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Do shared values promote social cohesion? If so, which? Evidence from Denmark

  • Karen N. Breidahl (a1), Nils Holtug (a2) and Kristian Kongshøj (a3)

Social scientists and political theorists often claim that shared values are conducive to social cohesion, and trust and solidarity in particular. Furthermore, this idea is at the heart of what has been labeled the ‘national identity argument’, according to which religious and/or cultural diversity is a threat to the shared (national) values underpinning social cohesion and redistributive justice. However, there is no consensus among political theorists about what values we need to share to foster social cohesion and indeed, for example, nationalists, liberals, and multiculturalists provide different answers to this question. On the basis of a survey conducted in Denmark in 2014, this study empirically investigates the relation between, on the one hand, commitments to the community values of respectively conservative nationalism, liberal nationalism, liberal citizenship, and multiculturalism, and on the other, trust and solidarity. First, we investigate in what ways commitments to these four sets of values are correlated to trust and solidarity at the individual level and, then, whether the belief that others share one’s values is correlated to these aspects of social cohesion for individuals committed to these four sets of values. We find that conservative and liberal nationalism are negatively correlated to our different measures of trust and solidarity, whereas liberal citizenship and (in particular) multiculturalism are positively correlated. In broad terms, this picture remains when we control for a number of socio-economic factors and ideology (on a left-right scale). Finally, individuals who believe that others share their values do not, in general, have higher levels of trust and solidarity. Rather, this belief works in different ways when associated with different sets of community values.

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European Political Science Review
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