What are some examples of scientific cohesion

Introduction: social cohesion (from the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society)

By analyzing challenges for social cohesion, imparting knowledge, but also recommendations for action, this volume aims to support people who are concerned with the following or similar questions: How can cohesion succeed in our society? How is social cohesion negotiated in the current socio-politically troubled times? What are its challenges? In the following section, some approaches from the broad spectrum of social and scientific debates are highlighted. An overview of the articles in this edition of the series is then given.

Social cohesion as a political claim

The Council of Europe defines “social cohesion” as

Ability of a society to ensure the well-being of all its members [...] by minimizing inequalities and avoiding marginalization [...] (Council of Europe 2010: 2)

As a political term, social cohesion is "essential for achieving the three central values ​​of the Council of Europe [...]: for human rights, democracy and the rule of law" (ibid.). Social cohesion is seen as a basic requirement for the functioning of democratic societies. For the German federal government, strengthening social cohesion is combined with measures against racism and discrimination such as the “National Action Plan against Racism” (Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth 2017).

Different areas of society claim and frame the term publicly in diverse and sometimes contradicting contexts, as the following examples illustrate:

  • A speaker from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) considers the 2018 soccer World Cup to be beneficial for social cohesion (Märkische Onlinezeitung 2018).
  • Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze believes that climate change is "by far the greatest threat to social cohesion in many regions" (Solarify 2018).
  • Mayors1 Numerous cities from different countries call for greater consideration of urban interests for a refugee policy that “brings solidarity and social cohesion into harmony” (Focus Online 2018a).
  • The State Secretary and IT Commissioner of the Federal Government Klaus Vitt emphasizes: "[...] a state capable of acting that people can trust, of course also in digital issues" is important for social cohesion (Focus Online 2018b).
  • The aid organization "CARE Germany" criticizes the stirring up of vague fears of asylum seekers in Germany as a threat to social cohesion (CARE Germany 2018).
  • Former Federal President Joachim Gauck emphasizes the importance of social dialogue when he characterizes the “willingness to exchange” as a “great contribution to social cohesion” (evangelisch.de 2018).
  • In a guest article in the FAZ, Federal Interior and Home Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) pleads for a new social cohesion through home politics as a "policy of diversity" (Seehofer 2018).
  • The Bundestag member Yasmin Fahimi (SPD) writes that “basic social security is therefore also essential for social cohesion” (Fahimi 2018).
  • Caritas President Peter Neher diagnoses that the housing shortage and developments, due to which “the composition of the neighborhood is increasingly determined by the wallet”, weaken social cohesion (Deutscher Caritasverband e.V. 2018).
  • On the occasion of the commemoration of Marwa El-Sherbin, who was murdered in a racially motivated attack in Dresden in 2009, Saxony's Minister for Equal Opportunities and Integration, Petra Köpping, warned of a climate of “hatred and fear” as a challenge to social cohesion (MDR Sachsen 2018).

The numerous examples show:

There is no shortage of publicly diagnosed challenges for social cohesion in Germany.

Social cohesion as a scientific concept

What defines cohesion in society, what shapes and influences it, is also examined scientifically. The concept of "social cohesion" represents a cross-connection between democratic constitutional norms and empirically measurable social reality. Jaschke writes, social cohesion in democracy

[...] is not a fact and not an attainable end goal, but a political-social process, supported by socio-moral, lifeworld collective attitudes and behaviors: trust in the constitution, institutions and social infrastructure, commitment to the common good, political participation and willingness to conflict according to democratic principles Rules of the game. They can neither be controlled nor controlled politically, but they can be influenced and promoted at various levels. (Jaschke 2009: 7)

The British social scientists Green and Janmaat emphasize in their definition the consensual character, i.e. the mutual agreement on which social cohesion is based: “Social cohesion refers to the fact that whole societies and the individuals in them are linked to one another through specific attitudes, behaviors, rules and institutions that are based on consensus and not on pure coercion. ”(Green / Janmaat 2011: 18, translation by the authors of this introduction). These definitions emphasize the interplay of attitudes and behaviors on the individual level on the one hand with rules and institutions on the structural level on the other. They thus offer starting points for operationalization, making empirical measurements, and social cohesion.

