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This article examines the relationship between trust and solidarity. Juxtaposing trust and solidarity reveals how they are different and how they recursively build on each other. By looking specifically at trust in political solidarity, I argue for an account of trust within solidarity movements for social change, one that suggests avenues for creating and building trust, rather than merely presuming it. Finally, reflecting on the interplay between trust and solidarity, I end with a nod to the transformative impact of solidarity on communities.

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  • 1 Research partially supported by ConTrust of Normative Order at Goethe Universität, Frankfurt a. M.

1Solidarity is often invoked by politicians, policy makers, activists, religious leaders, and ordinary people as a rallying cry during times of crisis to call up or even inspire trust in one another as members of a social whole. In such calls, trust is a presumed element of solidarity. Our togetherness and interdependence, in other words, is supposed to be enough foundation to suggest that we can lean on each other – and even that each person can lean on the social whole – for support in times of need. Indeed, social trust and solidarity sometimes appear to be interchangeable in these contexts. The association of these two concepts is further highlighted in accounts of solidarity that emphasize solidarity as an attitude, rather than a moral relation.

2In this article, I examine the relationship between trust and solidarity. Juxtaposing trust and solidarity reveals how they are importantly different, but that they often recursively build on each other. By looking specifically at trust in political solidarity, I argue for an account of trust within solidarity movements for social change, one that suggests avenues for creating and building trust, rather than merely presuming it. One of the remarkable things about political solidarity is the level of trust that can develop among fellow participants, a trust that opens possibilities for more extensive and extended relations. But trust is merely a building block of solidarity and can be displaced or betrayed. Analytically distinguishing trust and solidarity, then is a useful exercise, one that I hope offers insight into both trust and solidarity.

3In the first section, I argue, with Trudy Govier, that trust is an attitude or disposition based on belief and implying expectations (1997: 4). However, I offer a nuanced account of trust for political solidarity. Within solidary relations, I argue, first order trust is based on an understanding of the individual’s relation to the goal of collective action. I argue that trust might extend beyond that, generating a web of trust, to personal trust among participants, but it need not. This conception of trust for political solidarity teases apart participant’s trust in fellow participant’s commitment to a cause and trust in fellow participants themselves, it also distinguishes the particularist trust of identity-based communities from trust found in political solidarities. I then offer a summary description of trust and sociality for the solidary collective. Unlike other group formations, the solidary collective might be constituted locally among participants who have pre-established relationships, or it might be transnational or global with distant and diverse participants with little or no knowledge of one another. Finally, reflecting on the interplay between trust and solidarity, I end with a nod to the transformative impact of solidarity on communities.

  • 2 For a discussion of the moral relation of solidarity, see my Political Solidarity (2008).

4Before proceeding to unpack trust in solidarity, a word about what is meant by “solidarity” is in order. Solidarity is a collective moral relation or unity that mediates between individuals and a larger community and entails positive duties (Scholz 2008). Political solidarity is distinct from social and civic solidarity because the normative commitment precedes the group or collective. Individuals make personal commitments to a cause against injustice, oppression, or tyranny, and allow that commitment to the cause to mediate day to day decisions as well as group-based action.2 The commitment, a commitment that is reiterated and reflexively reinforced amongst solidary actors, is an acknowledgement of social conflict, a social conflict that potentially poses an existential threat to some members. In committing to political solidarity, an individual participant recognizes that conflict, but seeks to contribute actions – whether small, individualized action or group-based protest – to the solidaristic collective. Solidarity actors willingly share in social risk, believing that they are better off acting together in solidarity than separated. In short, participants engage in action in concert oriented toward social change. Participants may be located in close proximity to one another and engage in collective, coordinated action together, or they may be distant and coordinate through public expectations of solidarity. The commitment to the goal of challenging injustice, oppression, or tyranny, even when individual reasons for committing to the goal vary, provides the basis for thinking of participants’ actions-in-concert (Scholz 2008).

5Many instances of political solidarity also demonstrate the power of an intentional community insofar as the solidaristic actors strive not only to challenge the injustice and oppression, but to model and create an alternative social structure without that injustice or oppression. They seek to model the sort of community relations – relations of justice and equality – that they see as lacking in the larger social framework. An intentional community takes the goals of solidarity as central to interpersonal interactions within and beyond the relation.

