chapter  7
17 Pages

Recognition and the problem of solidarity

A defining feature of the modern era is the intractable fact of pluralism, of differences of viewpoints on what constitutes a good life, what some have called “value pluralism.”1 The variety and incommensurability of beliefs and values contribute to the feeling of fragmentation of modern life. These differences pose an insurmountable obstacle to achieving solidarity without some form of transcendence or loss of liberty. Liberalism offers itself as a moderate degree of transcendence in offering common ground based on maintaining as much freedom as possible.2 I have argued that liberalism’s success in delivering on its offer has been mixed, largely due to the strains that developed from the commutativedistributional paradigm. This chapter takes up the question of solidarity, of possibilities for “standing together,” in terms of discourse communities and the problem of belonging. My argument has been that the neglect of relational issues as matters of distributive justice has aggravated the feelings of fragmentation and alienation so commonly identified with modern life. As a result of this neglect, we miss out on a form of public relationship that could provide a basis for connection across our different value orientations. We are left with respect for humanity at one extreme and esteem for excellences and intimates at the other. Both of these are worthy, but inadequate to the task of recognition as a public relation. What they miss, that falls between them, is the recognition that can be afforded within a society of strangers, people of diverse backgrounds and forms of life.3