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Convergencia vol.27  Toluca  2020  Epub 29-Mayo-2020 


Solidarity in the Age of Globalization: Approaches from the Philosophy for Peace

Solidaridad en la Era de la Globalización: Aproximaciones desde la Filosofía para la Paz

Martha Jalali-Rabbani1

11University of Kansas, USA,


This article approaches the challenges to solidarity in the age of globalization in terms of the limitations set to it by a) the structure and values of global capitalism, b) political membership to the Nation-State, and c) membership to cultural groups that do not allow self-reflection, learning and changing. Building on Martínez Guzmán´s Philosophy for Peace, the political self from the perspective of our human competences to extend solidarity to strangers are redefined, more specifically, a) our capacity to communicate and understand each other, b) our capacity to recognize sameness in each other, c) our capacity to cooperate. At the end, this revised understanding of the self is applied to identify the political institutional changes that are necessary for the extension of solidarity: a) a transnational public sphere, b) global domestic politics, and c) a constitution for the world society.

Key words: solidarity; globalization; human capacity; philosophy for peace


En el presente artículo defino los desafíos a la solidaridad en la era de la globalización en términos de las limitaciones impuestas a ella por: a) la estructura y los valores del capitalismo global, b) la pertenencia política al Estado-Nación y c) la pertenencia a grupos culturales que no permiten la autorreflexión, el aprendizaje y el cambio. A partir de la Filosofía para Hacer las Paces de Martínez Guzmán, re-defino en seguida el ser político desde nuestras competencias humanas para la extensión de la solidaridad a los extranjeros: a) la capacidad de comunicación y comprensión mutua, b) la capacidad de reconocimiento del otro y c) la capacidad de cooperación. Al final, aplico esa comprensión revisada del ser político para delinear los cambios institucionales políticos necesarios para la extensión de la solidaridad: a) una esfera pública global, b) una política doméstica global y c) una constitución para la sociedad mundial.

Palabras clave: solidaridad; globalización; capacidad humana; Filosofía para la Paz


Many were the ideas and concepts conceived by professor Martínez Guzmán during his career as a peace philosopher. Among his conceptual (and practical) legacy is the strong proposition that we, the pacifists, are the true realists (2006). Apparently simple, this proposition is at the heart of a Philosophy for Peace. It suggests a new way of conceptualizing the political self, a self that is responsible or that must respond to that which he/she is capable of doing in terms of building a more peaceful society. In other words, it implies that accountability for and expectations of a particular behavior stem also from one’s capacity or competence, and not simply from how one decides to utilize this capacity or from how it has been traditionally or predominantly expressed. In this sense, the ability to identify and nurture human competences to make peace make us, the pacifists, the true realists. The warlords will not hold themselves and others accountable for what they can do and act on the assumption that the reality of a moment that they unilaterally frame and define, constitutes the whole reality. Such narrow outlook often becomes the justification for the reproduction of patterns of behavior that overshadow or exclude the real scope of possibilities for human action. It also legitimizes the narrative that everything beyond itself is a naïve interpretation of the world, even when such outlook is in clear contradiction to the people’s interest in peace.

In this article, the political self from the perspective of Martínez Guzmán’s Philosophy for Peace will be reviewed and this revised understanding of the self will be applied to address one of the core problems that sustain the injustices of globalization: the “realist” view that human beings act only according to their immediate profit and interest, and that it would be naïve to expect that they extend solidarity to everyone. Here the term solidarity will be used in the sense that Habermas does, as civic or political solidarity, that is, as an action that is taken for another’s sake that would be to one’s own disadvantage in the short and medium terms but which is based on one’s “trust in the reciprocal conduct of the other if need be in the future” (Habermas, 2014: 10-11). If we can determine, in conceptual and empirical terms, the competences of the self to extend solidarity to strangers, then the injustices caused by globalization can be realistically addressed. In this case, as Martínez Guzmán would put it, we wouldn’t have excuses anymore but responsibilities.

In what follows, I) the challenges to solidarity in the age of globalization will be defined in terms of the limitations set to it by a) the structure and values of global capitalism, b) political membership to the Nation-State, and c) membership to cultural groups that do not allow self-reflection, learning and changing; II) the political self will be redefined from the perspective of our human competences to extend solidarity to strangers, more specifically, a) our capacity to communicate and understand each other, b) our capacity to recognize sameness in each other, c) our capacity to cooperate; III) this revised understanding of the self will be applied to identify the political institutional changes that would result from and which, at the same time, are necessary for the extension of solidarity: a) a transnational public sphere, b) global domestic politics, c) a constitution for the world society.

Challenges to solidarity

Regardless of their disagreements, political philosophers and social theorists would agree that there are at least three distinct, though interconnected, challenges to the willingness of people or to their ability to show solidarity to one another.1 These challenges do not exhaust, of course, the list of specific causes and reasons which are proper to each region and context, and which make it difficult for people to act in solidarity when confronted with the demand to stand for one another in the face of hardship or difficulties. On the other hand, social thinkers can identify social forces and global changes that have gradually expanded in modern time to finally reach out and leave their impact on every corner of the world.

