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29 August 2018

Exclusive vs. Inclusive Solidarities

Solidarity is a necessary part of healthy human existence. We are animals and need food, water, etc., but what defines us is our radically social nature so we also need to be connected to other individuals.

When that belonging is tribal, it insists on a kind of primary identity--a master status--that must do the heavy lifting of generating solidarity. For it to work sufficiently, it demands a lot and does so at the unvarying expense of the other. In other words, it's about exclusive solidarity: we feel cohesive by othering and even dehumanizing "them." For example, being an American citizen does this for many people. For it to work, "American citizen" must be defined by an other, most notably "illegal aliens." The political implications can be very harmful to undocumented peoples.

An alternative, and one that has until recently dominated modern life, is to allow people to have multiple identities, each doing relatively little of the heavy lifting of generating solidarity. The social benefit of this is that the diversity of identities is overlapping. This limits the externalized costs of generating solidarity and allows for more overall inclusive solidarity. For example, some are white and some are Evangelical Protestant, but some people of color are also Evangelical Protestants, prompting (at least in theory) such adherents to temper any animus toward those who are not white.

To put it succinctly, overarching identities do exclusive belonging and externalize the cost of that solidarity generation on the other; intersecting identities do inclusive belonging and limit the costs of solidarity generation.

Two major, open questions are (1) whether inclusive solidarity is as socially efficient as exclusive solidarity and, indeed, (2) whether inclusive solidarity is even socially sufficient. 

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