6Political solidarity emphasizes collective action or action in concert, rather than group consciousness or shared identity. The equitable willingness to share in the social risk of the solidary collective (Scholz 2020) entails a critical scrutiny of how the burdens of solidaristic action might fall disproportionately on some participants due to their social position, power, status, or identity. Redistribution of the burden may be in order. Further, solidarity is a moral relation; it is not an association or organization per se, although those and other formal and informal groups may be part of solidaristic relations for social change.

7In political solidarity individual participants might make strong commitments to the cause, dedicating the lives or livelihoods, or relatively weaker commitments based on personal abilities. Committing to solidarity, though, means that participants actively engage in the work to advance the cause through such things as allowing the goal of solidarity to mediate decision-making in daily life or enacting the commitment through embodied action like protests or hunger strikes (Scholz 2008; 2010). Moreover, as an oppositional politics (Bayertz 1999; Scholz 2008), political solidarity establishes a relation with the larger social whole through which the commitment to solidarity is also lived.

8Political solidarity, then, marks a unity of people who individually commit to a cause; they struggle against a practice, system, or structure that they perceive to be unjust, oppressive, or tyrannical. In this way, the solidary collective of political solidarity is distinct from the oppressed group per se; although some of those who are victimized by oppression, injustice, or tyranny will surely participate in solidarity to combat it, political solidarity is not based on identity as oppressed. One implication is that political solidarity is more inclusive and expansive than identity-based accounts of solidarities which might better be understood as social solidarities.

1. Trust in political solidarity

9Political solidarity, like other social relationships, relies on social trust, however, there are at least three trusting relations entailed in solidarity. Solidarity involves the relation to the goal or end of solidarity, as well as relations between participants, and relations to those outside solidarity. Each of these involves a different form of social trust. In this section, I offer an account of trust and then use that account to look at each of these relations. By cooperating on the shared commitment to a goal, additional trusting relations may form; it is a mistake to presume that the primary trusting relation within solidarity is solely personal trust among the community of actors. On the contrary, social trust in political solidarity emerges from the types of relationships that constitute it. I argue that solidarity is based on a logic of inclusion that creates paths for trusting relationships through the primary commitment to the goal of solidarity. Participants use that trusting relation as a way to navigate difference and resolve conflict within the solidary collective. Embodied practices of protest, like hunger strikes or marches, engender trust and open a space for public dialogue and a reimagining of the political.

10What is trust? Some form of trust appears to be essential for any sort of social togetherness. Some accounts consider trust as a virtue to be practiced; while in others it is an attitude, belief, or value; in still others, trust combines these as a relational practice. Although some argue that relationality is based on expectations that others will act to advance our interests, as when trust is understood as “the idea that we can expect others to operate with our best interest in mind” (Paxton and Ressler 2017: 1), trust seems to move well beyond individual interests. Trust also might be a feeling that emerges from a pattern of behaviors or set of expectations in people, institutions, or social roles. As Patti Tamara Lenard suggests: “Trust is relational; it involves vulnerability to the actions of others; it is part behavior, part attitude; it is evidence resistant; and (to some extent) it can be said to have a moral component” (2012: 17). Mark Warren defines trust as “an individual’s judgment that another person, whether acting as an individual, a member of a group, or within an institutional role, is both motivated and competent to act in the individual’s interests and will do so without overseeing or monitoring” (2017: 75). Warren highlights the reciprocal expectations, as well as the multi-directionality of trust, saying, “A trust relationship is established when trust judgments are met with trustworthy responses by those who are trusted” (2017: 75).

11These varying accounts of trust share some commonality. They cast trust as an attitude within a relationship, based on belief, judgement, feeling, or expectation, that the trusted other can and will act in particular ways that validate or verify the attitude of trust. That is, trust grows through the active engagement of trust; or trust is recursive, a relation of trust is understood by and inspires deeper or additional relations of trust. Trudy Govier’s important book on social trust describes trust as “fundamentally an attitude, based on beliefs and feelings and implying expectations and dispositions” (1997: 4). Govier elaborates on this position by dissecting the attitude of trust into the combination of four features of a relation between one who trusts and the trusted person: an expectation, an assumption, a willingness, and a disposition. As Govier explains, trust entails:

a. expectations of benign, not harmful, behaviour based on beliefs about the trusted person’s motivation and competence;
b. an attribution or assumption of general integrity on the part of the other, a sense that the trusted person is a good person;
c. a willingness to rely or depend on the trusted person, an acceptance of risk and vulnerability;
d. and a general disposition to interpret the trusted person’s actions favorably. (Govier 1997: 6)