One of these global developments, the first out of our three challenges for human solidarity, is a) the globalization of capitalism, the spread of its system and institutions, creating an increasingly economically interdependent world, and the spread of its values and way of life, affecting and shaping cultures, modern and traditional, all over the world (Sennett, 2005) . Structurally speaking, global capitalism is free, it roams in search of conditions favorable to its own internal demand for the maximization of profit. In this way, it has systematically weakened the capacity of powerful Nation-States to protect the basic socio-economic rights of their citizens. For less economically advanced States, which have not yet developed as welfare states, the demands to become economically competitive in the global market swept away people’s hope or expectation that their government, like the governments of more developed States, would eventually guarantee all their citizens a minimum living condition.

Under such circumstances, in which the Welfare State, or its promise at least, has been undermined, it is challenging to think in terms of civic or political solidarity - even within the borders of the same Nation-State (Bauman in Tabet, 2017, and Habermas, 2000). Concentration of resources and investment in personal training, in order to be more marketable than others, and competition for limited resources become the prerequisites of success for individual citizens. When we think of solidarity as the willingness of citizens to stand for one other and do what it takes such as paying higher taxes, for instance, to offset imbalances that would systematically exclude portions of the population from participating on an equal footing with everyone else, we see that the trend in most countries has been the opposite, toward the concentration of wealth and increased inequality and social exclusion.

If civic solidarity within Nation-States, where it used to exist, is dwindling, it would seem even more unlikely, it may be argued, that it takes shape at international level. In the age of populist governments and heightened nationalist sentiments, it seems unrealistic to expect that people everywhere stand for one another, considering the effects of their decisions on distant others and committed to promote the interests of all the peoples of the earth, across national and cultural borders. International relations have been marked by immediate national economic (and geopolitical) interests, with powerful states having the upper hand in determining the formal and informal terms of these relations.

It is important to highlight the fact, however, that global solidarity, to the extent that it is undermined by global capitalism, is also - unlike solidarity grounded on national membership alone - potentialized by globalization. Not only have international relations evolved from an arena where players could display an unrestricted amount of power to one where there are at least basic laws, regulations and rights in place, but people everywhere can now learn of the fate of others in an instant. With the global reach of information and communication technologies that have been made available partly through the globalization of capitalism, people can also learn how they are affecting one other with their seemingly harmless local actions and choices. This newly gained visibility and closeness of the far away other, and the increased awareness of how we are implicated in each other’s fate and well-being, makes the shaping of a global public sphere and the solidarity that it implies, for the first time, a possibility.

The national public sphere, where people (used to) meet to exchange ideas, determine common interests, shape public opinion and inform and guide public policy, that is to say, the arena for the exercise and consolidation of civic solidarity, is significantly weakened by globalization, since the State can no longer protect the basic social rights of its citizens against a mobile economy - which is the requirement for and also the practical outcome of people’s exercise of their political freedom. The same is not true for a will be global public sphere. In the absence of a global government that has been democratically empowered to represent and protect the will of its people, global capitalism, beyond pointing out to the limited reach of nationally sovereign governments, highlights the destructive consequences of an unregulated economy gone global and indirectly justifies why we need political will and solidarity to be exercised at global level.

Seizing on this untapped potential for global solidarity will require more than awareness of the sufferings and exploitations caused by a complex web of causation. It will require an expansion in the self-perception of modern human beings, which has been more recently shaped by the values of modern capitalism. It is neither the intention here to review these values in detail nor to undertake an extensive analysis of their weaknesses and strengths for social reproduction.2 The point is to highlight how some of the most basic tendencies of capitalism’s value system - individualism and competition — affect people’s ability to act in solidarity. As long as we see our well-being and security as a function of our ability to protect them against each other, instead of our ability to advance them with each other, solidarity will pose a threat, not an answer, to the fulfilment of our interests.3

The assumptions that each person can pursue his or her own idea of the good life, freely from others, and that the maximization of one’s gains is possible without the maximization of everyone else’s gain — that one’s gains can justifiably in fact result in the loss of others — not only redeem people from responsibility for the well-being of the whole but also make solidarity a socially irrelevant virtue. Weaker social members, unable to pursue their goals on their own require, rather than solidarity, mercy or charity. Political or civic solidarity, or the idea of everyone, regardless of their social status, coming together to create long term safety networks to advance the well-being of all, becomes purposeless from the perspective of those who value hypercompetitive individualism. Solidarity must overcome this significant hurdle in modern capitalist self-perception if its value is to be recovered in social relations.

