Social Distance

К оглавлению
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 
34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 
68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 
85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 

Recognition of other people’s human worth is directly related to the next

dimension: social distance. Fromthework of the classical anthropologists

it appeared that the nature of the gift was related to the nature of the social

relationship: the closer the distance – family, relatives – the more disinterested

the gift and the less specific the expectations of return gifts: I give

to you, but I do not care so much about when or even if I receive something

back. In relations with unknown people gifts given out of motives

of personal gain or self-interest are more likely. In between lies a more or

less equal or equivalent exchange of gifts: everybody gives and receives,

and nobody gains or loses by it. Similarly, Georg Simmel (1950 [1908])

reflected on the way solidarity was related to social distance. In his view

solidarity would be transformed as a consequence of individualization.

As the traditional forms of community would lose their binding force,

people would increasingly be able to regard their fellow human beings as

representatives of the human species in general rather than a particular

group or culture. According to Simmel the process of individualization

would lead to more extended identifications; the new solidarity would

cover larger collectivities and become more abstract in nature (van

Oorschot et al. 2001).

Solidarity has indeed become more global and abstract, as we have

seen. Worldwide networks and interest groups, new global solidarity

movements, and the growing willingness to give to charity and support

humanitarian goals seem to confirm Simmel’s ideas about the rise of

abstract solidarity.However, such abstract solidarity is “easier” than concrete

solidarity in the form of care and support to fellow human beings,

because one is less directly confronted with the effects of poverty, illness,

or hunger. Filling in a bank check for some charity requires less personal

identification and less effort than caring for an ill relative.No real disaster

is imminent when amember of aw orldwide network does not live up to

his or her commitments. The anonymity of global solidarity is at the same

time its strength and itsweakness. The lack of direct personal responsibility

and the lowlevel of personal and emotional commitment facilitate the

mobilization of large numbers of people and the rapid growth of such

networks, but they reduce solidarity to the exchange of information,

consciousness raising, or a simple donation. Such a “thin” solidarity, as

B. Turner and Rojek call it (2001), can never emulate the “thick” solidarity

based on personal responsibility and commitment toward concrete

human beings.

However, the thick solidarity occurring between kin and near relatives

has a darker side as well, which becomes apparent in the selectivity

of solidarity, as we have seen. In his book Good Natured (1996) Fra ns

de Waal presents convincing proof for this selectivity among both humans

and animal species. Human sympathy is restricted and is given

most readily to one’s own family and clan, and only reluctantly to the

outside world, if at all. “Human history furnishes ample evidence that

moral principles are oriented to one’s own group, and only reluctantly

(and never even-handedly) applied to the outside world. Standing on the

medieval walls of a European city, we can readily imagine how tightly life

within the walls was regulated and organised, whereas outsiderswere only

important enough to be doused with boiling oil” (1996: 30). This can to a

large extent be explained by the well-known evolution principles, which

predominantly serve the protection and survival of one’s own family and

close relatives. “Kindness towards one’s kin is viewed as a genetic investment,

a way of spreading genes similar to one’s own. Assisting kin thus

comes close to helping oneself” (deWaal 2001: 317).

Contemporary solidarity is an interesting mixture of thick and thin,

both showing strengths and weaknesses.