Generalized trust in society, i.e. social trust, is often operationalized as an important building block for the social cohesion of communities (Putnam 2001, Pettigrew 1998, Hartmann 2015). The effects of modernity and globalization such as increasing ethnic and cultural diversity (including Allmendinger 2015, Reitz et al. 2010, Thränhardt 2006) and the pluralization of lifestyles (including Beck / Beck-Gernsheim 1994, Hitzler / Honer 1994, Müller 2012) are making it increasingly difficult Finding common ground and moral common ground and trust. They put social integration to the test. With the diversity of lifeworld perspectives, of “sub-sensual worlds” (Berger / Luckmann 2007: 91), the difficulty “increases in bringing the entire society under one roof, that is, under an integrated system of symbols” (ibid.).

The "growing number and complexity of the sub-sense worlds" (ibid.: 93) transforms them into hermeneutically sealed "esoteric enclaves" (ibid.). This makes it more difficult to understand the individual - political and 'non-political' '- subcultures and their patterns of action, because they produce specific language, symbol and value systems. This also includes sub-sense worlds that negate and challenge democratic values ​​as such (Quent 2016: 80), such as right-wing populists do. Against this background, it becomes clear: Trust cannot be taken for granted as the basic basis for social cohesion, but must be understood as a social achievement (cf. Hartmann 2015: 21). In particular, the question of whether increasing ethnic and cultural diversity goes hand in hand with the erosion of social cohesion has been the subject of controversial discussion for years (Koopmans / Schaeffer 2014, Reitz et al. 2009).

One of the central challenges in researching social cohesion is the development of an understanding of the dynamic relationship between diversity, discrimination, social inequality and disintegration (cf. Allmendinger 2015). Our own research shows that perceived multiple discrimination (intersectionality, i.e. a person experiences discrimination based on several characteristics such as skin color, social status and gender identity) reduces trust in democratic institutions and the general feeling of security (Dieckmann / Geschke / Braune 2017). Similar negative effects can be seen when people are exposed to hate crime due to the attributed membership in stigmatized groups (Geschke / Dieckmann 2017). International studies show that immigrants and members of ethnic minorities generally have less social trust than the majority of members of society due to their lower socio-economic resources and a higher risk of discrimination (Ziller 2017: 563). Perceived experiences of discrimination reduce their social trust in minority members (Dieckmann / Geschke / Braune 2017, Glanville et al. 2013, Smith 2010, van Lange 2015).

Socially, it can be observed that anti-democracy such as right-wing populists and right-wing radicals intensify such exclusive dynamics by attempting to divide the population along ethnic-cultural lines of conflict with the aim of a homogeneous national community. They pick up on social tensions that become visible in the context of the polarized debate about how to deal with people fleeing to Germany and Europe, and frame them in line with their ideological agenda. Its aim is to destroy democratic social cohesion and to replace it with the national community's own authoritarian and exclusive cohesion (cf. Jaschke 2009: 7).

These and other topics are dealt with in the articles in this special issue of the series “Knowledge Creates Democracy”, which are briefly presented below.

Challenges for social cohesion -
to the contributions of this volume

In the second part Make challenges visible First, empirical analyzes on the topic of social cohesion in Thuringia are presented: Andreas Grau and Kai Unzicker analyze the cohesion in Thuringia based on a Germany-wide survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation. Thuringia ranks third from last in terms of social cohesion in Germany. The authors contrast the Thuringian results with those of other federal states and discuss specific challenges in Thuringia. Axel Salheiser Contextualizes results from the Thuringia Monitor 2017 on the subject of "Social Cohesion", among other things, with the attitudes of the Thuringian population with regard to their perception of justice, their individual and collective feelings of deprivation and their acceptance of minorities.

A specific challenge for the social cohesion of a society is the understanding of democracy of different social groups. Andreea Baier and Axel Böhm investigate this for people with and without refugee experience and show that refugees sometimes represent more liberal democratic values ​​than Germans. Illustrate with an empirically founded protest event analysis Susann Bischof and Matthias Quentwhich topics motivated the Thuringian population to take part in political protests in 2017 and what forms these protests took. They show which topics have the potential to call social cohesion in Thuringia into question. Frank Schumann focuses in his contribution on the democratic understanding of political anti-democratic protest movements like PEGIDA.

