Solidarity and Democratic Theory Today

April 1, 2019 - May 15, 2019

Arthur Lewis Building
United Kingdom

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University of North Carolina at Wilmington
University of St. Gallen

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Call for Abstracts: ‘Solidarity and Democratic Theory Today’, MANCEPT Workshops, September 9-11, 2019


Rochelle DuFord, PhD

Thomas Telios,  PhD

Workshop Description:

As political instability moves throughout Europe, North and South America questions concerning the proper constitution of a (radical-)democratic society have arisen as urgent. These questions often take the form of how it is that we might develop both an open and a unified society. Concomitant with this are the development of various movements for greater legal protection for members of traditionally dominated groups. Solidarity comes to take a formative role in individual agents’ political lives as organized protest, strikes, and other forms of strategic action are executed in response to democratic decay. Solidarity is thus posed with a double task: to further the democratic project via the development of strong social bonds and via strategic action designed to undermine unjust, illegitimate, or dominative features of contemporary social and political life. Fulfilling both demands at once seems impossible, given traditional liberal democratic political thought, which formally excludes strategic action from the procedure of legitimation. This is a primary difficulty of democracy today: we lack the normative and political resources to properly understand how people can maintain a democratic ethos when the formal institutions of democratic life are in disarray.

This workshop seeks to explore the difficulties of democracy in contemporary life through the lens of solidarity. Once, solidarity was considered to be a necessary feature of democratic life. Yet, contemporary democratic theory all but considers the necessary role this social value plays in the legitimation of law and the development of individual people as citizens or members of a political or social group.

Questions that might be raised, non-exhaustively, as follows:

  • What role does, or ought, solidarity to play in transnational political organizations (for example, in the European Union)?

  • How does the debate between solidarity organizations aimed at recognition and those aimed at redistribution play out in contemporary society and political thought? What can this tell us about the relationship of power to solidarity?

  • What theoretical  (moral, ethical, feminist, anti/de-colonial, social-ontological) foundations  must a group possess to be considered a solidarity group, and is it possible for solidarity to be enacted in a solitary (non-collective) way?

  • What challenges are posed to developing greater degrees of social and political solidarity by the destruction of the traditional social democratic welfare state, financialized capitalism, rising nationalism, rearticulated patriarchy, institutionalized racism, new forms of imperialism etc.?

  • What is the relation between class/sex/race/gender etc. based solidarity groups and democratic legitimation? Is - broadly understood - identity politics aiding or detracting from the aim of building a democratic society?

  • In what way can historical accounts of solidarity’s role in democratic theory inform either contemporary political action or theory?

  • To what extent and in which ways do solidarity and utopia constrain or bolster each other? What forms of political practice can be extrapolated from such synthetic and comparative readings, interpretations and applications of those two concepts?

Submission Guidelines: Please submit abstracts of 300-500 words torhduford@gmail.comandthomas.telios@unisg.chby May 15, 2019.

Bursaries are available for accepted papers to offset conference attendance fees. The deadline for bursary applications (available to current graduate students/early-career researchers and retirees only) will be the 14th June, and successful applicants will be informed by the 21st June. You may consult for information relating to bursaries.

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