RE-BUILDING GROUP IDENTITY AND GROUP COHESION
In a social group, the feeling of belonging (identity) is crucial for the cohesion of the group. Traditionally, the feeling of belonging is built on two processes: identification and comparison.
The identification process is based on the physical characteristics or the behavioural norms that define the group (group culture), it is usually expected that all members of the group share these characteristics. In parallel, the comparison process strengthens the differences with other groups, and establishes stereotypes about “the other” and “us”.
The consequences of this collective construction of identity can be observed on two levels:
- The Individual Level: the homogenization of the persons that make up the group favours the loss of their idiosyncrasy/identity. The individual person is shrunk and they are now defined by the characteristics of the Group.
- The Group Level: the group’s stereotypes and prejudices lead to competitiveness, mistrust of ‘others’ and a fear of being changed. The Group becomes a closed system, which expels or prevents entry of those persons who do not share the predominant characteristics with which it identifies.
Groups that build their identity in this manner are groups that generate exclusion.
Is it possible to build up the feeling of belonging to a group in a different way? How can we build up a feeling of belonging and create a type of group cohesion that rests on inclusion rather than exclusion?