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Solidarity (from the Latin solidus "dignified, genuine, firm") or solidarity denotes an attitude of attachment to - and support for - ideas, activities and goals of others, usually in an ethical and political context. It also expresses the cohesion between like -minded or equal individuals and groups and the commitment to common values (see also the principle of solidarity ). The opposite of solidarity is competition .

Term and Definitions


The term solidarity is used in many ways:

Sometimes a distinction is made between

  • Solidarity of mind (unity consciousness),
  • Solidarity of action (mutual willingness to help ) and
  • Solidarity of interests (which is effective in a particular situation through the equality of interests and ends after the common goal has been achieved).

In sociology , Émile Durkheim distinguished between

  • mechanical solidarity based on predetermined common characteristics of a group (e.g. we workers, we women, we Germans ), and
  • organic solidarity , the basis of which is dependent on one another (e.g. specialists in societies based on the division of labor).

In connection with the labor movement, the demand for international solidarity is often mentioned. It was evident in the 19th century, above all, in the support of the Polish struggle for freedom from the International Workers' Association . At the congresses of the Second International , the question was discussed whether the working class could prevent the looming First World War by means of a general strike in various countries. International solidarity campaigns for the young Soviet Union were more effective : in 1920 the English labor movement prevented England from intervening in the Polish-Russian war by threatening a general strike. The struggle against fascism was made more difficult by the division of the labor movement into a socialist and a communist international . Today the questions of international solidarity under the conditions and effects of globalization are discussed.

Definitions and quotations

The sociologist Alfred Vierkandt (1928) defined solidarity as follows: "Solidarity is the attitude of a community with a strong inner bond ". And: "Solidarity is the feeling of togetherness that can and should become practical."

Solidarity implies a principle of humanity; it is constituted “ of its own free will ”.

Jürgen Habermas summarized solidarity as follows: "Those who behave in solidarity, trusting that the other will behave in similar situations in similar situations, accept disadvantages in their long-term self-interest."

  • “Forward, and don't forget / what is our strength! / When starving and when eating, / forward and don't forget / solidarity! "( Bertolt Brecht , around 1929, refrain of the solidarity song )
  • "Solidarity is the tenderness of peoples." ( Gioconda Belli )
  • "Only a world based on solidarity can be a just and peaceful world." ( Richard von Weizsäcker : Responsibility for social progress and human rights. 1986)
  • “Especially with the concept of solidarity, you can see how emotional attitudes and ties to value are declared and, conversely, a value is emotionally charged and founded. However, this context of values ​​refers to culture. "


Henning Scherf , Mayor of Bremen from 1995 to 2005, points to what he sees as the increasingly improper use of the term solidarity . He writes: "Solidarity has become an empty formula, not least because the term has been robbed of its core through inflationary use." He gives several examples for this.

Historical aspects

Roman and contemporary law

In Roman law , solidarity ( obligatio in solidum ) meant a special form of liability : several people owe a service in such a way that each of them is obliged to provide the entire service, but the creditor can only claim it once. The word “solidarity” does not denote the togetherness of those involved, but that everyone is liable in solidum “for the whole, for the total sum” (literal translation). In law today, instead of the foreign word solidarity, the German expression “ joint debt ” is regularly used. This is different in older laws, e.g. B. § 43 paragraph 2 of the Companies Act. "Managing that violate their obligations, the company liable jointly and severally for the damage."


In the Christian tradition , solidarity, together with personality , common good and subsidiarity , are counted among the (classical) social-philosophical principles. With the declarations of the World Council of Churches , the encyclical Pacem in terris by John XXIII. and the Second Vatican Council , the global dimension of solidarity was looked at. International solidarity was further expanded in the encyclical Populorum Progressio and made the focus of papal social proclamation in the encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis by John Paul II , the promoter of the Polish workers' movement Solidarność in 1987 .