In the third part Racism, Discrimination and Social Inequality there first Mehmet Daimaguler an insight into his analysis of institutional racism in Germany, which became very clearly visible, among other things, in the investigations into the series of murders of the National Socialist Underground (NSU). Florian Jäger and Janine Dieckmann From a socio-psychological point of view, shed light on the processes taking place in our society that may underlie the perceptible shift in norms, which is currently often labeled as a 'shift to the right'. They also give recommendations for action on how these processes can be counteracted. Thomas Gurr In his analysis shows how discrimination is interwoven with social inequality and what challenges the devaluation of the long-term unemployed can have, both for those affected and for social cohesion as a whole.

The fourth part of the volume is devoted to the subject area Democracy and youth. Investigate what function schools play as a place where democracy skills are acquired Carolin Kiehl and Barbara Schnerch on a theoretical level in their contribution. Kirsten Richter, Stephanie Wohlt and Wolfgang Frindte support the importance of schools as a place for experiencing and learning about democracy with empirical data. They also emphasize the importance of a democratic culture in the family. Gives practical instructions for social work with children and young people Kai Dietrich in his post.

In the last part, the articles deal with the Old and New Right. The extent to which the AfD's electoral successes in the 2017 Bundestag election is related to the long-term dealings within the constituencies with the NPD and with right-wing extremism in general is analyzed Christoph RichterDescribes the ideology and practice of the Identitarian Movement Samuel Salzborn in his post. He shows how the New Right in a trivial form does “nothing more than the repeated murmuring of slogans” by its Nazi masterminds in order to place its ideological set pieces on identity and homeland in the public discourse. “One percent” as a right-wing extremist network and another example of a new right-wing organization in the fight for cultural hegemony is discussed in the article by MOBIT - Mobile advice in Thuringia described. What constructions of masculinity and femininity the New Right propagates and what danger their anti-feminism can pose for our open society is discussed Quint Czymmek in his post. Stefan Heerdegen goes into his contribution to one of the most important elements of mobilization of the New Right. He describes Thuringia as a frequented place for right-wing rock concerts, defines its different formats and functions for the New Right and clarifies the signals that the absence of counter-protests sends to both the New Right and society.

The team from the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society
wishes you an inspiring read.


1 On our own behalf: The contributions in the volume differ in their use of gender-sensitive forms of language (e.g. citizens, citizens, citizens) in consultation with the respective authors.

Allmendinger, Jutta (2015): Social inequality, diversity and social cohesion as a social challenge. In: vhw specialist colloquium.

Beck, Ulrich / Beck-Gernsheim, Elisabeth (1994): Individualization in modern societies. Perspectives and controversies of a subject-oriented sociology. In: Beck, Ulrich / Beck-Gernsheim, Elisabeth [ed.]: Risky freedoms. Individualization in modern societies. Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main, pp. 10 - 39.

Berger, Peter L./Luckmann, Thomas (2007): The social construction of reality. A theory of the sociology of knowledge. Fischer Taschenbuch-Verlag: Frankfurt am Main.

Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth (2017): Federal government adopts new national action plan against racism. Online: www.bmfsfj.de/bmfsfj/aktuelles/alle-meldung/bundesregierung-beschliesst-neuen-nationalen-aktionsplan-gegen-rassismus/116794 [02/17/2018].

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Dieckmann, Janine / Geschke, Daniel / Braune, Ina (2017): Discrimination and its effects on those affected and society, In: Institute for Democracy and Civil Society [Ed.]: Knowledge creates democracy 2017/02, pp. 18-37.

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Evangelisch.de (2018): Dinner parties promote openness and democracy. Online: www.evangelisch.de/inhalte/150600/17-06-2018/tischverbindungen-werben-fuer-offenheit-und-demokratie [07/04/2018].

Fahimi, Yasmin (2018): The unconditional basic income is surrender to the future.Online: www.maz-online.de/Nachrichten/Ppolitik/Das-Bedingungslose-Grundeinkommen-ist-die-Kapitulation-vor-der-Zukunft [07/04/2018].

Fielitz, Maik / Ebner, Julia / Guhl, Jakob / Quent, Matthias (2018): Love-hate relationship: hostility towards Muslims, Islamism and the spiral of social polarization. Institute for Democracy and Civil Society: Jena.

Focus Online (2018a): Erlangen - City of Erlangen: Mayors demand political vision for integration. Online: www.focus.de/regional/erlangen/erlangen-stadt-erlangen-buergermeister- Wollen-politische-vision-fuer-integration_id_9117921.html [07/04/2018].

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