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'Improper distance': towards a critical account of solidarity as irony

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Silverstone's 'proper distance' is one of the most original and productive conceptualizations of a fundamental problem in the ethics of mediation: the humanization of vulnerable others. This is because 'proper distance' is not only a normative but also, importantly, an analytical concept. Whereas in its normative dimension, proper distance refers to the degree of proximity required for mediated relationships of care and responsibility to develop, in its analytical dimension, the metaphorical vocabulary of space becomes an important resource in evaluating how mediation produces 'humanity' through the positioning of mediated others along the axis of proximity-distance. My application of this analytical vocabulary to the mediation of humanitarianism enables me to create a typology of paradigms of solidarity, namely 'pity', 'irony' and 'agonism', highlighting the different ways in which their particular articulations of proximity-distance produce distinct conceptions of 'humanity' and, therefore, distinct proposals for solidarity towards vulnerable others. Focusing, specifically, on the critique of an emerging paradigm of solidarity as irony, I argue that, even though it appears as a promising response to pity and its misleading spatiality of universal proximity, irony celebrates consumerism as a reflexive distance-from-the self and is, therefore, unable to put forward a morally acceptable proposal of solidarity.

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