In the Creed of the Würzburg Synod, Our Hope , in Part III Paths to Succession , solidarity for the poor and the weak is formulated as a constitutive content of faith. The social word for a future in solidarity and justice , published jointly by the Evangelical Church in Germany and the German Bishops' Conference in 1997, names the remembered and told story of God's mercy as a source of solidarity in the Christian faith. Weak and Disadvantaged ”motivates (96). Jesus' message is seen as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of life to the poor, small and non-violent. “He himself walked the path of solidarity, mercy and non-violence .” (99) The commitment to solidarity is one of the constitutive characteristics of the church (101), since “the decision about the final communion of people with God depends on solidarity with the least ”(106).

In his apostolic letter Evangelii gaudium , Pope Francis writes that the word “solidarity” has worn out a little and is sometimes misinterpreted. It required more than a few occasional generous deeds, namely a new mentality "that thinks in terms of community and the primacy of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few". Solidarity is a spontaneous reaction of those who recognize the social function of property and the universal destination of goods - which are older than private property - as realities. Because guarding and increasing private property is only justified by the fact that it serves the common good better, “therefore solidarity must be lived as the decision to give back to the poor what is due to them”.

Institutionalization of the solidarity principle

Union movement

In the context of industrialization in Europe in the 19th century, an institution based on the principle of solidarity developed: Mutual protection within the workers against developments in capitalist industrialization that were perceived as threatening to their existence became the basis and battle concept of the workers' movement. Workers came together in solidarity associations (for example in trade unions ) and fought together for better working conditions, shorter working hours and higher wages. According to Ken Loach , solidarity is the sharpest weapon in the struggle of the working class.

Solidarity needs closeness. It arises in groups with similar social interests, often with a shared history and through pressure from the entrepreneur, who first brings the individual colleagues together to form a collective. The splitting of the workforce into a multitude of different employment relationships, many of which are short-term and unsecured, make it difficult to get to know each other or to create a relationship of trust, even in large companies, which is so important for joint action based on solidarity.

In 1980, in the course of a strike that was supported by a large part of the Polish population and understood by them as an anti-communist movement, the Polish workers at the shipyard in Gdańsk formed the “ Solidarność ” (Solidarity) union . Even if “Solidarność” lost its political influence towards the end of the 20th century, the term “Solidarność” in the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the 21st century stood for the beginning of the end of communist dictatorship.

Socialist and Social Democratic Parties

In the 20th century solidarity became one of the central concepts in socialist / social democratic parties.

Solidarity principle and insurance: mutual insurance association

The institutionalized principle of solidarity is also expressed in certain legal forms of insurance , namely in the four classic risk areas of work: illness , accident , old-age provision and unemployment ; compare the legal form of the " mutual insurance association " (VVaG). Each member of this community pays contributions to the common fund managed by an insurance company. This provides financial means to cover those who suffer damage.

With unemployment insurance , a risk community protects itself against loss of income due to unemployment .

Further development of the concept of solidarity in the state and economy

With the advent of modern, industrialized societies at the latest, the question arises of how real solidarity can be realized and organized in the face of an increasing diversity of living conditions and in the context of increasingly complex and global relationships in business and society. In principle, the problematic relationship between solidarity - which is aimed at the group and at least requires commitment and commitment from the individual - and individualism - which emphasizes the self-determination of individuals and their legal position - is up for debate.

In concrete politics, this leads, among other things, to the question of the appropriate relationship between social security and economic personal responsibility , as has been controversially discussed in the course of a reform of the welfare state according to economically liberal standards. Solidarity finds another critical limit - as Véronique Munoz-Dardé, among others, points out - in the requirements of political justice .

Selective criticism in economic liberalism

Critics of institutionalized solidarity, as it takes concrete form in welfare state institutions, also point out that the concept of solidarity is wrongly used here, since solidarity essentially includes voluntariness. You are turning, if not directly against the model of the welfare state itself, at least against the idea that it should be based on the idea of ​​solidarity.