12Notice the importance of vulnerability and risk in this account. A person trusts both when vulnerable (with no choice but to trust) and when that person chooses to make themselves vulnerable (to risk) through trusting. However, outside social structures sometimes make some of us more vulnerable than others and having to trust those who hold particular social roles can exacerbate that vulnerability. Social status or power enable a greater ability to choose when and how to trust, even in situations when trust must nonetheless be exercised. A materially privileged person without medical knowledge, for instance, is forced into a trusting relationship with a doctor when seriously sick, but that person can exercise choice from among options within that context. A materially disadvantaged person may not only experience the lack of choice, but heightened vulnerability because they are forced to rely on particular providers (if they are even able to seek service) absent choice. Alternatively, within some contexts, choosing to extend trust despite increased vulnerability or the potential for increased vulnerability might be a way to confront one’s bias about a social group and even generate trust, as when a person chooses to trust a stranger (Lenard 2012: 19).

13Trust may be a rational expectation of certain social roles or social positions, but there are many factors that affect one’s experience of trust in any given context. Trust in the people who occupy certain social roles is based on a belief in the ability of that role-holder to perform the expected role adequately, a belief in the competence and good will of the trusted role-holder (Govier 1997: 4; Warren 2017: 75; Lenard 2012: 17). Trusting, in other words, does not mean that the trust invested in a particular person, or the holder of a social role, extends to every context or every aspect of the relationship with that person. Trust responds to or is dependent upon context, situation, role, and relation. Context refers to the background conditions in which the trusting relation occurs. Logically, contexts can be separated, as when a person is trusted to provide a defensible presentation of philosophical content within the context of her role as a philosophy professor, but trust need not extend to her within the separate context of carpool driver. Of course, trust or distrust often seeps across boundaries of context, or contexts may be themselves merged when, for instance, friendship bridges the two other social roles.

14By situation, I mean the diverse positioning of participants within a social world that affects their ability to see and act. Trusting parties and trusted parties occupy situations, or are affected by situations, by which social status within societies marked by inequality, racism, sexism, and other oppressive structures impact their ability to respond and their perception of needs. These situations interact with contexts to influence both trusting attitudes and dispositions as well as competencies, expectations, and willingness. In short, talking about trust in non-ideal societies requires talking about the contexts within which trust takes shape (or doesn’t) and the situations that impact any given person’s ability and willingness to trust. Context, situation, role, and relation, then, all contribute to the conception of trust. Within political solidarity, these will be specific to the particular cause, the unique participants, and the larger social context. Nevertheless, some of what this account of trust offers for understanding political solidarity and sociality within solidary collectives can be unpacked.

1.1 Trust in the solidary actor’s commitment to the goal

15Unlike formalized organizations or voluntary associations, political solidarity generally does not have a set of rules or norms for participants. At best, expectations might be communicated through dialogue and social pressure. One might argue that this creates a situation of increased trust among participants. I would suggest, however, that the focus is not trust between participants, but trust among participants about the relative commitment to the cause. This shift in focus helps to explain why disagreement (especially, for instance, disagreement over the methods used to advance a cause) is integral to the solidary collective.

16Committing to a cause in political solidarity can entail significant risk. Participants, motivated by any number of things, connect their actions with others in a struggle for the cause. When the cause is local and participants know one another, there may be an underlying moral relation between them. But in those political solidarities wherein participants are strangers, their trust is built from a belief that each is committed to the cause thereby assuming a particular social role. Recognizing that cooperative collective action or action in concert is more powerful than individual action, and trusting that other solidaristic actors share both the commitment to the cause and the recognition of the power of action in concert, expresses or informs a hope for the possibility of social change and inspires continued commitment. Trust in solidarity, then, emerges in a particular context of opposition to injustice, oppression, or tyranny; involves the situation of the individual actors who may be affected by the injustice or some other social situation; is based on a nonexclusive social role of solidary participant; and puts one in relation to the cause, to other solidary actors, and to all those who do not commit to solidarity for whatever reason.

17First order trust within political solidarity is not trust in another participant tout court or in the solidary collective per se. Rather, using Govier’s distinctions, first order trust may be described as constituted by (a) a belief that the commitment to a particular cause motivates the behavior of another person or other participants in solidarity; (b) an assumption these other persons act or will act in good faith, good will, and with integrity for the cause or toward the goal; (c) a willingness to share the social risk entailed in the solidary collective insofar as that risk pertains to the aim or cause; and (d) a disposition to interpret the actions of another person or other participants in solidarity favorably, as good faith efforts to contribute to the cause.

