Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Solidarity: an irrelevant word in the economists’ dictionary?

Caldari Katia, University of Padova

The term solidarity is a rather missing word in the economic literature. When present, it is often used as a synonym for “cooperation” either between productive factors according to the principle of the division of labour or within the same social class as class solidarity. The term solidarity derives from both the Latin adjective “solidus”, which means solid, compact, strong, and the noun “solidum”, which indicates “the whole”; it is also connected to the expression “in solido” which means “[being] safe”. On the other hand, the word solidarity is given in Latin by the terms “Necessitudo hominum” where “necessitudo” stands for “close relation” but also “unavoidable necessity”. What the Latin meaning highlights is the strength that can be traced back to a “solid group” that – in its being “solid and compact” – is also safe: moreover, its being solid is a condition for being safe, it is an “unavoidable necessity”. To go back to the Latin meaning and roots of the word solidarity helps us to pinpoint the features of the economic function recognized to solidarity by some authors (like Röpke, Perroux, Myrdal, and Marchal): for them, solidarity is not simply an act of benevolence, nor a feeling or condition of unity based on common goals, interests, and sympathies among a group’s members and it is not just a consequence of the principle of the division of labour; solidarity is instead considered as a fundamental element for the functioning of the market and the capitalistic system. Main aim of this paper is to investigate how solidarity is introduced and dealt with in the economic analysis of those authors, whose contributions related to this theme are often neglected.

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Keywords: Solidarity, Cooperation, Market mechanism, Capitalistic system

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