European inventory of
societal values of culture

Hechter - Sociology of Solidarity

Hechter, M. (2001). Sociology of Solidarity. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Pergamon, pp. 14588-14591

This contribution discusses different theoretical approaches to the notion of solidarity, defined as the binding of individuals into a cohesive collectivity on the basis of normative obligations and emergent attributes of groups that facilitate collective action and social order. As is well known, the modern origins of the concept date from the beginnings of sociological theory, where it was given particular emphasis by the likes of Tönnies and Durkheim. This text critically discusses three leading theoretical perspectives on the emergence of solidarity found in the current literature. On the normativist view, solidarity is most likely to develop among individuals who share fundamental values, such as those that are inculcated in religious or ethnic groups. On the structuralist view, solidarity arises from the sharing of common material interests, as occurs in social classes. On the rational choice view, it owes neither of these kinds of conditions; rather, it is held to be a function of dependence and control mechanisms. The conclusion is that since group cohesion can be attained through compensation as well as normative obligation, the study of solidarity poses serious challenges to empirical researchers. However, after a long period of neglect, empirical research on group solidarity has increased in a number of social science disciplines.

Michael Hechter “Sociology of Solidarity”