Principles of Group Solidarity

Principles of Group Solidarity

Principles of Group Solidarity

Principles of Group Solidarity


Social scientists have long recognized that solidarity is essential for such phenomena as social order, class, and ethnic consciousness, and the provision of collective goods. In presenting a new general theory of group solidarity, Michael Hechter here contends that it is indeed possible to build a theory of solidarity based on the action of rational individuals and in doing so he goes beyond the timeworn disciplinary boundaries separating the various social sciences.


The impetus for this book was born on a chilly summer Parisian day in 1975. In the course of a long discussion over lunch at Récamier, Fernand Braudel inquired about my future research. I had been flirting with the idea of applying my just-published theory of nationalism to the history of the French regions of Brittany and Occitania. Braudel listened politely to these thoughts and then chided me avuncularly, “Ne vous répétez pas!” Something in his tone tugged at me, and when I walked back to my hotel, these words were still echoing in my ears. If I had then had the vaguest premonition of the difficulties to be endured in following his injunction, this book never would have been written.

Almost all of the institutions in the American academic world conspire to keep scholars engaged in the spinning of variations on previously enunciated themes. The division of labor is as firmly ensconced in the university as it was in Adam Smith’s pin factory, and its justification rests on much the same rationale. Specialization breeds greater productivity. Not only are scholars housed in departments that are surrounded by thick disciplinary walls, but our identities are bound up in smaller enclaves of these selfsame departments. It is often said that scholarly expertise, like good French wine, does not travel well.

My own desire to loosen the bonds of the academic division of labor was spurred by a realization that the problems in which I had come to be interested could not possibly be resolved within the confines of any single subspeciality, let alone any single field. Yet colleagues, journal editors, academic think tanks, and granting agencies all tend to look askance when someone shows signs of hankering “to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, [and] criticize after dinner.”

In the face of these very real constraints, the support I received during the early stages of this project was crucial in strengthening my commit-

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