Margaret Kohn | European Journal of Political Theory
This article explains how 19th-century radical republicans answered the following question: how is it possible to be free in a social order that fosters economic dependence on others? I focus on the writings of a group of French thinkers called the solidarists who advocated “liberty organized for everyone.” Mutualism and social right were two components of the solidarist strategy for limiting domination in commercial/industrial society. While the doctrine of mutualism was rooted in pre-industrial artisan culture, social right was a novel idea that built on Durkheim’s analysis of the division of labour. In this article, I describe the main features of the solidarist account: solidarity, social property, quasi-contractual debt, and restorative justice. Classical republicanism was deeply concerned with citizen participation and the balance between popular and elite power, but 19th-century radical republicans thought that these goals must be approached differently in market societies in which enormous power is exercised outside the state. The solidarists cautiously embraced the state as a mechanism for regulating the market in order to ensure equal liberty. Social right and mutualism were also conceived as ways of limiting the centralization of state power.