18Trust in solidarity includes a belief that the commitment to a particular cause motivates another person or all other participants who claim solidarity, and that these motivated others act with competence toward that end. Believing that fellow actors in the solidary collective are similarly motivated and competent can lead to second order trust that binds people together beyond the shared commitment to the cause, but it need not. Perhaps because they are already trusting people or perhaps the nature of the struggle is such that they have nothing to lose, participants in political solidarity for social change willingly risk trusting others who similarly commit to collective action in solidarity even in spite of lack of evidence to support that belief. That trust is affirmed through continual engaged or embodied action. Each participant trusts that each and all others share the commitment. If, for instance, participants were suspicious of each other’s motives or skeptical of their ability to contribute, trust would be lacking. Solidarity, in such a context, is all but impossible.

1.2 Trust in the solidary actor beyond the goal relation

19Within solidarity, certain attitudes and behaviors – like commitment to a cause interpreted in various aspects of life, expectations of similar mediating norms from others outwardly supporting the cause, and frequent involvement or interaction with solidaristic others – shape the experience of solidarity and build trust, leading beyond belief that others are committed to a cause to an assumption that they will act with good faith and integrity toward advancing it, even within the solidaristic relation itself. The second element of trust is an assumption at the heart of the relation: participants assume that other members of the solidary collective act with integrity, meaning that they allow the relation to the goal of solidarity to mediate their decision-making, not only in the actions directly relevant to the collective’s goal or purpose but also in all those other day to day actions that are impacted by or impact the goal, including (importantly) the relations with fellow solidary actors.

20The willingness to equitably share social risk is a crucial normative feature of solidarity. The individual and collective action of solidarity may put oneself and other solidaristic actors at increased risk for loss of social standing, or even material and physical harm. In the context of solidarity, risks are willingly accepted because solidaristic actors understand that the sociality created in solidarity aims at lessening overall risk, especially risks flowing from the targeted injustice. Facing these risks together, and willingly sharing equitably in the risks, means adopting a practice of redistribution so that some people are not consistently worse off while others enjoy a position of dominance in solidarity. Further, people are more likely to behave in particular ways or to contribute substantially to solidarity (of any sort) if they believe other solidary actors will as well (Rothstein 2017). In political solidarity, this is not an expectation of equal measure but rather an expectation that each will give what circumstances and personal needs allow, while also attending to the costs borne by other solidary participants. The social trust in the solidary collective, in other words, is oriented around the expectations of the commitment to the cause and reinforced through the lived experience of willingly sharing equitably in the social risks of the relation. We can see the first and second order trust at work in the willingness to share social risk equitably. First order trust is engendered in the collective commitment to contribute to the goal of the political solidarity; second order trust emerges from the disposition to trust others in solidarity as the lived experience of redistributing the social risk of solidarity plays out. In fact, it often leads to an increased willingness to assume more risk, knowing that one will be sustained and supported in the effort. This contrasts sharply with situations of domination or oppression where distrust leads to members minimizing their risk and securing their selves against anticipated or expected harm.

21Trust in solidarity, then, is at least in part built on the active engagement or involvement of participants on a regular basis. It is not enough to merely declare that one is in solidarity in order to build trust among members. Regular engagement in solidaristic activities, whether they are part of individual actions or collective actions, is necessary. The commitment must be lived in the daily decisions that affect the life of the individual participant as well as the solidary collective and the larger social whole. When we trust in others we expect certain behavior from them, but we also make ourselves vulnerable (Lenard 2012: 20-21; Govier 1997: xi and 4). That combination of behavior is important for observing and generating trust between and among participants in solidarity.

22Finally, using Govier’s model of social trust, trust in solidarity entails a disposition to interpret the actions of another person or other participants in solidarity favorably. Again, the actions in question are the actions associated with the goal or end of solidarity. When a participant in the solidary collective makes a good faith effort to contribute to the cause of ending injustice, oppression, or tyranny, even if that action fails, social trust will instruct other members to interpret the action favorably. This is not to say that such failed action should not be criticized; rather, the point is that the social trust of solidarity requires that fellow participants resist the urge to dismiss or exclude simply because of a disagreement over methods or actions. Rather, social trust in solidarity implies a willingness to confront disagreements and seek cooperation rather meeting disagreement with abandonment or indifference.

