The picture 'And still we rise (Solidarity)' by Eddie Schrieffer

expresses in its very own way the theme of our conference.

Budapest 20 & 21 May 2022


The ninth international conference on The Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization again explores the nature of contemporary malaises, diseases, illnesses and syndromes in their relation to cultural pathologies of the social and bodies politic. This time, however, and in light of our experience of the ongoing covid pandemic as well as contagious political-economic convulsions, we are focusing explicitly on counter developments to these pathologies and their ambivalences.


Solidarity refers to the elementary bond, essential for maintaining any sort of sociability: everyone is dependent on others in the sense of being potentially reliant on their material or symbolic assistance, while reciprocally they are expected to make efforts and sacrifices for others. In this sense solidarity is not only a key to handling social pathologies, but also a central dimension of integration: by providing support for (social) suffering, it creates the fundamental sense of belonging, while determining the normative frames of providing help and being in need.

Despite its indispensability, social scientific reflections on modernity viewed solidarity as being more and more in peril. While authors like Durkheim, and Mauss, or Parsons attempted to reconstruct its modern, functionally differentiated version, others like Marx or the first generation of Frankfurt School viewed capitalism as a structure replacing solidarity with irreconcilable conflicts. More recent reflections like Habermas’ theory of systematically distorted communications, Beck’s concept of global economic and environmental risk society or Castells’ diagnoses of global informational capitalism tend to this latter direction, as they describe new paradoxes or obstacles in the way of emerging solidarity. 


Under the auspices of global neoliberalism, the contemporary scene is characterized by the repudiation of ‘Society’ in favour of ‘the Market’ and society is eclipsed by hyper-individuation and homo oeconomicus, the ideal-type rational choice subject of the neoliberal revolution. This has generated new social pathologies, of narcissism, loneliness & isolation, and the proliferation of superficial ‘friends’ on digitally mediatized ‘social networks’ that generate pathological forms of superficiality and mimetic envy, and negative solidarities of hatred and scapegoating.  


These chronic pathologies have been intensified by and complemented with new ones, as a consequence of the Covid-pandemic. Within national and global contexts the stakes of solidarity are sharpened once again, as the decisions about public health management, economic and social policy issues outline a ‘politics of life’ (Fassin) or in other words a ‘necropolitics’ (Mbembe). 

As a result of these transformations we think that once again fundamental questions concerning solidarity need to be raised from the perspective of its capability of maintaining integration by providing solutions to social suffering.

Is solidarity still the key to late modern crises? If the answer is positive, then what are those forms (beyond "mechanical/ organic" or "class/ status group" solidarities), which are capable of - not integrating, but at least - enabling the collective action of locally and globally fragmented/ divided societies? How does the pandemic impact on local and global solidarity networks: what are the new potentials, distortions and blindspots?


What forms of social suffering are targeted by solidarity? What inequalities or misrecognitions in terms of class, gender, race, ethnical identity are at stake? What health related issues or mental disorders are involved? Who are entitled as the actors of solidarity (e.g. the state, civil society, private or public networks) and what procedures are considered to be adequate means of expressing solidarity (e.g. welfare institutions, expert therapies, political movements?). What are those pathologies which are beyond the range of solidarity? Can global crises such as the pandemic, dysfunctions such as climate breakdown be handled within its framework?


And last but not least: what are the pathologies of solidarity itself? The difficult relation of solidarity and therapy: are they complementing each other (having different functionality), are they in conflict (i.e. therapeutic discourses undermine solidarity), or could they learn and benefit from each other (i.e. solidarity through therapeutic practice, or therapy through solidarity)? And last, but perhaps first: what about the concept of solidarity itself? Does it still stand? What kind of critiques has the concept encountered through the years? Why is it so omnipresent today; what does the over-discussion of solidarity tell us about the late modern condition? Are we in need of another concept to resist the ultraliberal temptation? Are we facing so many pathologies of solidarity today, that we should conclude that solidarity cannot be the answer to the crises of our times?


As previously, we welcome contributions from various disciplines attempting to answer these questions.


Keynote speakers: 

Máté Zombory (Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Nidesh Lawtoo (Leuven University)