b) Another deep-rooted aspect of modern self-perception, which represents a significant obstacle towards the display of solidarity, is the definition of the political self in terms of membership to a Nation-State. Even though Nation-States have lost their power to steer what used to be a national economy to secure certain basic conditions for their citizens, national identity imposes itself more than ever before - perhaps for this very reason - as a precondition for solidarity. But, under national governments’ decreasing power and individualistic cultural values, what could solidarity built on national identity mean? With the rise of populist governments around the world, we witness a divided polis, incapable, on one hand, of uniting national citizens around common goals and projects. Expedient, on the other, to assert their unity through what they deny: membership to the other. National solidarity identifies non-nationals as the source of deteriorating life conditions and mobilizes people against them. Effective political projects, however, capable of improving citizens’ lives, will not and cannot result from this normative and practical exclusion in an age at which everyone’s fate is intricately interwoven. Global threats to survival, job insecurity, the unpredictability of financial markets and the impossibility to control the tendencies of the free market economy in general cannot be relieved or tamed with a strong sense of belonging to a tight-knit community whose most prevalent characteristic is its exclusivity (Tabet, 2017, and Standing, 2008) .

Furthermore, in societies that are becoming increasingly multicultural, the challenge of forging a political culture, or an agreed interpretation of social justice, as purportedly intended by national constitutions, is especially acute.4 A viable and functional public sphere in these societies would require the inclusion or the extension of solidarity to all the members of the polis, regardless of their ethno-national background. Such public sphere should be open, moreover, to the participation of anyone living outside its territorial borders, to the extent that the discussions carried within it inform political deliberations that would also affect the wellbeing of the outsiders (Fraser, 2007) . If anything, in the age of globalization, political self-perceptions that are dependent on membership to ethnic-nationalist collectivities empower these collectivities to struggle against each other rather than toward the improvement of life conditions, regardless of how reassuring and promising such membership might seem in the short term.

c) Membership to fundamentalist cultural groups, unwilling to engage with others, reflect on their practices, learn and change, also pose a core challenge to solidarity in the age of globalization. Due to threats posed to their integrity and collective self-determination, by the unilateral spread of modern values and life-style, or perhaps due to grievances for not being allowed a fair chance to partake of such life-style, these groups are too distrustful of others to actively engage in an extended web of civic solidarity (Barbato, 2010) . While ethno-national identities refer to a natural membership, being born into a “people” and sharing a common past and destiny, cultural identity refers to a choice, more or less free, depending on the group we have in mind, of belonging or rejecting that identity. Cultural groups are also, by definition, universal in their embrace, that is, anyone, given abidance to certain membership standards, can enroll or convert. Unlike national membership, one does not have to be born a member in order to become one.

Why the universal and open nature of cultural identities reverts to fundamentalism is a matter of contention.5 What is clear, however, is that many of the fundamentalist religious movements in the West and in the East, have been recently fueled by globalization and by the multi-level insecurities that result thereof. Attachment to the reproduction of one’s set of values and practices, or the prioritization of the preservation of a collective identity over the well-being of members and non-members alike - even in the case if these members are free to leave — makes it extremely difficult for diverse cultural groups to engage with each other and show the mutual concern and the will to stand for one another, which are necessary to increase social security for each and every individual and collectivity.

Globalization has certainly put many cultural groups in a state of alert and in a self-defensive mode, making solidarity across cultural groups seemingly intractable. It has also, however, fused their fate together, imposing a novel necessity for mutual understanding and collaboration, if these groups are to survive and thrive. As long as the distinct cultural groups that constitute each community are unwilling or unable to engage in national, transnational and supranational public discourse, shaping in this way local and global public opinion and guiding public policies, and together demanding that these policies be implemented, they will have to keep fighting a self-destructive battle to limit each other’s scope of action, while leaving the real sources of their grievances untouched.

One fundamental question that needs to be addressed at this point is who is to set the terms of this mutual engagement in public discourse and action and how, so that certain groups, either cultural or national, are not unfairly and asymmetrically expected to revise their own life-style, while the same self-reflection and (possible) change is not required from everyone else. A second related question, on which the fairness of this mutual engagement depends, is: can cultural and national identities keep their uniqueness and integrity if they are to engage in self-examination and self-transformation utilizing criteria that is external to their tradition?6 These two-level question needs to be addressed in the context of another: does collaboration require to identify values that are inherent within each tradition and commonly shared across them or would a minimum morality be enough? In other words, do we need to search for and recover an ethical substance, rooted within each tradition itself, to encourage collectivities to engage and extend solidarity to one another? Or would the application of basic moral principles, such as the application of the principle of fairness as parity of participation in all spheres of life, political, economic and social,7 be enough to achieve such lofty goal? In the following section, I will seek to answer this question.

