Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 103, Supplement 1, pp 33–44 | Cite as

The Forms and Limits of Insurance Solidarity

  • Turo-Kimmo LehtonenEmail author
  • Jyri Liukko


What makes insurance special among risk technologies is the particular way in which it links solidarity and technical rationality. On one hand, within insurance practices ‘risk’ is always defined in technical terms. It is related to monetary measurement of value and to statistical probability calculated for a limited population. On the other hand, and at the same time, insurance has an inherent connection to solidarity. When taking out an insurance, one participates in the risk pool within which each member is reciprocally responsible for others’ risks. The combination of technical controllability and solidarity has made insurance a successful tool for governing welfare societies during the twentieth century. From the point of view of business ethics, it is interesting that, as we argue in this article, the connection between insurance and solidarity is not limited to social welfare assemblages, but is evident in relation to private insurance as well. At the same time, however, it is important to understand that insurance does not advance all forms of solidarity. Hence, this theoretical article analyzes the specific conceptions of solidarity that the different forms of insurance practice produce. Particular emphasis is put on the distinction between ‘chance solidarity’ and ‘subsidizing solidarity’. The main questions of the article are: What kinds of conceptions of solidarity are built in the insurance technology? And how are the limits of solidarity defined and justified in different forms of insurance?


Chance solidarity Insurance Life insurance Risk Risk technologies Solidarity Subsidizing solidarity Welfare 



We would like to thank the organisers and participants of the ‘Insurance, Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility’ workshop (Munich, February 2011), especially Aaron Doyle, Johannes Brinkmann and Bill Lesch for their comments on an earlier version of our manuscript. In addition, we gratefully acknowledge the suggestions of anonymous reviewers of the journal, as well as those of Paavo Pitkänen, the members of The Mole Research Group and the members of the Managing Insecurity project in Helsinki. The study was funded by the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and the Academy of Finland (decision numbers 129829 and 128334).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social ResearchUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of Social ResearchUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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