International Summer School Critical Theory 2021. Foundations of Solidarity

From July 4th to 9th 2021


Summer School


Despite a widespread diagnosis that solidarity is in crisis, appeals to solidarity are ubiquitous today. We encounter them on the level of personal and professional relations but also with regard to institutions and systems of social security and welfare. They gain a dramatic character when human lives are in danger, e.g. when refugees have to cross the Mediterranean in floating death traps or when climate change is devastating the livelihood of whole populations. In all these cases, appeals to solidarity are invoking a ‘we’: We, the family or friends; we, the co-workers or professionals of our branch; we, the members of a national community or a social collective; we, leftists or members of a political movement; we, human beings; …

How can the materialist foundations of actual solidarity be rethought without falling back into tacit assumptions of social homogeneity? Class, gender, race, nation, and even humanity have all lost their status as matters of course. Given the effects of sexism and racism, theories of solidarity have to take into account the complex contradictions of capitalist societies which divide subaltern and exploited groups on the domestic level as well as globally. Appeals to solidarity hence run into an uncertainty concerning the foundations of solidarity. Is solidarity the result of a shared form of life or of collective practices? Does it stem from similar experiences or a common situation? Is it marked by adversity or a common enemy? Or is it the effect of a shared devotion to a common cause?

The summer school involved plenary lectures and discussions, reading sessions, smaller group discussions and panel debates. Only the latter was open to the broader public. We explored classical approaches such as Émile Durkheim’s analysis of the modern division of labour, Karl Marx’s claim the proletariat is a universal class that will found society on new relations of solidarity, and Iris Marion Young’s concept of seriality. Besides such classics, we discussed with leading contemporary theorists of solidarity (several of which will be present as instructors) whether or not current approaches of solidarity open up new perspectives for universalism.

Organizers: Robin Celikates, Rahel Jaeggi, Susann Schmeißer, Christian Schmidt (Center for Humanities and Social Change, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), in cooperation with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and the New School for Social Research (Alice Crary).

Hauke Brunkhorst (Europa-Universität Flensburg)
Asad Haider (New School for Social Research)
Serene Khader (City University of New York)
Frederick Neuhouser (Barnard College, Columbia University)


Robin Celikates (Freie Universität Berlin)
Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Regina Kreide (Universität Gießen)
Lea-Riccarda Prix (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Christian Schmidt (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

International Summer School Critical Theory 2021. Foundations of Solidarity