Our Competences to Extend Solidarity: Perspectives from the Philosophy for Making Peace(s)”

Vicent Martínez Guzmán, one of the main proponents and idealizers of what he called “Philosophy for Making Peace(s)”, defined this philosophy as “the normative reconstruction of our capabilities and competencies in order to live in peace”.8 Using the Philosophy for Peace approach to overcome the challenges posed to solidarity by globalization is different, on one hand, from the effort of searching for the values and traditions that characterize each cultural group (secular and non-secular); reconciling innumerous diverse interpretations available within each tradition; and, finally, identifying overlapping ethical values across cultural traditions which are sufficiently meaningful for every group, and which would demand a reorientation of the members’ self-perception as a member, among other things, of an all-inclusive community. Only a re-orientation guided by such effort could allow, in principle, for the extension of solidarity to outsiders, without requiring members to sacrifice parts of or all their cultural identity in this process.

On the other hand, this philosophical approach also differs from a moral procedure that, in order to justify the extension of solidarity, would require agreement around a minimum set of norms and values, rooted mainly on the principles of fairness of secular Modernity.9 The problem with adhering only to this minimalist requirement - such as respect to human rights, accepting democracy as the best form of government or fairness as parity of participation — lays not in the set of universalizable norms that it seeks consensus for. It lays in the fact that, by itself, the change in self-perception that it requires is not expected symmetrically from all sides. For the members of those groups with strong collective identities, the requirement to engage in self-examination, to learn and change is much more taxing, unless, of course, they have willingly undergone a process of modernization — which, as matter of fact, many groups have. In the case, however, that a particular tradition or culture lacks the internal ethical elements to learn and adapt, then they would be in one way or another coerced into change.

The unique contribution of Peace Philosophy to a much necessary transformation in self-perception toward the inclusion of the other is that by reconstructing human competencies to make peace or, as it is called here, our competencies to extend solidarity, such philosophy is adopting a transcendental pragmatism10 that symmetrically endows every individual and social group with the responsibility to expand its self-perception and to review its relation with the other. The competencies that we pragmatically display in our day-to-day interactions, which make acts of exclusion and aggression possible, are the same that are necessary for us to reach out to the other, show interest and concern for his/her well-being and act for the common good. In this sense, how we ought to perceive ourselves is rooted in how we in fact are and not on any specific set of values or tradition.

a) The first of these competencies is our capacity to communicate and understand each other, even when we speak different languages. The capacity to reach mutual understanding across national and cultural borders is key to overcoming the limitations set to solidarity, both locally and globally (Martínez Guzmán, 2007) . This capacity characterizes human beings everywhere and is not the special endowment of any community. Whoever communicates does so with the expectation that, at a certain level and in a certain way, he or she will be understood. Otherwise, there would be no point in engaging in communication. It is clear that people can make strategic use of communication so that the interlocutors do not reach full understanding. But even in this case, the utterer makes use of the interlocutor’s expectation of the possibility of mutual understanding in order to be deceitful and not vice-versa.

The condition of possibility of intelligible communication — that the interlocutors are truthful, sincere and making correct use of grammar and social norms11 - points to a transcendental moral norm of interaction derived from the ordinary and mundane communication between human beings. We may choose not to communicate in this way, though we cannot avoid the responsibility that we assume in relation to each other the moment that we engage in communication. In other words, as communicative beings we are accountable, regardless of our unique values, language or identity, for at least telling the truth to each other, being sincere and being normatively correct. Even though this last obligation is in reference to the norms agreed on in one´s own social group, every language lends itself to translation into another and people across cultures and nations can reach any level of agreement because they, moreover, hold each other accountable for telling the truth and being sincere in their intentions.

From the perspective of our capacity or competence to communicate and be understood, the diversity of languages, norms and values, which in a globalized world must coexist in increasing proximity, does not constitute an obstacle to the extension of solidarity. As members of a community of communication, our basic mutual expectations, derived from the universal structure of intelligible communication, binds us all to a common moral code that allows us to differentiate between when we are being truthful, sincere and correct in our relations and when we are taking advantage of other people’s expectations to deceive them and use them toward our own ends, that is, use them as means toward the fulfillment of our personal interests, instead of the interest of reaching mutual understanding.

However, despite our communicative competence lays down the first step toward the extension of solidarity, by itself it is not enough to determine interest in the well-being of the whole. A commitment to mutual understanding can still bring the interlocutors together in a purely self-centered and self-oriented manner, where each party determines the purpose of reaching mutual understanding in terms of the maximization of personal gain, without a concern for the gains or losses of others. Solidarity requires more than everyone’s commitment to the moral norms embedded in human communication. We can truly and sincerely and, moreover, in accordance with the norms of our own tradition, exclude the other.

