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By Stefanie Börner (auth.)

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Both anonymous communities as well as small-scale solidarity are artificial. Hence, it is not the degree of homogeneity that makes people feel as if they belong to a cohesive group, but the level of abstraction at which this homogenisation takes place. 1). Even face-to-face solidarity has to be reproduced on a daily basis – this is why it is often reckoned as natural – for even kinship will only create feelings of mutual obligation and trust when the relationship is recalled regularly and when emotional sanctions and remunerations are accomplished.

Apart from the incentive structure provided by the institutional mechanisms, groups – consciously or unconsciously – employ other means that discursively create a social bond. First, group communication and political discourse shed light on the linguistic aspects of this process (see Billig 1995: 95–125). The more the language used by a group is marked by ‘we’ phrases – establishing a complementary relation to another group or non-members – the more intra-group communication accounts for the identity of a group.

Thus, the crucial point is the intersection between the two: How do categories of belonging turn into institutionalised political categories of action? And at which point is it likely that categories of belonging are given up in support of new institutionalised categories? The sociological-historical approach proposed here strives to intensify this dialogue, for it is directly triggered by current developments that inspire researchers to turn to historical processes in order to enhance our understanding of not only past but also of present phenomena.

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