Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

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Social cohesion and good work

The project analyzes the relation between subjective experiences of work, especially self-efficacy and social cohesion. We understand subjective experiences in relation to social-structural causes which are determined by actual economic effects based on a regionally differentiated categorization of “good” and “bad” companies. Therefore, “deep stories” (Hochschild 2017) are the primary methodological tool in our qualitative fieldwork.

Our main research question is: Which effects has “good” and “bad” work and the experience of self-efficacy on the quality of social cohesion in relation to economic effects (differentiated by wage and company mobility)?

In the project we built on the quantitative data of project HAL_F_02 (regional wage and company structures) and reconstruct on the basis of newly collected qualitative data the importance of working environments for social cohesion. The project thus makes an important contribution to the research field “working and living environments” (Cluster 2).

Our central survey instruments are participant observations, interviews, archefacts analyzes, and the intensive mentoring of a few actors in their living and working environments during 8 months of field research (Hochschield 2017).

The important milestones of the project are the conference “Narration, Intensive Case Studies, and Deep Stories” in June 2021, die conference “Work and Social Cohesion” in February 2023, and publications until June 2023.

Thematic Reference to Social Cohesion

Work and working conditions have a high impact on social cohesion (Dayton-Johnson 2001). We understand work not only as wage labor but in a broader sense also as care work, housework, or volunteerism. In the project the focus is on wage labor, because especially wage labor creates social cohesion and is a central mechanism of integration. The workplace has a great impact on the experience of self-efficacy, social relations,  resume, social status, and recognition. Work effects social cohesion as well as its opposite, polarization, isolation, and the erosion of social cohesion. It is to be expected that “good” work creates positive forms of social cohesion whereas “bad” work undermines it (Jenson 2010; Janczyk 2016; Schiefer / van der Noll 2017).

Work and working conditions have two central dimensions for social cohesion which we want to explore: first, the objective/ material dimension of work like social-structural conditions, economic effects, or the organization of companies and working processes. Second, the subjective/ immaterial dimension of work, e.g., individual experiences, values, emotions, goals, perceptions, and the experience and expectation of self-efficacy (Rosa 2016). These subjective experiences are related to social-structural conditions. Third, work has a regional character (Liebig et al. 2014). Regional factors have specific influences on work and social cohesion. Here we differentiate between regions of good and bad companies. We want to understand how “good” and “bad” work have a positive or negative impact on social cohesion. In the future, we aim at a US-German comparative study analyzing the effects of good and bad work and the role of self-efficacy on social cohesion in the US and German context.


Project management: Konstanze Senge

(LS Economic- and Organisational Sociology)

Project member: Christian Helge Peters

Graduate assistant: Florian Scheibner