Asymmetric solidarity in polarised times

Tom Montgomery

Tom Montgomery, Simone Baglioni and Olga Biosca, part of the SIRIUS team at Glasgow Caledonian University, have contributed to a new book about Solidarity in Europe which also deals with migration and refugee issues. Tom Montgomery accepted to write a presentation about their chapter. Here below his contribution.

Our new open access book published by Palgrave, ‘Solidarity in Europe: Citizens' Responses in Times of Crisis’, and edited by Christian Lahusen and Maria Grasso, offers an insight into the contours of solidarity across eight European countries where for the last three years researchers from various disciplines have investigated how solidarity is practiced in times of austerity and crisis as part of a large collaborative project funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme, TransSOL (www.transsol.eu).

Our chapter: ‘Pulling Together or Pulling Apart? Solidarity in the Post-Crisis UK’, is based on an analysis of a new survey dataset geared towards examining the  various dimensions of solidarity in the UK, which has been marked by cuts to public funding as a consequence of austerity measures implemented following the global financial crisis and by the decision of the UK electorate in June 2016 to leave the European Union amidst a campaign to leave that often emphasised the issue of immigration against the backdrop of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Our contribution focuses on solidarity towards specific groups, namely the unemployed, refugees and disabled people. Broadly speaking our findings chime with existing studies conducted across Europe that speak to deeply entrenched patterns of deservingness as the analysis indicates a hierarchy of solidarity across the UK, with most solidarity being shown to disabled people, then towards refugees, followed by the unemployed. However a more nuanced analysis revealed that the disposition of solidarity by an individual towards others is determined by their own exposure to the challenges faced by the groups which form the focus of the study; the exposure of an individual to information through socialising with others as well as an interest in societal and political issues.

Our findings have implications for better understanding the trajectory of any future debates regarding the constitutional future of the United Kingdom given that findings indicate an uneven distribution of solidarity across the constituent nations of the UK, with  respondents in Scotland and Northern Ireland reporting stronger degrees of solidarity towards those within and beyond the borders of the UK than their counterparts in England and Wales.

Thus the findings from this new book contribute new data and analysis to the debates over the nature of solidarity in contemporary Britain which is still navigating uncertain waters regarding its future constitutional configuration and its future relationships with its neighbours in the European Union.

You can read the chapter, which is open access, by following this link.