Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

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Small business owners in the context of institutional regulations and local administrative practices

Using the example of small business owners, the project examines in a qualitative study the effects of institutional regulations (e.g. regarding social security, fiscal regulations) and their implementation by local public administrations on the experiences and ideas of social cohesion. The project is interested in the relation between, on the one hand, institutional regulations and practices by local administrations and, on the other hand, small business owners' experiences and ideas of reciprocity, redistribution, responsibility, deservingness and solidarity. The project compares two cities (one in East and one in West Germany) on basis of the assumption that institutional regulations have to be interpreted and thereby are also shaped by local public administrations. Hence the latter are especially important for small businesses which usually have a strong local orientation. Furthermore, the project examines how ideas and experiences of social cohesion influence the willingness and manner to contribute to a community (e.g. by paying taxes or by social engagement).

The practices of local administrations and the experiences of small business owners will be examined in the cities of Halle and Hannover which are also part of the quantitative regional panel (HAL_F_01). The project will conduct qualitative interviews with representatives of the local administrations (e.g. of the chambers, the city administration and of pension and health insurances) and with small business owners up to nine employees.

Important milestones of the project are the completion of the qualitative interviews in summer 2022, the organization of an international conference in summer 2023, the publication of research results and a feedback of the results to the local administrations.

Thematic Reference to Social Cohesion

Following the common heuristic of the RISC, the project conceives social cohesion as the positive attitude of the members of a community to each other and to the whole of a community itself. The project explores whether it is fruitful to distinguish two forms of social cohesion: a particularistic and excluding type of social cohesion on the one hand, and a universalistic open type of social cohesion on the other hand. Using the example of small business owners, the project examines the effects of two factors on social cohesion: first, institutional regulations and second, their interpretation and implementation by local administrations. In particular, the project will have a look at the different possibilities and modes of social security (e.g. public vs. private social insurances), thereby at the (obligatory vs. voluntary) inclusion in different types of reciprocal and redistributive networks, and at labor markets that are differently protected by professional regulations. The project will also have a look at how representatives of local public administrations interpret, communicate and realize these regulations, and which problems and opportunities for improvement they see. The project explores how these two factors influence small business owners' ideas and experiences of social cohesion and their community related practices.


Principle investigator: Peter Bischoff