1.3 Trust and those outside or even opposed to solidarity

23I have suggested that solidaristic actors assume a particular social role. They understand themselves as participating in a cause with others. As Lenard asserts, these “environments in which citizens have an opportunity to cooperate together to achieve common objectives are those in which trust can and often does emerge” (2012: 28). In addition to this role, they act in a particular context. For political solidarity, the context is opposition to some perceived injustice, oppression, or tyranny. That implies the moral relation to those not engaged in solidarity. As social trust researchers affirm, “Relationships of trust and distrust will tend to persist and reinforce themselves. Those who trust will tend to have their trust confirmed and will persist in trust” (Govier 1997: 37). Trusting across opposition on existentially vital matters of injustice and oppression is generally not considered desirable or even feasible. However, trust emerges there too.

24Notice that formal calls to rebuild trust often follow instances when oppressed or vulnerable peoples finally succeed at making their oppression or vulnerability visible. Often the appeal to social trust is really an appeal to shore up the status quo power structure and guard against the social movements that seek greater justice or equality. Such a situation also demonstrates the potential danger of social trust; social movements are rightly suspicious of such efforts. It might seem, then, that distrust, rather than trust, characterizes the relation between participants in a social movement and the larger social whole. Certainly, history provides numerous examples that validate feelings of distrust among those struggling for social justice and those seeking to maintain unjust regimes. Without denying the importance of distrust in this situation of oppositional politics, I suggest we also look for opportunities for trust to emerge.

25Mobilizing for change in contentious politics requires negotiation and the creation of political spaces or a new political imaginary. Political solidarity is not merely oppositional politics, participants create community in intentional ways, a community that demonstrates the possibilities for trusting relations when injustice, oppression, and tyranny no longer structure social interactions. They also provide the political space and political speech that enables empowerment and additional mobilization or solidarities. In this way, the embodied practices of political solidarity – protests, hunger strikes, boycotts, walkouts, marches, or targeted consumerism – engender trust and open a space for public dialogue and a reimagining of the political. Although the participants in solidarity experience this collective politics directly, those outside the solidarity reap indirect benefits as the political space is transformed. I say more about this in the third section but suffice it to say that trust in oppositional situations is both a trust that those in power will likely respond in a particular way and a trust that the confrontation will help transform social and political spaces so that pernicious attitudes of distrust can be overcome.

2. Social trust and sociality in political solidarity

26Social trust often bleeds into personal trust. The familiar patterns of life invite an intimacy or dependency that at least makes it seem as if a more personal relationship exists (Govier 1997: 32-33). When social trust appears as part of a stable social role, like the trust one has in one’s doctor, then the seepage into personal trust may be warranted and, as Govier speculates, contributes to our overall wellbeing as individuals and societies. The doctor can be counted on not only to tend to health in the moment of medical need, but perhaps also as someone who will exercise discretion if additional information outside the realm of medicine is shared. But when attached to less stable roles, like the roles of fellow participants in political solidarity, the assumption of personal trust from social trust is not always warranted. In order to think about this more carefully, I suggest that personal trust attached to fellow participants in solidarity is distinct from the second order trust between participants.

27The collective that forms in political solidarity is unlike any other form of unity. As is evident, the solidarity collective is a loose connection of people acting in concert for a particular cause. Participants understand the cause in context from their situation and assume the social role in solidarity as a relational role with others. But trust in solidarity is first that these others are committed to or share a relation to the cause of solidarity and second that, because of this, there is a relation among solidaristic actors mediated by the cause insofar as participants seek to live their commitment through relations with similarly committed others. The engaged or embodied enactment of the commitment of solidarity that I have suggested contributes to trust must also account for the diversity of actors in a solidary collective. The distribution of social risks requires an acknowledgment of how political solidarity is affected by and affects the social positioning of each participant. As Craig Calhoun notes, “Differences among participants also pose a challenge. If a public sphere needs to include people of different classes, genders, even nations, it also requires participants to be able – at least some of the time – to adopt perspectives distanced from their immediate circumstances, and thus carry on conversations that are not determined strictly by private interest or identity” (2002: 165; see also Lenard 2012: 118-124). Calhoun rightly demonstrates the bracketing of private interest or identity in solidarity, even while understanding that differences in identity and interest affect the relations among solidaristic actors.

