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The study of solidarity and the social theory of Alain Touraine

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posted on 2023-06-07, 14:13 authored by Luke MartellLuke Martell, Neil Stammers
This chapter is a critical assessment of the study of Solidarity carried out by Alain Touraine and his research team in 1981 and first published in French in 1982 and in English in 1983. The book (Touraine et al. 1983) has drawn a mixed response from critics. Some have tended to regard the study as providing rich, detailed and important insights into the early history of the movement (Bauman 1985; Kennedy 1991; Law 1984; terry 1984; Watson 1984). Others – especially those whose principle concern has been to evaluate Touraine’s wider social theory – have seen Solidarity as manifesting the contradictions, inconsistency and opacity said to be characteristic of his work (Goldfarb 1989; Scott 1991). What is curious, given both the historical significance of Solidarity and the controversy surrounding Touraine’s work, is that there has been no previous attempt - in English at least – to make the Solidarity study itself the central object of investigation. We will begin by locating the study and outlining its central findings. Then we will analyze the extent to which the study fulfils its internal objectives and how it relates to concepts and categories found in Touraine’s work. We will argue that Solidarity is a comprehensive, illuminating and important piece of work and that some criticisms have been misdirected. There are, though, problems in the study caused by instances of both continuity and discontinuity between the Solidarity study and Touraine’s wider social theory. In particular there is an unresolved tension between the findings in respect of the evolutionary development of Solidarity and Touraine’s understanding of a social movement; and, as a result of a eliance on preconceived categories in the sociological ntervention, Touraine et al. fail to account properly for the potential development of neo-liberal and reactionary nationalist currents in Solidarity


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  • Published

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  • Accepted version


Falmer Press

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Book title

Alain Touraine

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Consensus and Controversy: Falmer Sociology Series

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  • Anthropology Publications

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  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Jon Clark, Marco Diani

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