Solidarity- Theoretical Concepts and Empirical Measurements

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Katja RACKOW, University of Vechta, Germany
Solidarity is intimately linked to social inequality, and may even be regarded as a precondition for a just world. The concept of solidarity seems to be well known and is regularly demanded in various political and social debates. However, theoretical concepts, explanations and descriptions are diverse and based on different dimensions and levels. What all attempts to define solidarity seem to have in common is the assumption that solidarity includes the support and help given from individuals or groups to any other person. In addition, some authors refer to abandonment as an important element of solidarity, what makes empirical observation difficult (e.g., absence of action may indicate solidarity). Furthermore, different ranges of solidarity can be identified, e.g., a general solidarity with people who are not known personally and who also do not belong to a similar group with same interests vs. solidarity within the family. The empirical verifiability of these theoretical assumptions and considerations, however, is limited. Predominantly, general attitudes and values are queried. The possibilities of the empirical measurement of everyday activities still seem to be hardly recognized.

 The paper will first systematize how sociologists have conceptualized solidarity and how they have explained the origins, dimensions and historical changes of solidarity. In a second step I will compare these theoretical concepts with the various ways of measuring solidarity empirically. From my point of view, the operationalization of these concepts of solidarity is not exhaustively developed and probably often only suitable for certain historical and social (national) contexts, what makes international and historical comparison difficult. By contrasting theoretical concepts and empirical measurements the paper discusses strengths and limitations of these approaches and tries to develop suggestions for future research.