28Michael Walzer suggests that involvement in multiple “associational ties” contributes to an appreciation of difference while also empowering individuals by giving them a “growing sense of their own effectiveness”. His insight speaks to the way political solidarities expand based on networks of involvement from participants as well as how they enact inclusivity with the recognition of the intersections among causes and ends. According to Walzer, “Multiply the calls for competent people, and the people will appear. Multiply the opportunities for action-in-common, and activists will emerge to seize the opportunities” (1994: 190). Building networks of recognition and causes is “our best protection against the parochialism of the groups in which they participate. Engaged men and women tend to be widely engaged – active in many different associations both locally and nationally” (Walzer 1994: 189-190). Indeed, although there is some debate regarding trust within civil society organizations that are “bonding” or “bridging”, empirical evidence seems to point to the fact that participation in bridging associations, like political solidarity, increases social trust more generally (Paxton and Ressler 2017: 2).

29Some of the actors in political solidarity movements are motivated to participate because there is something about society that alienates, that blocks their sense of belonging. So too, some may continue their participation because the movement provides a sense of belonging or the recognition of being part of a collective. That is often what people mean when they use the term solidarity – a sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself. Movements of political solidarity allow for people to be members, to actively engage with others, and to create a new social space unbounded by membership criteria or formal rules. In other words, social movements allow for, and even require, the enactment of sociality where first order trust generates a sense of belonging foregrounded in cooperation and collective action.

30Enacting sociality focuses on the bonds between and among members of the solidary collective. Starting from a goal to combat oppression, tyranny, or injustice and motivated by differing values – and perhaps by different conceptions of the ideally just society – can nevertheless, prove fruitful. The bonds of the social will be continually remade as new members join and new ideas (and ideals) enter the mix, and very diverse motivations and justifications for commitment nevertheless work in concert to create social change. Trust in solidarity is recursive in this way. As Govier argues, “A trusting and trustworthy person will understand himself and others in a positive way, will tend to experience a more benevolent world, will find trustworthy and caring friends and meaningful intimate relationships, and will thereby have an optimistic sense of the world and his future within it” (1997: 40). Solidarity sets up a social space wherein trust can take hold in a positive way and build relationships beyond the purpose or end that brings people together.

3. Transformative effects

31The personal transformations evident in solidarity (Scholz 2010) are mirrored in the collective transformations evident when solidarity is looked at through the lens of trust. Trust emerges in the collective practices of solidarity. Participants, as I argued above, move from trusting in one another’s commitment to a cause to potentially trusting in each other more generally. Diversity and difference among participants and causes contributes to an expanding network in political solidarity and opening space for new collective imaginaries and political voices.

32Discussing migrant protest and solidarity movements, Ilker Ataç describes the transformative impact on people who find themselves acting on and committed to solidarity with migrants. Citizenship and community are reimagined. Ataç suggests “The relational dimension of the protest is vital for recreating citizenship as a collective practice” (2017: 117). Others have suggested that the practical action of social movements is one of the places where “concrete social relationships” are forged: “The notion of constitution as legal framework thus needs to be complemented by the notion of constitution as the creation of concrete social relationships: of bonds of mutual commitment forged in shared action, of institutions, and of shared modalities of practical action” (Calhoun 2002: 152; see also Hall 2017). Political solidarities enter into and disrupt ongoing social discourse, offering a new social reality and shifting social trust. Moreover, living the commitment in the relation between solidaristic actors means that they must remain open to newcomers, including those who were formerly among the powerful outside the unity of solidarity.

33It may be possible, in other words, for the solidarity of social movements to contribute to what Lenard calls a climate of trust, affecting a generalized trust. Peter Hall similarly argues that social solidarity flows “from visions of social justice that become prominent in national discourse” (2017: 214). Hall looks to political movements for social justice as sources for the “broader collective imaginary» that transform societies. “Collective imaginaries define the boundaries of membership in the community and offer conceptions of what its members can legitimately demand of others and expect in return” (2017: 214).

