Scholarship lecture explores evils of unitas

Marigrace Boothman

It’s impossible for a Villanovan to go a day without hearing the words community or unitas at least 40 times.  

We emphasize the unity among every student, professor, faculty member and alum and promote this idea of the Univeristy community as the most remarkable feature of the University. 

And while the solidarity we share at Villanova and in many other communities entails positive change, is solidarity pernicious? Outstanding Faculty Research Award recipient Sally J. Scholz, Ph.D.  discussed her research about complexity and misconceptions of solidarity at her Award lecture on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

Scholz earned a doctorate from Purdue University in 1993 and has preformed extensive research in the fields of political and social philosophy as well as the feminist theory. Currently she is a professor of philosophy at the University as well as a published author.  

At her Wednesday lecture she discussed her book “Political Solidarity,” which emphasizes the damaging effects of solidarity namely political solidarity. 

She explains that solidarity is neither positive nor negative at its core; it is rather individuals who have certain moral obligations to each other.  When we talk about this topic, she explains, most of us are referring to the mutuality, the “we,”  or some degree of commonality. 

However, nothing prevents solidarity from becoming harmful. Quite often these groups fail to criticize their motives or accept criticism of their motives. 

Scholz said the American feminist movement in the United States in the late 1980s often used terms such as “we” and “sisterhood” to promote the solidarity of women and their oppression; however, the movement failed to take into account the unique sufferings different groups of women were enduring. Scholz notes that usually within political and social groups the opinions of the assertive, dominant members eventually become or seem to be the opinions of the whole group. 

Even if a group’s motives are good and well meaning, it can be dangerous when it fails to understand the perspectives of individuals within the group, as well as their relation to the world around them. Scholz often hears people say they are in solidarity with the poor when they participate in service break trips or volunteer in some way. 

While this participation is obviously positive and good, Scholz argues that even though they are with them and have a better understanding of their struggle, are they really in solidarity with the poor. 

How can we be if we are able to pull out a credit card and leave while they are stuck in poverty. 

She closed her lecture, by asking us to think about what it actually means to be in solidarity with someone or some group and examine the motives of the groups we are a part of. 

Very often we are not critical enough of our movements and not aware of the ways we include and exclude. 

Scholz invites the Villanova community to think of how and what it means to exist as a group from the perspective of someone not involved in it and thus think differently about the groups and possibly improve them.