Solidarity as Social Transformation: Towards a Queer Humanism Open Access

Helfrich, Erin Regina (2009)

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ABSTRACT Solidarity as Social Transformation: Towards a Queer Humanism By Erin Regina Helfrich

A philosophical dilemma lies at the heart of contemporary human rights scholarship: any account of human rights must make claims about the attributes human beings share universally, and yet the variety of human culture and experience persistently undermines such universal claims. One of the most prominent and widely-accepted responses to this philosophical dilemma has been to advocate the virtue of "tolerance" for diverse others. Subsequent debates over human rights and toleration of difference crystallize into two central questions: what are the minimum necessary conditions for a dignified human life and how can we negotiate conflicting claims about what these conditions are?

My project approaches these questions through the concept of solidarity--an ethical relation that mediates between the individual and the community, involving some form of unity. I give an account of the practice of "ethical solidarity" as a virtuous interpersonal relation toward others, one in which each individual is predisposed to act in support of other individuals' human flourishing. On my view, the traditional philosophical focus in human rights discourse on creating just institutions is insufficient to secure the minimum necessary conditions for flourishing human lives for all. Because social and cultural structures of power only sanction and support a narrow understanding of "normal" lives, those whose lives fall outside the norm are subject to daily acts of denigration, discrimination, alienation, and both psychic and physical violence.

Therefore, an account is needed of the interpersonal interactions, responsibilities, and ethical relations that support human dignity and flourishing. Rather than embracing mere tolerance of human difference, the minimum necessary conditions for a flourishing human life are best achieved through the practice of ethical solidarity. I conclude by proposing a utopian notion of "queer humanism" that opposes narrow norms through the concrete multiplication of our imaginative conception of "the human." "The human" is a telos which is never fully defined or realized; it is articulated within imaginative social practice, not prior to social and political practice.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS Chapter 1. BEING HUMAN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Martha Nussbaum on Human Flourishing and the Capabilities Approach Institutions, Individuals, and the Responsibility for Promoting Human Capabilities Judith Butler on Self- and Social Transformation and the Construction of "Livable Lives" The Role of Ethical Solidarity Ethical Solidarity as the Means to Self- and Social Transformation 2. ETHICAL SOLIDARITY AND PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION . . . . 45 Taking Responsibility for One's (Invisible/Unconscious) Privileges Responsibilities and Individual versus Collective Human Flourishing Transforming Identifications and Values Standpoint Epistemology and the Limits of Self-Knowledge Transforming Horizons and the Map of Power Becoming "Traitorous" to Privilege Cultivating a "Traitorous" Character through "World"-Traveling 3. SOLIDARITY AS SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 Solidarity and Normativity Un/Intelligibility Relative to Social "Worlds" Transforming the Social through Multiple and Malleable "Worlds" Escaping Identity Politics Coalition versus Solidarity Displacing "Freedom" and "Tolerance" 4. HUMAN SOLIDARITY AND QUEER HUMANISM . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 Negotiating Disagreements: The Politics of Ethical Solidarity Disagreements within Communities of Shared Values Disagreements over Fundamental Values: Possibilities for Human Solidarity The Impact of the Social Imagination of "The Human" on Possibilities for Flourishing Queer Humanism: In Defense of "The Human" Queer Humanism: Retaining "The Human" Queer Humanism: Leveraging "Queer" The Impact of the Imaginative Conception of the Human on Political Theory Concrete Multiplicity versus Abstract Universalism Utopian Visions as "Yoga for the Imagination" BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179

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