Solidarity refers to the unity and mutual support found within groups. In contemporary discourse, it’s often associated with left-wing, working-class, and communist discourse.
Group solidarity can lead to increased social cohesion, fostering an environment of mutual respect and understanding. By not breaking from their shared bonds and worldview, the group feels strong and inclusive.
In sociology, the term is closely associated with Emile Durkheim, who came up with two types of solidarity:
- Organic Solidarity: This refers to solidarity within small homogenous groups with shared values and belief systems.
- Mechanical Solidarity: This refers to solidarity within large heterogeneous groups who remain united and committed to one another out of mutual self-interest and interdependence.
For more on Durkheim’s perspective, see Durkheim’s contribution to sociology. The rest of this article will explore the broad, layman’s interpretation of the term solidarity.
1. Neighborhood Watch Programs
In every neighborhood, safety is in the interests of the people who live there. To ensure the security of the area, residents might come together to form a neighborhood watch. This sense of solidarity arises from the mutual need for protection and safety. Residents, through their collective efforts, report any safety concerns, and in so doing, maintain a safer environment for everyone.
2. Labor Unions
This is perhaps the clearest demonstration of solidarity. Workers form unions to band together and negotiate for better working conditions and fair wages. The success of labor unions depends on the solidarity among workers. Standing together, they are able to negotiate with a united voice, showcasing mutual support and commitment to collective goals. If too many of the workers peel off, the solidarity is broken, and the union’s power is diluted.
3. Environmental Movements
To combat widespread ecological issues, many individuals join environmental movements. Their shared care for the environment creates a solidarity that fuels their work. By pooling their resources, knowledge, and passion, these groups strive for a sustainable future. This unity tangibly manifests itself in clean-up drives, protests, and lobbying for environmentally friendly policies.
4. Comradeship Among Soldiers
In the military, soldiers form enduring bonds of solidarity. When faced with life-threatening situations and treacherous conditions, the support and unity among soldiers are critical for survival. They need to trust one another unconditionally. Oftentimes, the harshness of their environment kindles a special kind of brotherhood. Their shared experiences, challenges, and goals foster a robust solidarity that transcends personal differences and forms the basis of their comradeship.
5. Disaster Relief Efforts
In the wake of natural disasters, communities often exhibit exceptional solidarity. Residents unite to repair the damage, help those in need, and rebuild their lives together. This show of solidarity is essential to overcoming the hardship and healing as a community. Across boundaries and social divisions, people come together, demonstrating the power of unity during difficult times.
6. Nationwide Protests for Racial Equality
Instances of racial injustice often galvanize people to stand together in solidarity. Large scale protests, like those seen with the Black Lives Matter movement, present a strong display of unity against systemic discrimination. Despite the emotional toll and physical risks involved, participants forge ahead, spurred by the strength in their numbers and the shared goal of equal rights.
7. Fundraising Efforts for Medical Bills
In many instances, communities rally together to raise funds for individuals struggling with outlandish medical bills. This is a strong demonstration of solidarity. People, moved by compassion, donate money to help a neighbor, friend, or even stranger address their financial burden. It’s a collective effort that goes beyond the realm of financial aid, extending emotional support and care.
8. Support Groups for Disease
People often find solidarity in support groups for diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s. Members bond over shared experiences of fighting the disease either personally or as caregivers. They offer mutual assistance, share coping strategies, and provide emotional support. This shared struggle forms the basis of their solidarity, offering hope and strength in the face of their hardships.
9. Community Response to Homelessness
In several communities, locals have united to address homelessness. This could involve collective action to provide affordable housing, food distribution, or communal job-training workshops. Such endeavors depend on solidarity among community members to tackle poverty and homelessness. It is a collective effort to uplift the most vulnerable members of their community.
10. School Alumni Associations
Alumni associations often exist to maintain unity among former students. When individuals share a common alma mater, this creates a bond— a sense of solidarity— that extends beyond their school days. Members often work together to plan reunions, offer scholarships to current students, or contribute to their former school’s improvements. Their mutual experiences foster a lifelong sense of community and purpose.
