Searching for Solidarity in an Atomized Society

“We desperately need to build up an ethic of accompaniment,” the author writes. “We should commit to creating a counterculture of resistance and celebration.” Detail from "Envisioning Racial Fairness." Credit: Building Bridges and Katherine Chilcote (

How can we continue to behave ethically within a wider culture in which so many forces prod us to use others for our own satisfaction or self-advancement? It’s an always-vexing question that Aryeh Cohen’s essay on “Justice in the City” raises in a fresh way.

There have always been unscrupulous individuals who operate in this way, seeking out others’ vulnerabilities in order to exploit them. But now we have entire industries devoted, in essence, to harvesting heretofore personal information for the sake of prompting particular consumer and political choices. We have people on the left, not just on the right, who “network” systematically with an intent that is flagrantly self-interested.

My point is the obvious one, that the wider society grows ever more oblivious to the problem of instrumental relationships: relationships based on what good I can get out of the Other rather than what good I can provide to benefit the Other. For many of our contemporaries, whether we should be using other human beings to our personal advantage is not even a question—it’s just the way things are.


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Rev. Peter Laarman is executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting, a network of individuals and congregations in Southern California. He previously served as senior minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York. Peter is a contributing editor at Religion Dispatches magazine and is the recipient of Yale Divinity School’s William Sloane Coffin ’56 Peace and Justice Award.

Source Citation

Laarman, Peter. Searching for Solidarity in an Atomized Society. Tikkun28(1): 42.

tags: Activism, Spiritual Politics, Spiritual Progressive Analysis   
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