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Concepts of Solidarity in the Political Theory of Hannah Arendt*

  • Ken Reshaur (a1)


This article has two objectives: one is to distinguish and explicate four concepts of solidarity which are found in the writings of Hannah Arendt; the other is to show how Arendt's respect for facts and suspicion of sentiment publicly displayed are justified. The first concept of solidarity is exclusive solidarity. It is limited to those who are suffering from exploitation or oppression. The second conception of solidarity is inclusive: it includes those who suffer but can also accommodate those who make common cause with them. This is the only kind of solidarity that Arendt specifically analyzes. A third concept of solidarity is universal: its proximate constituent parts are the different “peoples” who collectively make up humankind. Finally, there is natural solidarity. This variety of solidarity, the author argues, is conceptually inadequate and confused. In the development and articulation of each of these four concepts, some attention is given to the relative contributions of emotion and cognition in determining one's understanding of solidarity.

Le présent article vise deux buts: le premier est de distinguer et d'expliquer quatre concepts de la solidarité qui se trouvent mentionnés dans les écrits de Hannah Arendt, alors que le deuxième est d'illustrer comment le respect que démontre Arendt pour les faits, tout comme sa méfiance à l'égard de la manifestation publique des sentiments, sont justifiés. Le premier concept de la solidarité est la solidarité exclusive: celle-ciest limitée aux victimes d'exploitation ou d'oppression. Le deuxième concept est la solidarité inclusive: celle-ci englobe non seulement les victimes, mais aussi ceux et celles qui font cause commune avec elles. Il s'agit ici du seul concept de la solidarité qu'élabore Arendt de façon précise. Le troisième concept est la solidarité universelle: ses composantes immédiates sont les divers peuples qui constituent ensemble l'humanité. Le quatrième concept est la solidarité naturelle. L'auteur soutìent que cette dernière catégorie de la solidarité est non seulement vague, mais aussi insuffisante du point de vue conceptuel. En développant et en expliquant ces quatre concepts, les rôles relatifs que jouent les sentiments et la cognition dans l'élaboration de la compréhension de la solidarité sont considérés aussi.



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1 Arendt, Hannah, “Collective Responsibility,” in Bernauer, James W., ed., Amor Mundi: Explorations in the Faith and Thought of Hannah Arendt (Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 1987), 43.

2 Arendt, Hannah, On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1963), 84.

3 Ibid., 90.

4 The history of solidarity involves two Latin derivatives: salvus, which means safe; and sollus, which means entire. The term was used in ancient Rome to refer to the practice, among the Roman gens, of co-proprietorship and collective financial responsibility. Subsequent French usage emphasized the notion of a perfect union, or a community of perfect coincidence, in terms of aspirations, sympathies and interests.

5 Arendt, Hannah, The Jew as Pariah, ed. by Feldman, Ron (New York: Grove Press, 1978), 246.

6 See, for example, d'Entrèves, Maurizio Passerin, “Agency, Identity, and Culture: Hannah Arendt's Conception of Citizenship,” Praxis International 9 (1989), 224; Ring, Jennifer, “The Pariah as Hero: Hannah Arendt's Political Actor,” Political Theory 19 (1991), 433452; and Benhabib, Seyla, “Judgment and the Moral Foundations of Politics in Arendt's Thought,” Political Theory 16 (1988), 2951.

7 Arendt, On Revolution, 270.

8 Ibid., 282.

9 Fraternity, for example, involves a bond valued for its own sake: it is a union of sentiment. Solidarity equalizes people in the special condition that Arendt calls “worldliness.” Fraternity does not require those caught in its bond to regard others so circumstanced as equals in any publicly significant respect. Fraternity is primarily a psychological phenomenon since it is not worldly but “has its natural place among the repressed and persecuted, the exploited and humiliated.” But above all fraternity, especially when found among pariah people, may entail a worldlessness which is so extreme as to be a form of barbarism. For a more systematic treatment of fraternity see Eshete, Andreas, “Fraternity,” Review of Metaphysics 35 (1981), 2744.

10 Arendt, Hannah, “Sonning Prize Speech,”The Papers of Hannah Arendt, Library of Congress,Washington, D.C., container 77.

11 Polanyi, Michael, “Lecture on Meaning,”The Papers of Michael Polanyi, The University of Chicago, Box 41, Folder 2.

12 Polanyi, Michael, “Of Self-Giving,”The Papers of Michael Polanyi, The University of Chicago, Box 41, Folder 11.

13 Arendt, Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: World Publishing, 1958), 315.

14 Arendt, The Jew as Pariah, 234.

15 Polanyi, Michael and Prosch, Harry, Meaning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), chap. 4.

16 Polanyi, “Of Self-Giving.”

17 Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 161.

18 Arendt, Hannah, Eichmann in Jerusalem (New York: Viking, 1963), 255256.

19 Arendt, On Revolution, 183.

20 Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 290–91.

21 Ibid., 230.

22 Ibid., 315.

23 Ibid., 280.

24 Ibid., 106.

25 Ibid., 293.

26 Ibid., 294.

27 Ibid., 297.

28 Ibid., 458.

29 Ibid., 297.

30 Ibid., 452.

31 Ibid., 454.

32 Ibid., 455.

33 Ibid., 157.

34 Ibid., 234.

35 Ibid., 161.

36 Ibid., 142, n. 38.

37 Ibid., 503.

38 Ibid., 190.

39 Arendt, Hannah, The Human Condition (New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1959), 232.

40 Arendt, Hannah, Between Past and Future (New York: World Publishing, 1961), 181.

41 Arendt, Hannah, Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968), 12.

42 Arendt, Hannah, Crises of the Republic (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), 203.

43 Hill, Melvyn, Hannah Arendt: The Recovery of the Public World (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979), 319.

44 Arendt, The Human Condition, 231.

* I would like to thank Shiraz Dossa, from whom I borrowed the exclusive-inclusive terminology, Phil Hansen and Paul Vogt for their comments on an earlier version of this essay. I gratefully acknowledge the suggestions of the anonymous Journal referees. Financial support from the Office of the Dean of Arts, University of Manitoba, was very helpful.


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