ethics framework, because in order to live a good life one must perform actions and behave in a way that is in solidarity with the community.[citation needed]

An approach in bioethics is to identify solidarity as a three-tiered practice enacted at the interpersonal, communal, and contractual and legal levels.[10] This approach is driven by the quest to differentiate between the diverse applications of the concept and to clarify its meaning, both historically and in terms of its potential as a fruitful concept for contemporary moral, social, and political issues.[32] The modern practice of bioethics is significantly influenced by Immanuel Kant's concept of the Categorical Imperative. Pastor and philosopher Fritz Jahr's article "Bio-Ethics: A Review of the Ethical Relationships of Humans to Animals and Plants" refines Kant's original Categorical Imperative discourse[33] by including the notion of the Bioethical Imperative[definition needed].[34] Biomedical technology has also further introduced solidarity as the pivotal concept in bioethics. Scholars, such as Ori Levi,[35] bring attention to the negative implications of biomedical enhancements.[relevant?] Another scholar, Meulen ter Ruud, discusses[further explanation needed] the application of solidarity within healthcare systems.[36]


Fritz Jahr describes bioethics as ultimately made up of "academic discipline, principle, and virtue".[33] This echoes back[how?] to the influence Socrates has on the norms of bioethics and its practices. Jahr utilizes Kant's Categorical Imperative to demonstrate the obligatory, yet innately[citation needed] human practice of the Bioethical Imperative:

[T]he guiding principle for our actions is the Bioethical Imperative: Respect every living being in general as an end in itself, and treat it if possible, as such[33]

as it[ambiguous] arises in the relationships not only between people, but also with plants and other animal species.[sentence fragment] Jahr believes that in order to practice bioethics, one must be in solidarity with all forms of life.[33] If one only decides to be in solidarity in humans, then one should[ambiguous] not behave virtuously in any manner.[34]

Catholic social teaching

Solidarity is an element of Catholic social teaching. According to Pope Francis:

No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world... the Brazilian people, particularly the humblest among you, can offer the world a valuable lesson in solidarity, a word that is too often forgotten or silenced because it is uncomfortable... I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity[37]

The Church's teaching on solidarity is explained in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and briefly summarised in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:[38]

The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of "friendship" or "social charity," is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood
Solidarity is manifested in the first place by the distribution of goods and remuneration for work. It also presupposes the effort for a more just social order where tensions are better able to be reduced and conflicts more readily settled by negotiation.
Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this
The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods. In spreading the spiritual goods of the faith, the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods as well. And so throughout the centuries has the Lord's saying been verified: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well."


See also


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  3. ^ Douwes, Renate; Stuttaford, Maria; London, Leslie (2018-10-01). "Social Solidarity, Human Rights, and Collective Action: Considerations in the Implementation of the National Health Insurance in South Africa". Health and Human Rights. 20 (2): 185–196. PMC 6293357. PMID 30568412. Archived from the original on 2019-01-07. Retrieved 2021-08-30.
  4. ^ Adamiak, Stanisław; Chojnacka, Ewa; Walczak, Damian (1 December 2013). "Social Security in Poland – cultural, historical and economical issues". Copernican Journal of Finance & Accounting. 2 (2): 11–26. doi:10.12775/cjfa.2013.013. Archived from the original on 24 October 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
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Further reading