At risk of drawing attention to the belatedness of this proposal, I’m posting it here anyway in hopes of suggestions/comments/feedback…
The Passion of Compassion: Arendt, Castoriadis, and the Imaginary Institution of Solidarity
This paper explores the phenomenon of solidarity. As the affective element of political and revolutionary activity, solidarity entails feeling with others. The upsurge of excitement generated by protest, the bursts of outrage generated by injustice, the sense of elation generated by liberation, these affective experiences depend upon a sense of collectivity. The awareness, in other words, that a feeling is shared intensifies the feeling itself, and this is especially important in the affective elements of revolutionary and political activity.
It is this feeling together, this com–passion, that is the source of the possibility of solidarity according to the formulation of it in Hannah Arendt’s work. In On Revolution Arendt tells us that solidarity arises from compassion and yet makes possible a dispassionate community of interest.This claim calls into question the role that passion has to play both in revolutionary practices and in political action more broadly. We might, at first glance, see Arendt’s insistence on solidarity as a dispassionate political community as a kind of Enlightenment relic, positing reason over emotion, mind over body, etc. But if this is the case, then we might also ask how solidarity, as a tie that binds individuals to one another, can be free from passion at all. There seems to be a tension, in other words, between an account of solidarity as arising from our capacity for compassion on the one hand and an account of solidarity as founding a dispassionate community of interest on the other.
The paradoxical role that “passion” plays in politics is mirrored in a similarly paradoxical relation between passion and knowledge. Cornelius Castoriadis treats this paradox in Figures of the Thinkable. Castoriadis, following Piera Aulinger, formulates passion as the movement whereby an object of pleasure becomes an object of need, passion is the development of the relation to something without which life is not worth living.
This paper aims at developing an account of solidarity that brings together the work of Hannah Arendt and Cornelius Castoriadis. Both Arendt and Castoriadis turn to Kant in their formulation of the relation between passion, knowledge, and politics. The positive account of solidarity formulated out of this project, articulates solidarity as a Kantain regulative ideal.