2011–2012 Seminar: Solidarities

Solidarities: Politics and Ethics in a Global Age

The theme for the Committee on Globalization and Social Change (CGSC) at the CUNY Graduate Center for 2011-2012 is “Solidarities: Politics and Ethics in a Global Age.” The CGSC is an interdisciplinary working group of CUNY faculty committed to exploring the relationships among recent socioeconomic transformations associated with “globalization,” the political possibilities opened or obstructed by those transformations, and the intellectual frameworks through which to grasp these developments and relations. We are especially interested in examining the social and political implications of globalization, the possible worlds that are emerging or may be fashioned in the wake of this accelerating process of global restructuring. Doing so requires that we revisit inherited analytic categories and explanatory frameworks from the standpoint of these new historical conditions. One such category is “solidarity,” which is the focus of our program and discussions during 2011-2012.

In traditions of welfare socialism and worker self-management, “solidarity” has referred to the social bonds and forms of sociality that serve as the source and aim of politics. In social democracies the term came to signal the socialization of risk, responsibility, and wealth. The notion of “solidarity” has also been central to class consciousness and politics as well as to various forms of proletarian internationalism among an existing or imagined transnational working-class.

Now that the institutions and ideologies underpinning those traditions have been dismantled, does the category “solidarity” retain descriptive power or critical purchase? What might the relevant units or scale of solidarity today? Conversely, can a renewed conception of solidarity help us to grasp certain aspects of the contemporary situation? Do we need to conceptualize new forms or practices of (global) solidarity as part of a (global) political project that might be adequate to our current challenges? Can solidarity allow us to think creatively about coming together within or across social formations that transcends the limitations of inherited oppositions between universality and particularity, unity and fragmentation, general standards or shared norms and relativism? Could a concept or politics of solidarity point toward new ways of reconciling democracy and plurality? If so, what are the ethical implications of a renewed conception of solidarity in an age of global circulation and interdependence? Solidarity might also signal long-distance support for multiple struggles in different places. Does “globalization” require and enable, or perhaps foreclose, new types of networked linkages as well as the technical, organizational, and imaginative resources for pursuing them? How does the global visibility of citizens actions, most recently in the Arab world, inform the terms of politics solidarity?