The willingness to stand and act for each other requires tapping also into another moral intuition that tells us that our well-being and that of others are intrinsically connected. This connection determines that prioritizing the needs of others over our own, when we are in a position to do something about it is, in the long run, to everyone’s benefit, including our own - even though in the short term we had to undergo some sacrifice. There is no reference here to the awareness of the contingent interconnection brought about by globalization. While such interconnectedness is certainly a strong motivation for action, it cannot by itself generate solidarity. In a global community of risk, it can be overly tempting to rule by fear. Militarily and economically disadvantaged societies can easily fall pray to forms of global governance that in the name of survival bend them in one direction or another. Similar consequences affect the people in developed nations, who must submit to undemocratic forms of global governance and accept a continuous undermining of their political rights to representation or, on the other hand, accept to partake of and benefit from an oppressive government that rules over all but is only responsive to a few.

b) The interconnectedness that allows our capacity for mutual understanding to be directed toward solidarity is our mutual need for recognition.12 Humans can recognize their sameness, regardless of their diversity and regardless of how they actually treat each other. This recognition is immediate, almost instinctive, a priori to any social conditionings and it is the condition of possibility for how, as a matter of fact, we treat each other. This original recognition explains, for example, why we expect to be understood by other human beings, even as a foreigner, or hold foreigners accountable for their actions but, on the other hand, will not have the same expectation from a non-human species. Before we engage in communication or perhaps because we engage in communication, we recognize sameness. The capacity for this original recognition, along with the expectation for practical recognition that such capacity implies, binds human beings together in an unavoidable unity, where the recognition one gives and receives unequivocally determines one’s self-relation. Because we recognize sameness in the other, we intuitively expect to be also recognized by him or her. The withdraw from this recognition, or our own withdraw from recognition, forces us to review, in more open or subtle ways, the meaning and the place of sameness in one’s self-relation — that sameness which made the original recognition possible.

It may seem that an interconnectedness built on these terms, that is, on our capacity for mutual recognition, is not strong enough to overcome the individualism and social fragmentation brought about by global capitalism, nationalism and a non-reflexive attachment to one’s way of life. However, this non-contingent interdependency exposes the impossibility of defining oneself without actively engaging the other, either by honoring the trust placed on us - through the recognition of sameness — and reciprocating the other’s recognition, or by taking advantage of it, using the other’s recognition to assert ourselves as worthy of recognition while, simultaneously, denying the worth of the giver of recognition to receive it back. The assertion of the absolute value of one’s way of life or the intentional choice to dehumanize the other as a source of individual and collective upliftment, lose their conceptual and practical grounds with the exposure of self-perception as the outcome of people’s symmetrical need for mutual recognition and a particular mode of engagement with the other.13 Solidarity can be extended to strangers only with the realization that every relation, including the most asymmetrical, is built on this universal and all -inclusive interdependency.

This interdependency, additionally, places an equal responsibility on everyone’s shoulder when it comes to being accountable to the other for the gap between the original recognition of sameness and the day-to-day practice of recognition. Following original recognition, there is the expectation of a particular recognition, which is a function mainly of the contextual contingent reality of each subject. Since the parties in a relation cannot count on receiving the exact recognition they expect, in terms of what they value or how they would like to be valued, what remains is the possibility of being recognized in one way or another. Every person and collectivity have an equal responsibility to negotiate this possibility with the other by taking account of the other’s expectations and examining one’s own expectations, that is, one’s own values and way of life, in light of the other’s expectations. No one can claim, a priori to or outside this actual negotiation, carried under conditions of ideal communication, that his or her choices or life-style are more deserving of the recognition of others than vice-versa. Would this process affect the unique identity of individuals and social groups? Yes, but it would be a self-examination and change that would be required equally from all parties.

The understanding of the self as belonging to an original all inclusive community of recognition, along with its membership to an all inclusive community of communication, is a necessary change in self-perception for overcoming the pervasive individualism spread by capitalism and maintained by collective identities that feel threatened by the other. Binding all human beings together, this factual but ignored or disregarded membership, not only constitutes the condition of possibility for social exclusion, manipulation and deceitfulness, but it is also the means for reconstructing political communities locally and globally. Built on this self-perception, political order would not find grounds for favoring the interests of one collectivity over another, or the individuals’ well-being over the common good. To do so in the name of national interest, collective rights or individual freedom, would be to limit and constrain the possibilities of the self to patterns of recognition already established within each community. It would detract from everyone’s freedom, oppressors’ and oppressed’, as the open ended and negotiable relation of recognition which is necessary for a meaningful practice of one’s way of life, would have been reduced to a predetermined recognition that all the members of a community must accept as the condition of their membership and are expected to offer one another.

