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The remarkable movement known as Solidarity recently celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in Poland. This essay provides a theoretical appreciation of the values and principles that guided and undergirded the movement, which greatly contributed to the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe. This systematic overview of the ethic of the Solidarity movement fills a lacuna in the field of ethics because ethicists who are interested in the concept of solidarity have largely overlooked the Polish experience of the 1980s. This essay attempts to describe the key ingredients of the Polish ethic of solidarity by analyzing both Polish treatises on the subject and accounts of events on the ground. It elaborates conceptual categories and describes characteristic features of the movement in order to provide a phenomenological account of the nature of solidarity embodied in Poland during this era. These categories and characteristics include unity among differences, the foundation of hope at the movement's roots, self-sacrifice and heroism, promoting the equality and dignity of all, the centrality of participation, the affirmation of “bread and freedom,” an option for the poor, and the insistence on life in truth. Although this essay does not attempt to demonstrate the relevance of this “thick” ethic of solidarity to capitalist, democratic societies today, by way of conclusion it raises questions pertaining to the contemporary significance of the Polish ethic of solidarity.
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Keywords: Christianity in Poland; Józef Tischner; Poland; Solidaritymovement; ethic of hope; fall of communism; human rights; life in truth; solidarity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Saint Joseph's University

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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