The Bonds That Unite?

Call for Papers

‘The Bonds That Unite?’ Historical Perspectives on European Solidarity

University of Augsburg on June 23-25, 2016


The concept of “solidarity” is in many respects fundamental to the European project. While pro-European intellectuals had long applied it as a more or less abstract reference, the concept evolved into a solid cornerstone of European unity after the Second World War. The notion of a European solidarity union was essential to validating the integration process and had always been a component of redistribution policies on the supra-national level. Nevertheless it remained context-sensitive and open to interpretation and consequently was always the outcome of complex negotiation processes.

Our conference will examine various manifestations and interpretations of the solidarity concept in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. In so doing, it will address a highly topical problem: How much solidarity does the European enterprise need and what does the term signify in relation to the EU’s financial and debt crisis? Possible thematic contributions could:

1.) Firstly focus on the history of concepts, discourse and ideas. How did the pioneers of European unity define and conceptualize “European solidarity” during the 19th and early 20th centuries? To what extent did the supra-national institutions of the EEC/EC/EU avail themselves of “European solidarity” as a means of legitimizing the process of integration after 1945? Which semantic significance does the concept have and how was it exploited and justified? Points to be considered might be notions of Europe’s common norms and values, its Christian roots, its peace system, its mores as reflected in everyday culture, and its shared sense of superiority over other parts of the world as reflected in centuries of colonialism.
2.) Secondly examine how international solidarity is actually practiced in Europe. How has it been fostered since the 19th century? To what extent did the European integration process promote mutual support and cooperation? Which roles did civil and state actors play? Some possible examples are the European peace movement prior to World War I, the European movements of the interbellum period and the new social movements since the late 1960s.
3.) Thirdly probe the limits of the “European solidarity union”. These limits are still apparent not merely in attitudes towards non-European countries as external “others” but in certain contexts towards internal “others” as well, as recent developments within the EU have made plain. A watering-down of the solidarity principle reveals itself not only in debates about financial assistance for bankrupt EU member states, but also in regard to the ramifications of the Schengen process, as the polemics against the influx of low-wage workers from Eastern Europe make abundantly clear. Here it would be necessary to consider, among other things, the correlation between solidarity in both national and European contexts and the possible global significance of its semantics and practices.

The international conference will be held at the University of Augsburg on June 23-25, 2016. Depending on conference funding, we aim to cover costs for accommodation and reimburse invited speakers for their travel expenses. The conference language will be English. Selected articles will be published in a professional journal at the beginning of 2017. Please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words together with a short CV by 31 May 2015 to Florian Greiner ( The organizers will make their decisions known by the end of July 2015.

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