Political order built on the perception of the self as a member of an all-inclusive community of recognition, capable of recognizing sameness and expecting the same recognition in return, prior to his or her membership to any particular community, extends solidarity to everyone, as anyone’s exclusion would imply a limitation imposed on the self, both in terms of determining and pursuing one’s interests. Taking everyone’s interest into consideration, engaging as equal communicative partners in decision making processes and standing for one another by making short-term sacrifices in order to safeguard everyone’s well-being in the long run, are all political outcomes of the realization that there is no exclusive or privileged pathway to fulfilling one’s interests, other than unconditionally recognizing and expecting the same recognition from each other.

c) The third capacity of human beings that not only allows for social exclusion but is also the reason why solidarity can be realistically extended to everyone, is our capacity to cooperate. Cooperation, more than an attribute of a culture or tradition, is the outcome of human evolution. The more recent theory of human self-domestication points out to the fact that selection occurred to benefit friendlier and cooperative members of the group, rather than more aggressive and dominant ones.14 This selection gradually led to the taming of impulsive aggression - even while calculated aggression has become increasingly more complex. What evolutionary biologists have more recently theorized is that the evolution of the human capacity to cooperate and effective cooperation, along with the development of other traits, such as language and empathy, have been key to the survival of the species and the development of civilizations.15 More than being successful in the competition for resources, the members of a community had to be skillful in cooperating with one another in order to thrive and to succeed, including in competition.

In the modern world, the capitalist economy and the individualistic and competitive values that it spreads, give competition the appearance of a positive skill that is necessary for success. The assumption that every individual ought to develop this self-oriented skill in order to maximize his or her personal gain, overlooks the fact that competition does not have an independent positive existence in and of itself. It depends on cooperation in order to be identified. Rather than a set of behavior, it would be more accurate to say that competition refers to the outcome of an interaction, an outcome that can supposedly benefit some in detriment of others. We identify someone as a winner of a competition because the particular outcome of that interaction benefited one party more than, or instead of, another. What is being overlooked in this context, however, is that any desirable outcome is the result of ongoing and successful cooperation - which nurtured the positive skills that were necessary for success. Furthermore, such outcome could only be the measure of success or determine a “winner” if there was ongoing cooperation taking place also at different levels: among communicative beings who agreed to recognize it as valuable or desirable.

From this perspective, an “unfair” competition could be defined as the manipulation of communication, through coercion or the use of devices such as advertisement or propaganda, to unilaterally fabricate consent on what is universally desirable and worth social recognition. Either the case, fair or unfair competition, long term and ongoing cooperation, be it intentional or unintentional, direct or indirect, is key for the possibility of competition.16 Rather than being capable of competing against each other, it would be more accurate to say that human beings are capable of cooperating with each other, in more or less effective manners, which in its turn determines the outcome of the type of interaction we customarily refer to as competition.

The possibility of extending solidarity implies that the capacity to cooperate can be exercised beyond one’s group. Here the argument follows that if we act according to the communicative requirements of mutual understanding and the requirements of our need for mutual recognition, then we can re-direct cooperation to every member of the communicative and original recognition community, that is, every human being. While awareness of this membership is a fundamental step toward the extension of cooperation, a capacity that, as human beings, we have had all along, it is clear, however, that such cooperation requires also institutional and other practical venues to express itself in an all-inclusive way. The following section discusses the political institutional changes that are necessary for people to be able to cooperate at the global level, standing for one another, overcoming the divisions brought by globalization and, simultaneously, fulfilling the newly gained understanding of their expanded capacities.

The Political Institutional Requirements of Solidarity

The human capacities to communicate, recognize sameness and cooperate have so far been manifested within limited political frameworks. These have been, nevertheless, expanding frameworks, that have culminated in the institution of the modern Nation-State. From a historical perspective, therefore, human beings have been continuously challenged to expand solidarity, that is, to become increasingly inclusive of who they recognize, communicate and cooperate with as equals.17 Whenever the political organization of the time became too restrictive for the expression of solidarity that was required to fulfil an expanded perception of the self - its capacities and interests - this organization was replaced by a more inclusive one, which allowed for the redefinition of the terms of social interaction and coexistence, and the expansion of individual freedom.

Globalization poses new challenges to old solidarities. It not only shows old solidarities’ insufficiencies in terms of guaranteeing established rights and freedoms but also, by contingently intertwining the fulfilment of these rights to one another, it unravels new possibilities for our capacities to communicate, recognize and cooperate, taking the possibility of solidarity, therefore, to new heights. Along with migrations, maritime expansions, technological developments, we have learned with intensified globalization that we can recognize sameness, communicate, mutually understand, hold each other accountable and cooperate with a broad diversity of human beings. The same way that developments like the Thirty Years’ War of religion in Europe contributed, beyond the destruction of large parts of the population, to a new self-perception - if not for everyone initially, at least for some - which led eventually to the rise of the modern Nation-State, globalization does not only magnify the scope of the problems that people have to address in order to safeguard their freedoms. It also contributes to the perception of the self as capable of identifying common problems and interests at the global level and as capable of solving them. This is a significant, non-ordinary, realization that requires new political arrangements in order for these capacities to be fully expressed and developed, nevertheless.

