Transformed Solidarity

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Significant changes have occurred in contemporary solidarity. At the

beginning of the twenty-first century the traditional mechanical solidarity

of family, neighborhood, and church has diminished, but not completely

disappeared. The significance of religion has diminished but new

forms of spirituality have come into being. Family solidarity still has firm

roots, as is shown in substantial intergenerational solidarity. The solidarity

of informal care and volunteer work remains at the same level in the

Netherlands, as in most other European countries. The abstract solidarity

of donating to charity and membership of humanitarian organizations

is yearly increasing. The political engagement of Dutch citizens shows a

double tendency: less commitment to traditional political organizations

and a growing involvement outside these organizations. Also collective

solidarity manifestations without political goals seem to be increasing.

Many new forms of solidarity have made their appearance. Participants

to the Local Exchange Trade Systems, nowrapidly spreading over Europe,

are establishing social connectedness and community feelings by mutually

exchanging help and services. Furthermore, many self-help groups

and groups offering reciprocal aid have arisen as people sharing a common

fate provide support for each other. In big cities local authorities

encourage citizens to contribute to the livability of their own neighborhoods.

Also global solidarity is increasing: new social movements and

new interest groups exchange services and create social bonds through

the Internet. There are indications of a decline in civil solidarity, at least

since the 1950s.

On the basis of the findings presented in this chapter it has become

clear that it is impossible to speak in any general terms about a decline

or an increase in contemporary solidarity. Some forms have diminished,

others have remained at the same level, and yet others have increased.

Moreover, amultitude of new forms of solidarity has come into existence.

It is interesting to note thatMichael Schudson has reached a similar conclusion

in his book The Good Citizen (2000).He shows that in the United

States the decline in citizenship as supposed by Putnam and others is

only partly true. On certain dimensions of citizenship there is an increase

instead of a decline.We can conclude that solidarity has diversified, with

regard not only to the types that can be distinguished but also to patterns

of increase or decrease. The number of new solidarity initiatives

is hopeful and does not warrant a gloomy picture about contemporary

solidarity. One specific domain of solidarity, however, that gives rise to

some concern is civil solidarity, which can determine the quality of the

public domain and of social life to a large extent.