CCDS Event: Solidarity in Polarized Times

8 October 2023

On October 11th, 5pm, the Center for Critical Democracy Studies of the American University of Paris (AUP) will host Professors Isabelle Aubert (Panthéon-Sorbonne) and Rainer Forst (Goethe-Universität) for “Solidarity in Polarized Times,” an event which will bring both thinkers together for a discussion of notions of solidarity in their recent philosophical work. Professor Aubert will give a presentation titled “Solidarity and Critical Reason,” and Professor Forst’s presentation will be titled “Solidarity: Concept and Conceptions.” 

In case you’d like to participate online via Zoom, or would like to receive the papers of the speakers in advance, please write to Professor Julian Culp via

The event takes place in room C-104, 6 rue du Colonel Combes, 75007 Paris.


Isabelle Aubert: Solidarity and Critical Reason

“This presentation aims to show solidarity as a key concept to Critical Theory, especially for Jürgen Habermas and the next generation, Iris Marion Young, and Axel Honneth. In examining their approaches, I will focus on three main issues to reveal the explanatory, normative/critical, and epistemological scope of solidarity. I shall describe the conceptual challenge of getting the definition of solidarity right. Against particularistic forms of solidarity that are sectarian and exclusive, Habermas, Young, and Honneth present three interesting perspectives which stress the importance of a universal and reciprocal solidarity for the inclusion of all in democracy. I will then highlight how solidarity is not merely a descriptive, but also a critical concept. Solidarity refers to a social fact, the absence of which causes serious social pathologies, and it is also a normative issue with moral and political implications. Each following a singular path, Habermas, Honneth and Young reveal how and why the realization of a mutual solidarity is crucial for developing a society in which it is good to live together, not next to each other along parallel tracks or with some people dominating others. My final concern will be to demonstrate the necessary link between solidarity and critical rationality: if a real critique is to be based on social practice, then solidarity between participants must be presupposed to ensure this practice.”

Dr. Isabelle Aubert is Maître de conférences at the Institute of Law and Philosophy of Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne as well as Member of the Institut universitaire de France. She received her PhD in philosophy under the supervision of Jean-François Kervégan and Axel Honneth. Her research areas are legal philosophy, social theory, and contemporary political philosophy. Her book publications include the monograph Habermas – Une théorie critique de la société (CNRS éditions, 2015) as well as the volumes Dialogues avec Jürgen Habermas (CNRS éditions, 2018), Niklas Luhmann – Une théorie générale de la société (Sorbonnes Editions, 2023), and Adorno – Dialectique et négativité (Vrin, 2023).  


Rainer Forst: Solidarity: Concept and Conceptions

“This article distinguishes between a general concept and various conceptions of solidarity depending on normative contexts. The general concept of solidarity refers to a particular practical attitude and involves a form of “standing by” each other based on a particular normative bond with others constituted by a common cause or shared identity. Since solidarity is a normatively dependent concept, the nature of such bonds, causes or identities is not determined by the concept. Furthermore, solidarity itself, without the addition of further normative sources, is not a value; it can serve worthy or unworthy causes. Also, on the general conceptual level, the question of whether solidary acts are of a supererogatory nature or presuppose a particular sort of reciprocity or symmetry is left open. These questions have to be dealt with on the level of particular conceptions of solidarity, of which the article distinguishes four general ones: ethical conceptions located in communal contexts based on shared notions of the good, legal conceptions according to which solidary communities and duties are legally constituted, political conceptions that either focus on national solidarity or on the solidary pursuit of concrete aims of justice. Finally, moral conceptions of solidarity are based on some notion of common humanity materializing in particular forms of solidary action. Solidarity comes in many forms and with many justifications and grounds.”

Prof. Dr. Rainer Forst is Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy at Goethe University and Research Professor of Political Theory at WZB Berlin Social Science Center. One of today’s most important political philosophers and critical theorists, Forst received his Ph.D. under the supervision of Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls, and is best-known for his groundbreaking work on concepts of justice, power and toleration. Publications include: Contexts of Justice (1994; University of California Press 2002), Toleration in Conflict (2003; Cambridge University Press 2013), The Right to Justification (2007; Columbia University Press 2012), Justification and Critique (2011; Polity 2013), Normativity and Power (2015; Oxford University Press 2017) and Die noumenale Republik (2021); all published by Suhrkamp Verlag and translated into many languages. In 2012, he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation. He is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and of the British Academy.



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