The institutional political changes outlined by social theorists and political philosophers such as Jürgen Habermas, Wolfgang Sachs, Nancy Fraser and David Held, are in line with the reconstruction of our human competences to make peace and extend solidarity undertaken by Martínez Guzmán (2001) and are very promising in this regard. Habermas (2008: 445) explains the institutional changes necessary for the actual extension of solidarity to the peoples of the world in terms of three crucial steps: a) the consolidation of a transnational public sphere; b) the establishment of a transnational negotiation system responsible for issues of global domestic policy designed for overcoming “the extreme disparities in wealth within the stratified world society” and c) the creation of a supranational constitution, responsible for the peace and human rights policy of the world society. Each one of these institutional political advances, in turn, requires an initial thrust in solidarity in order to materialize.

a) To understand how we are affecting each other across borders from the place of our local decisions or cultural values and life-style, we need a transnational public sphere to allow everyone to make use of their communicative capacity to voice, as peers, their expectations and misrecognitions. Such space would allow for the realization of the human (and environmental) consequences of one’s actions, accountability and the shaping of the global public opinion to guide government policies. Technology already makes this space possible, along with the urgency to improve life conditions. Beyond the tools now available for its materialization, however, a transnational public sphere would also need a public global media to keep the peoples of the world informed about challenges to common interests, how people are faring in the fulfillment of their fundamental human rights, best practices and their feasibility in addressing local and global inequalities; an auxiliary world language to ease the engagement of the global civil society; and a cosmopolitan education that instills a broader vision of belonging, and encourages children and youth to look at their local choices and life-style from the perspective of its implications to people and collectivities outside their immediate community and around the world. In the age of globalization, a transnational public sphere is a fundamental step for the expansion of our capacities and for the extension of solidarity. Concomitantly, it gets becomes increasingly consolidated as we expand our capacities to extend solidarity.

By shaping global public opinion, the transnational public sphere would become the source of the political will that guides and informs supra and transnational decisions and policies. As the economy has become increasingly global, taking advantage of the human and natural resources of countries and regions with less regulations in place, and Nation-States, strong and weak, have become less capable of steering an economy gone global toward the protection of the basic freedoms and rights of its citizens, transnational networks and organizations have emerged in an effort to coordinate technical cross-border issues and problems. These organizations, however, are not addressing political issues, which is a fundamental requirement and, at the same time, outcome of global solidarity. Political problems are defined as those that “impinge on entrenched (national) interests (…) which involve issues of equitable distribution” (Habermas 2008: 446) .

b) These problems represent conflicting interests and call for negotiation and implementation of binding compromises at the global level by “regional or continental regimes equipped with a sufficiently representative mandate to negotiate for whole continents” (447). Such global collective players would negotiate a global domestic policy “designed to overcome the extreme disparities in wealth within the stratified world society, reverse ecological imbalances, and avert collective threats (…)” (445). Global domestic politics, concerned as it is not with the technical coordination of contingent interdependencies but with actively promoting a rebalanced world order,18 would require a vibrant transnational public sphere and regional or continental actors with enough representative mandate to negotiate these policies and with the power to implement them (Habermas, 2006) . Only this transnational level of political decision making would be able to regulate the global economy and re-direct it towards the protection of everyone’s basic human rights. Such global players and transnational public sphere, however, do not exist at the present time and these problems cannot be solved directly by “bringing power and law to bear against unwilling or incapable nation-states” (Habermas, 2008: 446).

The first step that is needed for a global domestic politics to take effect is a population, especially those who belong to the global consumer class, who perceiving their membership to an all-inclusive global community, is willing to extend solidarity to all the peoples of the earth and pressure their national governments to engage in global domestic politics at the transnational level. From the perspective of such politics, solidarity would not mean increased intervention in the affairs of sovereign countries but the willingness of national citizens to favor the well-being of foreigners, especially those from more disadvantaged nations, as much as or over their own: take the perspective of far-away others into account when making local decisions that may affect them and change one’s lifestyle in order to reduce consumption levels and one’s ecological footprint toward a more rebalanced world order.19

c) In spite of the fact that the extension of solidarity would have to start from the local level, that is, that transnational political integration and decision making requires the initiative and support of national citizens to change their own self-oriented approach and that of their national governments, transnational political relations should also be in accordance with supranational regulations or with a constitution for the world society20 so that “the fundamental questions of transnational justice would arise under institutionally determined premises” (Habermas, 2008: 450). Since Nation-States come from different political traditions and thus have different interpretations of justice, their competing ideas of justice must be reconciled. This reconciliation may not be normatively possible. However, it could be procedurally achieved under a supranational constitution that is enacted “in the name of the citizens of the states of the world”,21 that is, in case everyone is allowed, at the global level, direct political representation as cosmopolitan citizens and also representation as citizens of Nation-States. A constitution thus enacted would imply that justice is the process or procedure of according to everyone political and civic basic rights and, furthermore, guaranteeing the ‘fair value’ of these rights: “the cosmopolitan citizens would have to be guaranteed that the conditions that they require given their respective local contexts if they are to be able to make effective use of their formally equal rights would be fulfilled” (Habermas, 2008: 450).