11. Picket Lines
Picket lines showcase the solidarity of workers in the face of injustice. When negotiations fail, employees may resort to picketing – a form of strike where workers band together outside their workplace, showcasing their disgruntlement openly. This act, often in harsh weather conditions or personal discomfort, reflects their united stand against unfair work practices. Their collective dissent underscores the solidarity they share in seeking justice.
12. Peaceful Protests for Womens’ Rights
Women and men alike have united in solidarity to advocate for women’s rights, such as equal pay, reproductive rights, and against domestic violence. This sense of solidarity is evident when they gather for peaceful protests, rallies, or marches like the widely recognized “Women’s March”. Their joint actions express a shared acknowledgment of women’s struggles and the need for equality.
13. Flood Rescue Operations
Community members often display acts of solidarity in response to flooding. Aided by their shared understanding of the topography and local patterns, individuals may band together to conduct rescue operations. With boats, makeshift rafts, or by forming human chains, they risk their own safety to save others. It is the embodiment of solidarity – unity born of a shared crisis, directing their energy towards a common goal.
14. Sports Teams
Solidarity is commonly exhibited in sports teams. Players often overcome personal differences and unite for a common goal. The solidarity that emerges is meaningful, pushing the team to perform better, support one another during setbacks and celebrate together during victories. This unity, camaraderie, and shared purpose forms the backbone of successful sports team dynamics.
15. Volunteer Cleanup Crews
Following a disastrous event, communities sometimes witness the formation of volunteer cleanup crews. This accomplishment of unity is motivated by mutual desire to restore normalcy. Members come together, donating their time and effort to handle tasks such as debris clearing, rebuilding, or even just providing a listening ear for those affected. Their unified action in the face of adversity highlights the essence of solidarity.
Pros and Cons of Solidarity
Solidarity sounds like a great thing – and, usually, certainly is. But on occasion it could cause significant negative effects.
For example, when workers come together in solidarity on strike, it might lead to better wages and conditions. However, in some cases, it may also lead to economic ruin – especially if the balance of power means workers force companies to become unprofitable.
Similarly, if someone within your in-group has done the wrong thing, your group may still try to protect them rather than hold them accountable. This is where solidarity becomes blind loyalty rather than a principled stance based on a clear set of values.
Below are some flow-on effects, both positive and negative, of solidarity.
|Pros of Solidarity||Cons of Solidarity|
|1. Collective Strength: United groups can achieve more than individuals.||1. Groupthink: Solidarity might lead to conformity, stifling individual thought.|
|2. Emotional Support: Individuals feel they are not alone in their struggles.||2. Potential for Exclusion: Those outside the group might feel isolated or marginalized.|
|3. Resource Sharing: Pooling resources can lead to greater efficiency and reach.||3. Misrepresentation: A few might speak for many, not always reflecting everyone’s views.|
|4. Increased Visibility: Collective actions draw more attention to issues.||4. Potential for Conflict: Differences within the group might lead to internal disputes.|
|5. Safety in Numbers: Individuals are less vulnerable when part of a group.||5. Slow Decision Making: Reaching consensus can be time-consuming.|
|6. Shared Knowledge: Diverse experiences lead to a richer understanding of issues.||6. Dilution of Goals: Broad coalitions might water down specific objectives.|
|7. Cultural Preservation: Minority groups can maintain traditions and languages.||7. Potential for Radicalization: Extreme views might dominate if not checked.|
|8. Economic Benefits: Collective bargaining can lead to better wages and conditions.||8. Resource Drain: Maintaining solidarity can sometimes require significant resources.|
|9. Social Cohesion: Solidarity fosters a sense of belonging and community.||9. Potential for Misuse: Leaders might exploit the group for personal gain.|
|10. Advocacy and Change: Solidarity can lead to policy changes and societal shifts.||10. Overemphasis on Unity: Differences and individual needs might be overlooked.|
Solidarity is an important concept in modern societies, helping people come together to promote the common good and shared self-interest. Everything from supporting fellow workers to coming together after a flood disaster to help one another out can be seen as an example of solidarity. By standing together, we’re often stronger than the sum of our parts.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]