Sympathetic Solidarity: Rethinking Solidarity as a Political Emotion with Adam Smith

Bastian Ronge


In this paper I refer to Adam Smith’s theory of sympathy as stated in his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” (1759) in order to develop a three-dimensional account of solidarity as a political emotion. This account allows for a reconsid-eration of key features of solidarity, as discussed in the (German) scholarship on solidarity, within a theoretical framework that takes the emotional founda-tions of solidarity seriously. Moreover, it makes us aware also of two particular problems of solidarity as a political emotion: The problem of colonizing emo-tions, which is often implied in the struggle for solidarity, and the problem of exploiting the emotion of solidarity for particular political reasons.


Adam Smith, solidarity, sympathy, political emotions, Theory of Moral Sen-timents

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