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In this together – Rethinking Solidarity in Europe

Mendelsohn, J. (2014) “In this together – Rethinking Solidarity in Europe“, The European Magazine, 02 Οκτωβρίου.


If solidarity is to serve political change, it must be elevated to a normative goal and enforced as a principle of law and not as a matter of choice.

Since the eruption of the Eurozone crisis in late 2008, I – and many others – have been struggling with the comprehension, the origins and the manifestation of what seems to be this generation’s greatest political “ideal”: solidarity.

Solidarity is – in essence – a sense kindness and empathy, often combined with the strong political desire to alleviate others from suffering and to live in an altogether different world. By means of solidarity, we are told to feel kinship with Greeks, Palestinians, workers, women, Ebola patients and other persons altogether less fortunate.

But solidarity is also tricky and has massive limitations. A continued sense of solidarity quickly becomes irreconcilable with harsh facts, such as the unveiling of other people as scoundrels of evidence that they may have been partly responsible for their own grief. It requires immense persistence to empathize with people we are told are corrupt or irresponsibly, that send their own children into hell and hardship.

A toxic division

Calling what went down in Europe before, during, and after the crisis, a manifestation of solidarity is not “a stretch” but a fallacy. Since the crisis, Europe has been shaped by the interests of single member states and their desire to cling to familiar economic dogma. All the while showing few signs of greater social cohesion or community. On the contrary, bailouts and other crisis mechanisms have created a toxic division of Europe into the charitable lender states in the North and receivers in the South, making political equality and real solidarity between them impossible.


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