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Many people consider solidarity to be an old-fashioned, outdated concept. But isn't solidarity part of the essence of a modern economy?


Division of labour = altruism


Before the division of labour became an essential part of society, men, women and children tended to work side-by-side in family-based agricultural production, often doing different chores, but cooperating in the running of a farm or family business and equally sharing the proceeds of this labour. But due to the division of labour and the specialization of the functions and roles involved in production, nobody works solely for their own consumption anymore. Every worker has been assigned a specific task in the production process and manufactures products to be distributed all over the world; a product he may never even use himself. That is, in fact, very altruistic and it has led to an unprecedented wealth in comparison to primitive societies.


The far advanced division of labour connects people from all around the world to each other, even if we aren’t aware of it.


Solidarity in economic chains


Think of a bag of sugar. How many people have cooperated in producing this apparently simple product? The sugar farmers, the people that work in the refinery and in transportation, the people  that are involved in producing the paper bag and the staple that seals the bag, the marketing agency that created the logo, the printing business that printed the bag, the employees in the supermarket that carry the bag. And think of all the suppliers that helped build and operate the farm, the refinery, transportation, the paper factory, the printer and the supermarket. Whoever uses sugar in their coffee, is linked to the whole world.


In short, many people are involved in an economic value chain. They all should receive their fair share of a product’s final price. To achieve this, we need transparency and associative discussions between all those involved. That is solidarity. The fair trade movement, that wants producers in developing countries to get a fair share of the sales price in Western shops, is in fact a movement creating solidarity links between producers in developing countries and consumers in the Western world. 


Solidarity between generations


Solidarity should also exist between generations. We are dependent on earlier generations, and in the same way our children, their children and so on are dependent on us. Just think of the national debt. The debts we make now, will have to be repaid by our children and grandchildren. Because we want to consume more than we earn, they will only be able to consume less than they earn. Is that fair? And of course, the same thing goes for our raw materials and the environment. If we use up everything, there will be nothing left for future generations.


Solidarity means supporting each other, based on brotherhood, equality and reciprocity. In other words: "One for all and all for one." This means: one for all also in sharing common ideas, goals, aims and opinions and vice versa all for one for the same correct principles, in means of social conscience, a sense of responsibility and to contribute to society.


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