[Joseph Schwartz] calls for a public philosophy centered on the concept of "the solidarity of citizens," meaning "the moral commitment to the equal worth of persons and to the equal potential of human beings to freely develop and pursue their life plans," based on a sense of shared fate. The story of increasing inequality, he proposes, can be understood as the story of eroding social solidarity: "a political majority no longer exists in favor of social equality" as it did - however unevenly and inconsistently - in the New Deal and Great Society eras. To rebuild a governing majority committed to social equality means to revive Americans' commitment to the solidarity of citizens. The most exciting chapters of this book, thus, are those where Schwartz develops this idea of solidarity and uses it as the lens through which to reinterpret the recent history of economic and financial regulation, social welfare policy, political mobilization, and, ultimately, economic inequality in America.Why have so few political theorists tried to develop a public philosophy along these lines? Schwartz describes - and dissents from - an anti-political turn in academic political theory evidenced in the work of "deliberative" and "communicative" democrats, communitarians and even Rawlsian liberals - the notion favored by some on the liberal left that the moral worth of an action or a statute can be judged by its adherence to basic, inherent rights rather than its effect on the overall good of the society. Schwartz focuses his critique of contemporary theory instead on a "new radical orthodoxy" that denies the value or possibility of the kind of solidarity he seeks. Schwartz has in mind here certain theories of "difference" but also - and most consequentially - the intellectual trends that derive from post-structuralism. Post-structuralism developed in the late 1960s in response to structuralism, the post-war school of thought that saw underlying "structures" - linguistic, psychological, social - as the determinants of human life. It is at heart a theory of epistemology - of what can and cannot be known. Structuralists assumed that we can know what lies under surface appearances, but post-structuralists reject even the distinction between appearance and truth. Accordingly, post-structuralism values fragmentation and uncertainty, and favors metaphors of play and "performance."
Needed: A Politics of Solidarity
Needed: A Politics of Solidarity Joseph M. Schwartz, The Future of Democratic Equality: Rebuilding Social Solidarity in a Fragmented America (Routledge, 2009)Thirty years ago, the post-tax income of the wealthiest one percent of Americans was eight times higher than that of those in the middle, according to the Economic Policy Institute. By 2005, it was 21 times higher -...