Seminar: Measuring Rhetoric of Solidarity: How Civil Society Organizations Negotiate Social Cohesion

Prof. Barbara Pfetsch (FU Berlin) keynotes in a joint HEPPsinki and HSSH NRC seminar on public communication, solidarity and the possibilities of an empirical measure to investigate manifestations of social cohesion. Seminar will take place at the Faculty of Social Science, U37 1066, and on Zoom, 27 March at 14-16.

On the 27th of March, a Professor of Communication Theory and Media Effects Research at the Department of Media and Communication, Dr Barbara Pfetsch from the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, also a visiting professor at the University of Helsinki, is going to present at the Helsinki Hub on Emotions, Populism and Polarisation (HEPPsinki) 14:00 - 16:00 Monday Seminar Series, which will be organised together with the Helsinki Institute of Social Sciences & Humanities' New Research Culture lecture series

Dr Pfetsch's presentation is based on the study "Measuring the Rhetoric of Solidarity: How Civil Society Organizations Negotiate Social Cohesion in Their Public Communication", prepared in collaboration with Dr Rico Neumann that has been accepted for the 73rd Annual International Communication Association Conference, 25-29 May 2023 in Toronto, Canada

Their study takes up the claim that social cohesion is discursively negotiated in civil society (Forst, 2020) and that this can be identified via the rhetoric of solidarity in the communication of civil society organizations. Their study aims to analyze this communication and reconstruct the manifestation of solidarity as indicated in the self-description of those groups. This allows them to identify the active advocates of social togetherness in civil society and also find out which organizations break away from the normative goal of inclusion and tolerance in a pluralist society. As a first step to investigating this discourse systematically, it is necessary to conceptualize social cohesion and develop a measure that allows them to identify and sort out the manifestation of solidarity in communication. Theoretically, social cohesion in their study refers to three dimensions: social relations, connectedness, and the orientation towards the common good. These dimensions are translated into empirical indicators of a content analysis of about 800 websites of German civil society organizations (CSO). The three measures are eventually combined in an overall measure "strength of social cohesion" of the organization. The goal of their empirical study was to sort out which type of CSO is involved in what way of social cohesion and which organizations advocate solidarity as one of their prime purposes. They found a fair amount of variation on the dimensions and the strengths of solidarity which is exposed by the CSOs. Overall findings indicate that the connectedness aspect of social cohesion is the strongest of all three dimensions. Combining the content analytic data with organizational survey data from the same CSOs, they identified some organizational characteristics that help to explain differences in the solidarity rhetoric of German CSOs. Whereas culturally and media-oriented organizations and sports clubs are largely reluctant to engage in the social cohesion discourse, politically active and those addressing socially disadvantaged communities are eager to push in this direction. The latter tend to operate in more professionalized structures, indicating that the reference to solidarity legitimizes these groups' political and social purposes in the public sphere. 

The location of the seminar is Unioninkatu 37 Faculty room 1066.

The seminar will also be streamed on Zoom:

Meeting ID: 863 3940 0479

Passcode: CUfJ2T

For further details, contact Juha Herkman