What is Being Done in the Name of Social Cohesion?

March 12, 2008


Some of the most compelling work currently being done in the name of social cohesion is undertaken under the auspices of the Council of Europe, formed in Post WWII. The Council of Europe’s Directorate General of Social Cohesion (DG III) among other things “develops interaction and synergies between the work of the Council of Europe in the field of social cohesion and other European, regional and universal actors in the field of social cohesion through targeted contacts and liaison with the competent services and bodies of the United Nations family, the OSCE, OECD, the World Bank and the European Union, taking into account the specific responsibilities of the DGAP ( Mandate >> COE).”

“The subject of social cohesion has attracted much attention from inter-governmental, governmental and non-governmental organisations during since c. 1993 prompted by a widely-held belief that the quality of public and civic life is in decline (Cantle 2001, MGPOCC 2001, NSAUK 2003).” Social inclusion is one of the major challenges of governance in this advanced stage of globalization where nations are at the threshold of post-nationalism.“Cultural activities have the potential of encouraging social cohesion. Cultural industries encompass production and distribution as well as their related knowledge systems. There is a tension between the need for those who are developing and implementing public policy to engage in political and budgetary arbitration while reflecting on the long-term objectives of reconciliation which involves the slower processes of memory work with its passions and anxieties (Flynn-Burhoe “Cultural policy in a highly pluralistic society.” 2005).”

Definitions of social cohesion

“Social cohesion is the capacity for cooperation in society based on the set of positive effects accruing from social capital, in addition to the sum of factors promoting equity in the distribution of opportunities among individuals (Ferroni 2006).” Social capital and social cohesion are relevant dimensions of the standard of living, both as means to attain certain desired results and ends in themselves. Social capital and social cohesion are increasingly invoked as desiderata in the evolving discussion of the social agenda and social rights in Latin American Countires. Ferroni illustrated how interpersonal trust and trust in institutions eroded between 1996 and 2004.

“The literature on social cohesion is rich and varied, yet poorly integrated. Social cohesion is a measure of how tightly coupled, robust and unified a community is across a set of indicators. A community with a strong sense of identity and shared goals is considered to be more cohesive than one without these qualities. A cohesive community is also able to buffer more effectively changes resulting from realignments of international actors, national priorities, local political climates, economic upturns or downturns and the introduction of new technologies. Recent developments in agricultural biotechnology and their subsequent commercialisation give us a unique opportunity to chart how agricultural communities adjust to this suite of technologies. There is little agreement on how to define social cohesion. This is somewhat startling considering how widely used this concept is, and how quickly some claim that social cohesion has declined in recent years. Moreover, such assertions suggest that social cohesion is a desired state instead of its more likely manifestation as a process that reflects the changing nature of social relations. (Mehta 2002-11-27).</a>”

“Judith Maxwell (1996) considers the relationship between social cohesion and a range of social conditions that indicate when a society fails to function adequately. Maxwell (1996: 13) defines social cohesion as the sharing of values that reduce “…disparities in wealth and income” while giving people a sense of community. It is assumed from this definition that strongly cohesive societies are better able to face the challenges posed by social, economic and technological change. Many of the debates over new innovations in agricultural biotechnology pick up on this thread. We will now turn to the relationship between social cohesion and biotechnology by examining the challenges and opportunities posed by this technology to various actors (s0urce ?).”

“Jane Jenson (1998: 3) suggests that social cohesion became popular as a topic of discourse because it illuminates the interconnections between “economic restructuring, social change and political action.” Furthermore, Jenson notes that a cohesive society is assumed to be socially and economically optimal according to a range of governmental agencies and organisations like the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), and that a decline in cohesion represents a threat to the social order. However, it is worth noting that changes in social cohesion are considered to be much more than simply a threat to the economy (source ?).”

Social Cohesionis the ongoing process of developing a community of shared values, shared challenges and equal opportunities within Canada, based on a sense of trust, hope and reciprocity among all Canadians.” CSC. 2003. “A Glossary of Terms for the Voluntary Sector.” Community Services Council Newfoundland and Labrador. http://www.envision.ca/templates/profile.asp?ID=56

Jean Cassidy compiled a glossary of terms used in discussing poverty and social exclusion for a non-specialist audience entitled “Combat Poverty Agency – Glossary of Poverty and Social Inclusion Terms” for the Combat Poverty Agency. She included Social cohesion: Bringing together, in an integrated way, economic, social, health and educational policies to facilitate the participation of citizens in societal life (Cassidy 2003).

PhD student Marlene De Beer, whose PhD research study focused on social cohesion discourses, their relevance for education policy and practice and interventions by international organisations to develop social cohesion through education suggested in her 2003 paper (2003-09-01) that “There are multiple perspectives on social cohesion, and the following could be seen as influential academic conceptual developments: Social cohesion is a ongoing process that deals with bipolar dimensions of: belonging / isolation, inclusion / exclusion, participation / non-involvement, recognition / rejection, legitimacy / illegitimacy, equality / inequality, reciprocity, trust, hope and shared values (Paul Bernard, 1999; Caroline Beauvais and Jane Jenson, 2002; Sharon Jeannotte, 2000; Sharon Jeannotte, Dick Stanley, Ravi Pendakur, Bruce Jamieson, Maureen Williams, and Amanda Aizlewood, 2002; Jane Jenson, 1998 & 2002; Dick Stanley, 2002; Maureen Williams, 2001). Social cohesion is about wanting to take part (vs. dropping out / opting out); being allowed to take part (vs. discrimination); and being able to take part (vs. deprivation, enabling) (Talja Blockland, 2000:56-70, also see Selma Sevenhuijsen, 1998) (De Beer, Marlene. 2003.)”

Social cohesion: The capacity to live together in harmony with a sense of mutual commitment among citizens of different social or economic circumstances (Senate of Canada definition, based on a review of common elements in various national definitions). (CIRCLE/CCRN, 2000, p. 3)3.

See also Timeline of social events related to social cohesion http://snipurl.com/23a8u Webliography and bibliography related to social cohesion, What is Being Done in the Name of Social Cohesion? as well as http://snipurl.com/23a2b 2 http://snipurl.com/23a77

This theme is also being developed on the page entitled Key Concepts: Social Cohesion >> Speechless.

Creative Commons License 3.0

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2008. “What is Being Done in the Name of Social Cohesion?” >> Speechless. March 11. First Draft. Last modified March 12, 2008.

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