Under these supranational institutionally determined premises of justice, the diversity of collective identities, traditions and interpretations of justice could be reconciled toward an effective global domestic politics. Such reconciliation would not imply the preservation of unique identities but giving priority to the extension of solidarity over the protection of the partial interests of individuals and of national and cultural groups, in order to secure basic living conditions and the right of political representation to all the peoples of the world. By recognizing themselves as members of an all-inclusive community of communication, whose self-relation, or protection and expansion of freedoms and rights, depends on the quality of its relationship with the other, individuals and collectivities could cooperate to protect these rights for all, against the destructive forces of globalization. The effort to tame globalization from an isolationist approach, with the hopes of fulfilling one´s interests without the readiness to make sacrifices for another, undermines every possibility of effectively protecting one’s own political, civic and social rights. Against the forces of a global economy, which commitment is with profit alone, only solidarity between the peoples of the world will bear results.


Both at the transnational and supranational levels, a functional transnational or global public sphere must emerge for change to occur. As Habermas (2008: 451) puts it: “vigilant civil society actors who are sensitive to relevant issues would have to generate worldwide transparency for the corresponding issues and decisions and provide the opportunity for cosmopolitan citizens to develop informed opinions and take stances on these issues”. From this perspective, the reconstruction of our capacities to extend solidarity to every human being is, as Professor Martínez Guzmán emphatically argued, a foundational requirement for achieving a more just and peaceful world.


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2Authors such as Honneth (2011) have carried out an excellent job in this regard.

3This idea is extensively developed in the author’s own book (Rabbani, 2016) and also by Michael Karlberg (2004).

4See Taylor (1994) for a detailed analysis of the challenges in political self-understanding facing the citizens in multicultural societies.

5See, for instance, Maalouf (2011) for a discussion on how modernity has affected the self-perception and identity of those in the Muslim world.

6 Pensky (2000) raises this question and answers it from the perspective of the Critical Theory.

7Parity of participation is used in the sense of Fraser (2008: 405): “According to this principle, justice requires social arrangements that allow everyone to participate as peers in social life”.

8 Martínez Guzmán (2005: 3), unpublished manuscript in English “Philosophy and Peace Research”.

9For an historical overview of the evolution of Modernity´s values, see Taylor (2004). See also, for instance, Fraser (2008) for an explanation of fairness as parity of participation; Habermas (1996) for the justification of constitutional democracy as the most promising form of political organization in terms of its potential to advance human emancipation while being respectful and tolerant of other religious and cultural groups; and Sachs (2007) for the argument that basic human rights need to be universally respected if justice at the global level is to be achieved.

10The term transcendental-pragmatic is explained in the context of the reconstruction of a global ethics for humanity by philosopher Karl-Otto Appel (2007).

11See Habermas (1989) for an explanation of the universal structure of human communication in terms of three simultaneous claims of validity raised by the interlocutors in communication: the claims to truthfulness (the correspondence of what we say and the objective world); sincerity (the correspondence of what we say and how we feel; and, normative correctness (the correspondence of what we say and the grammatically and socially accepted norms of communication).

13No one would be able to assert his or her capacities by simply excluding or taking advantage of non-humans, of that which does not need our recognition. Our capacity to subjugate nature and dominate it, for instance, can only tell us about our superiority (or inferiority) amid a group of peers who recognizes and values this behavior as such. In the absence of at least another kindred that is to recognize an action as meaningful, human behavior is not in itself endowed with purpose and nor does it serve, therefore, as a basis for determining one’s superiority or inferiority.

14See the work of evolutionary biologists, neuroscientists and anthropologists such as Banks (2011), Hare et al. (2012), Hare (2017), Gazzaniga (2009) and Leach (2003).

16 Honneth (2011) makes an analysis of the cooperation that underlies the apparently even most competitive market relations.

17See Honneth and Fraser (2003), Honneth (2004) and Habermas (1996) for two distinct but similar approaches to the historical expansion of social solidarity. Honneth looks at it from the perspective of the contributions of modern capitalist societies and Habermas from the contributions of the Modern Nation-State.

18See Habermas (2006) for a detailed analysis of the requirements and scope of action of a would-be global domestic politics.

19 Sachs (2002, 2004 and 2007) makes a detailed analysis of the principles of action that ought to be adopted by the global consumer class and production systems in order to create a balanced and fair world. In general terms, these are the principles of efficiency, consistency and sufficiency.

Received: April 23, 2019; Accepted: September 19, 2019

Martha Jalali-Rabbani. Doctor in Humanities from Universitat Jaume I, Castelló, Spain. Professor of Peace Studies Program, University of Kansas, United States. Research line: social justice in the globalization era. Recent publications:The Development and Anti-Development Debate: Critical Reflections on the Philosophical Foundations, USA: Routledge (2016); “Reconhecimento, cidadania e justiça nas sociedades modernas”, in Rahnema, Vahideh [ed. ],Estudos para a Paz, Brazil: Universidade Federal de Sergipe (2010).

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