Solidarity, not charity: Learning the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic to reconceptualise the radicality of mutual aid

Oli Mould, Jennifer A. Cole, Adam Badger, Philip Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly ruptured our global society. We have seen health care systems, governments and commerce buckle under the strain of disease, lockdowns and unrest, but the rupture has also created space for radical (and anarchist) politics of mutual aid, as societal organising principles, to move into a more prominent position (and offers potential for this shift to remain after the crisis has subsided). However, in the short time since mutual aid has been thrust into the limelight we have seen a multiplicity and spectrum of geographies, applications and approaches. Indeed, we have also seen its appropriation by government(s) that takes advantage of mutual aid’s rallying cry of “solidarity not charity”; absolving the state’s responsibilities to sufficiently fund social welfare when good neighbours will do it for free. In this paper we map out how mutual aid has been enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic by charity, contributory and radical groups to address specific and novel forms of vulnerabilities, and the opportunities and challenges this offers for the future. In particular we highlight potential tensions between the enacting of mutual aid practices and the political activism (or not) of the mutual aid actors. Our contribution is to reconceptualise mutual aid to i) show where the real ‘mutualism’ of mutual aid is, and ii) create a better understanding of how mutual aid can be mobilised in future emergencies which will inevitably arise in the current climate emergency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)866-879
Number of pages14
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


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