Representing Social Order in the Finnish Context

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Title: Representing Social Order in the Finnish Context
Author: Hirvelä, Shari
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Sosiaalitieteiden laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för socialvetenskaper
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2011
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Social Psychology
Abstract: This study deals with social representations of social order in Finland. While empirically testing a recent theoretical model of social order representations (Staerklé, 2009), I also investigated the role of values in social representation. Additionally, by including a group diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) into my study, I explored the roles that reflexivity and perspective taking on the one hand, and marginalisation on the other, have in representing social order. I therefore compared social order representation contents and processes of an undefined group of Finnish people (N = 281) with a group of Finnish people diagnosed with ASDs (N = 36), using a mixed method, questionnaire-based design, which included both open and closed questions. Quantitatively, my methods were based primarily upon confirmatory factor analyses and correlation procedures. Qualitatively, I used discourse analysis based in Hallidayan (1978) linguistics, rhetorical analyses based in the methods outlined by Burke (1945; 1950), and Greimas’s (1966/1983) actantial model. While focusing upon the dialogism paradigm within social representations theory (Marková, 2003), I had two theoretical aims. First, I began an articulation of treating values as part of the meaning in representation. Second, I explored the development of a social semiotic approach to representation, which included power dynamics as part of representation processes. Empirically, the Staerklé model held up well and largely conformed to its theoretical underpinnings. The participants demonstrated all of the social order conceptions proposed by Staerklé. Based upon the results, I did, however, suggest some modifications to the model due to some awkwardness related to marginalisation, Finnish-style liberalism, and the welfare state. Results showed that overall, Finnish people conceptualise social order in terms of an equality/inequality thema influenced heavily by security value expressions and power dynamics, while anchoring that understanding in the modern welfare model. Differences in positioning towards that common understanding were related to marginalisation, differences in perspective taking, and different ways of expressing power. I concluded by suggesting that representation is very much a motivated process with value-laden contents, and that social representations research needs to better incorporate these dimensions into its agenda.
Subject: social representation
social order
discourse analysis
perspective taking
actantial model
value expression
social semiotics
sosiaaliset representaatiot

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