34Lenard notes two criticisms of a social capital account of trust that are worth considering here as well. The first holds that people who participate in cooperative ventures are more trusting by nature and the involvement with others does little to foster trust. The second objection holds that the emergence of trust from some civil society organizations does not mean that all civil society organizations contribute to more generalized trust (Lenard 2012: 28-29). In their discussion of “bad civil society”, Chambers and Kopstein note that some civil society organizations – those that promote hate and bigotry, for instance – might contribute to fostering trust among members but have an adverse effect on trust in society generally. They explain, “The lessons of trust and solidarity, of developing an ‘I’ into a ‘we’, do not strengthen democracy when the trust, solidarity, and the ‘we’ are such that they do not go beyond the group in question” (2001: 841). I have argued that the trust found in relations of political solidarity is transitory as a first order trust but potentially contributory to generalized trust. Moreover, by accounting for solidarity’s reach (Scholz forthcoming) in recognition of differences among participants and issues, I argue that political solidarity is not bounded but an open, transformative relation.

35One possible outcome of this understanding of political solidarity and trust is the recognition of social movements that challenge unjust aspects of liberal democratic societies as sources of, or resources for, trust and democratic engagement. As Michael Walzer argues “in a democratic society, action-in-common is better than withdrawal and solitude, tumult is better than passivity, shared purposes (even when we don’t approve) are better than private listlessness” (1994: 188-189). His point is not to endorse “bad civil society” but rather to say that citizen engagement in movements like political solidarity builds the tools and fosters the relational trust that is essential to/for democracy.

36Political solidarity is a moral relation among individuals who have committed to a cause; the cause that unites participants is a cause opposing some form of injustice, tyranny, oppression, or social vulnerability. The shared commitment to stop the injustice, not a vision of an ideal future or a commitment to a particular account of justice, motivates and justifies the action. The goal of ameliorating injustice or stopping oppression, goals that put one in conflict with at least some existing social structures, provides the basis for social trust while transforming the unjust conditions that support distrust. Political solidarity allows for the creation of space and the collective imaginary to transform politics, generate trust, and produce new social spaces.

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Ataç, I. 2017, “Refugee Protest Camp Vienna”: Making Citizens through Locations of the Protest Movement”, in I. Ataç, K. Rygiel and M. Stierl (eds), The Contentious Politics of Refugee and Migrant Protest and Solidarity Movements, New York, Routledge: 103-120.

Bayertz, K. 1999, Four Uses of “Solidarity”, in K. Bayertz (ed.), Solidarity, Dordrecht-Boston-London, Kluwer: 3-28.

Calhoun, C. 2002, Imagining Solidarity: Cosmopolitanism, Constitutional Patriotism, and the Public Sphere, “Public Culture”, 14, 1: 147-171.

Chambers, S. and Kopstein, J. 2001, Bad Civil Society, “Political Theory”, 29, 6: 837-865.

Govier, T. 1997, Social Trust and Human Communities, Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Hall, P. 2017, The Political Sources of Social Solidarity, in K. Banting and W. Kymlicka (eds), The Strains of Commitment, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 201-232.

Lenard, P.T. 2012, Trust, Democracy, and Multicultural Challenges, University Park, Penn State University Press.

Paxton, P. and Ressler, R. 2017, Trust and Participation in Associations, in E.M. Uslaner (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Social and Political Trust, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Rothstein, B. 2017, Solidarity, Diversity, and the Quality of Government, in K. Banting and W. Kymlicka (eds), The Strains of Commitment, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 300-326.

Scholz, S. 2008, Political Solidarity, University Park, Penn State University Press.

Scholz, S. 2010, Persons Transformed by Political Solidarity, “Appraisal”, 8, 2:19-27.

Scholz, S. 2020, Solidarity, Social Risk, and Community Engagement, “American Journal of Bioethics”, 20, 5: 75-77.

Scholz, S. forthcoming, Solidarity’s Reach, in N. Aghoro, K. Gerund and S. Mayer (eds), Re-Thinking Solidarity in the U.S. and Beyond, Munich, Universitaetsverlag Winter.

Walzer, M. 1994, Multiculturalism and Individualism, “Dissent”, (Spring): 185-191.

Warren, M. 2017, Trust and Democracy, in E.M. Uslaner (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Social and Political Trust, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

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1 Research partially supported by ConTrust of Normative Order at Goethe Universität, Frankfurt a. M.

2 For a discussion of the moral relation of solidarity, see my Political Solidarity (2008).

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Sally J. Scholz, «Trust in Solidarity»Rivista di estetica, 82 | 2023, 16-29.

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Sally J. Scholz, «Trust in Solidarity»Rivista di estetica [Online], 82 | 2023, online dal 01 février 2024, consultato il 23 juin 2024. URL:; DOI:

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