Exploring the microfoundations of group consciousness

  • Tsoukalas I
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Abstract

This article will explore the microfoundations of group consciousness. In order to do that it re-examines two well-established theoretical traditions within Western social science, the social cohesion paradigm within social psychology and the various mind-body theories within anthropology and sociology, hoping that this re-examination will have intellectual bearing on the issue of group consciousness and group action. As a result of this analysis it is suggested that the different ways a group enacts its ideology can help shed new light on many features of group life. A relatively new theory is therefore presented which can account for this relationship and also helps to organize and integrate many of the earlier findings that pertain to the issue of group consciousness and group action. This theoretical framework, originally developed by Harvey Whitehouse, postulates that divergent modes of encoding have differential social effects. More specifically, there are two distinct modes of encoding, two distinct psychological ways of relating and acting within the framework of a group’s ideology that are worth particular attention: the doctrinal mode of encoding and the imagistic mode of encoding. Their differences, manifested in the formal and informal behavior of groups, are many. Some of them, like organizational structure, change patterns, leadership style, centralization-decentralization aspects and institutional practice, are explored in depth. Whitehouse’s cognitive theory is finally coupled with findings from sociology in order to furnish a fuller account of the social underpinnings of group-related phenomena. In particular we use Mark Granovetter’s network theory in order to show how interactional patterns can have an influence on issues of group consciousness. The two theoretical strands are fused into a dual model which shows great promise and merits further attention. In the final part of the article examples are given in order to illustrate the real-life relevance of the stipulated model.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Behavioral consequences
  • Cognitive theory
  • Dichotomous representations
  • Group consciousness
  • Group performance
  • Ideology
  • Network structure and change
  • Social cohesion
  • Social intervention
  • Styles of codification

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Authors

  • Ioannis Tsoukalas

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