See also


  • Ulrich von Alemann: Solidarians of all parties - spare us! A polemic. In: Union monthly journal. Issue 11–12: Arbeit und Solidarität in der Globalisierungsfalle , 1996, pp. 756–761 ( PDF: 95 kB, 6 pages at
  • Kurt Bayertz (Ed.): Solidarity: Concept and Problem. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1998.
  • Hauke ​​Brunkhorst : Solidarity among strangers. Fischer, Frankfurt / M. 1997.
  • Heinz Bude : Solidarity: The future of a great idea. Hanser, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-446-26184-6 .
  • Erwin Carigiet : Social Solidarity: Principles, Perspectives and Further Development of Social Security. Helbing and Lichtenhahn, Basel a. a. 2001, ISBN 3-7190-1934-9 .
  • Karl Otto Hondrich , Claudia Koch-Arzberger: Solidarity in modern society. Frankfurt / M. 1994.
  • Klaus-Jürgen Kauß, Wolfgang Max Burggraf: Solidarity as give and take. In: Albert Biesinger (Ed.): Solidarity as an intercultural learning process. Lit, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8258-7295-5 , pp. 197-214.
  • Reinhart Kößler , Henning Melber : Global Solidarity: A Polemic. Brandes & Apsel, Frankfurt / M. 2002, ISBN 3-86099-765-3 .
  • Gesa Reisz: Solidarity in Germany and France: A Political Interpretation Analysis. Budrich, Opladen 2006, ISBN 3-938094-92-3 .
  • Horst-Eberhard Richter : Solidarity as a learning objective. Rowohlt, 1979.
  • Klaus Schubert, Martina Klein: Solidarity. In: Same: The Political Lexicon. 7th, updated and expanded edition. Dietz, Bonn 2018, ISBN 978-3-8012-0505-8 ( online at

Web links

Wiktionary: solidaric  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Solidarity  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Herbert Rebscher: Health economics and health policy: in the field of tension between science and policy advice . Economica, 2006, ISBN 3-87081-491-8 , 2.1, pp. 143 .
  2. ^ Karl Otto Hondrich , Claudia Koch-Arzberger: Solidarity in modern society , Frankfurt am Main 1994
  3. ↑ Rethink Europe . Discussion between Jürgen Habermas, Sigmar Gabriel and Emmanuel Macron on March 16, 2017 in the Hertie School of Governance, moderated by Henrik Enderlein. In: Sheets for German and international politics . No. 4/2017 , April 2017, p. 41–54 ( [accessed October 27, 2019]).
  4. ^ Gioconda Belli: Diálogo social. 1981, p. 24; Quote: "Yo te decía que la solidaridad es la ternura de los pueblos."
  5. H.-G. Vester: Compendium of Sociology I: Basic Concepts. Springer VS, Wiesbaden, 2009, p. 38.
  6. Henning Scherf: Together instead of alone: ​​My experience for the future. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2009, ISBN 978-3-451-30255-8 , p. 10 ( page preview in the Google book search).
  7. ^ Federal Association of the Catholic Workers' Movement (KAB) Germany (ed.): Texts on Catholic social teaching. 4th edition. Kevelaer 1977, p. ?? ( ); as well as Karl Rahner , Herbert Vorgrimler: Small Council Compendium. 4th edition. Freiburg i.Br. 1968, pp. ??.
  8. ^ Konrad Hilpert: Solidarity. In: New Handbook of Theological Basic Concepts. Volume 5, 1991, pp. 68-75, here p. 72.
  9. Our hope. A commitment to faith at this time. In: L. Bertsch u. a. (Ed.): Joint synod of the dioceses in the Federal Republic of Germany. Official Complete Edition I, Freiburg, Basel, Vienna 1976, 71–111, No. III.2
  10. Church Office of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Secretariat of the German Bishops' Conference (ed.): For a future in solidarity and justice. Word of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the German Bishops' Conference on the economic and social situation in Germany. Hanover, Bonn 1997
  11. Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium. Pope Francis on the preaching of the Gospel in today's world. Announcements of the Apostolic See No. 194, published by the Secretariat of the German Bishops' Conference, Bonn 2013, pp. 188–189.
  12. floodlights. Magazine of the Federal Agency for Civic Education , No. 25 Dec. 2007, p. 35.
  13. Kurt Bayertz (Ed.): Solidarity: Concept and Problem. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1998, p. 38 ff.
  14. Véronique Munoz Dardé, 1998, p. 146 ff.
  15. Kurt Bayertz (Ed.): Solidarity: Concept and Problem. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1998, p. 34 ff.