The Political Sources of Solidarity in Diverse Societies
42 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 2015
Building and sustaining solidarity is an enduring challenge in all liberal-democratic societies. Ensuring that individuals are willing to accept these “strains of commitment,” to borrow John Rawls’ apt phrase, has been a worry even in relatively homogeneous societies, and the challenge seems even greater in ethnically and religiously diverse societies. This paper focuses is on the political sources of solidarity. Much has been written about the economic and social factors that influence the willingness of the public to accept and support immigrants and minorities. But solidarity is also a political phenomenon, which can be built or eroded through politics. In addition, our focus on the political sources of solidarity. Understandably, the existing literature concentrates on the politics of backlash and exclusion. This paper looks at the politics of diversity from the opposite direction, asking what are the potential sources of political support for inclusion, and the conditions under which they are effective. How is solidarity built? How is it sustained? Reframing the analysis in this way does not necessarily produce optimism about the future prospects. But exploring the potential political sources of support leads to broader, multilayered perspective with long time horizons. The paper advances a framework for analysis which incorporates three levels: the sense of political community, the role of political agents, and impact of political institutions and policy regimes. Each of these levels, and the interactions among them, matter.
Keywords: Ethnic diversity, solidarity, political community, political agents, political institutions
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