Judith Maxwell (CPRN) on Social Cohesion

April 15, 2008


Markus and Kirpitchenko (2007) published a useful overview of how the term ‘social cohesion’ is used in discussions on public policy. They trace and compare definitions used by various governnmental and non-governmental policy makers. One of the most resilient definitions is that offered by Judith Maxwell in 1996.

“While acknowledging that academic insights are essential for this chapter, its main objective is to examine policy-related discourse on the ways in which social cohesion can be defined and conceptualised. From the mid-1990s, interest proliferated in new conceptual frameworks of social order, social cohesiveness and solidarity. To our knowledge the first definition of social cohesion as as policy tool (as opposed to academic concept) was suggested by Judith Maxwell, who is the founding and past president of the Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN):

  •  
    • “Social cohesion involves building shared values and communities of interpretation, reducing disparities in wealth and income, and generally enabling people to have a sense that they are engaged in a common enterprise, facing shared challenges, and that they are members of the same community (Maxwell 1996:13).”

Maxwell’s all-encompassing definition is still often cited today. It identified the crucial areas for social policy intervention, such as the need for creating shared values and common goals and combating inequality.

Almost simultaneously with Maxwell, the Commissariat Generale du Plan (1997) of the French government proposed its definition, which emphasizes social processes involved in building and maintaining shared values:

  • “Social cohesion is a set of social processes that help instill in individuals the sense of belonging to the same community and the feeling that they are recognised as members of that community.”

The government of Canada set up an Interdepartmental Policy Research Subcommittee on Social Cohesion which included more than 20 departments and agencies. In March 1997 it produced the Social Cohesion Research Workplan with its own working definition of social cohesion stressing multiple shared values and beliefs needed to acheive cohesion in a society:

  • “Social cohesion is an 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.”

In its interim report, 18 months later, the Policy Research Sub-committee identified societal fault lines – or cleavages – that were perceived to be opening in Canadian society. They related to:

  • 1. the ageing population
    2. the changing ethnic and cultural composition of Canada
    3. evolving family structures. (Jupp, Nieuwenhuysen and Dawson 2007:22)

This list of fault lines is indicative of the scope of issues perceived to be of concern to the social cohesion agenda in Canada. Explicitly, social cohesion issues were conceived in the broadest possible terms, which included not only exclusively addressing differences based on ethnic or cultural background, but also those based on economic status, gender inequality, age group, rural dwelling and family structure (Markus and Kirpitchenko 2007:22).

A leading Canadian scholar, Jane Jenson, who is past director of CPRN Family Network, published a comprehensive review of Canadian research (1998b) and offered a definition paralleling the Workplan in its stress on process rather thatn end result: (Markus and Kirpitchenko 2007:22)

  • “The term ‘social cohesion’ is used to describe a process more than a condition or state, while it is seen as involving a sense of commitment, and a desire or capacity to live together in some harmony.” 

(cited in Markus and Kirpitchenko 2007:22-4).

 

This useful article Judith Maxwell in plain-speak describes the term ‘social cohesion’ from a Canadian point of view:

What is Social Cohesion, and Why do We Care?”

“Social cohesion is a new expression coined to address an old issue – how to maintain social order. Let’s begin with the definition created by the French Commissariat du plan in 1997: Social cohesion “is a set of social processes that help instill in individuals the sense of belonging to the same community and the feeling that they are recognized as members of that community.”

In practice, these social processes exist at work, at play, in public life and community affairs. Do all citizens have the chance to work to earn their own living and support their families? Do all citizens have the right to vote and to have a voice in community affairs? Do all children have access to schools, to recreation? Do all citizens feel safe when they walk streets and respected by the people they meet?

Social cohesion is not a utopia where all is peace and tranquility. Instead, it describes a society that accepts diversity and manages conflicts before they become fights. It requires a society where workplaces are fair, where the voice of workers is respected, where people can express their views without fear of acrimony or reprisal (Maxwell 1996).”

Why is this important?

“Canada and Quebec have become diverse, pluralistic societies exposed to highly competitive, global markets.

One challenge to social cohesion comes from the growing role of markets in our lives. Competition offers opportunity of great rewards as well as risk of unemployment and insecurity. These possibilities, unfortunately, increase income inequality and create social distances within communities. Cities like Montreal and Toronto, for example, have seen increasing concentration of poverty in certain neighbourhoods, where many young men do not work, and where high school drop out rates are still remarkably high. They may only live a kilometre away from privileged families where a high percentage of the young people are headed for universities and good jobs. Such contrasts, if not addressed, pose a real threat to social cohesion  (Maxwell 1996).”

Indicators of social disadvantage

Poverty

Certain groups in our largest cities are especially vulnerable to poverty.

(See Table: These groups include children under 15 (All cities in Canada = 30%);, youth 15-24 (All cities in Canada = 31%); and recent immigrants (All cities in Canada = 52%).

Concentration of poverty

Poor families in Montreal and Toronto are more likely to live in very poor neighbourhoods than are poor families in most other Canadian cities.

% of poor families living in very poor neighbourhoods:

Toronto: 1980:15%, 1995:30%

Montreal:1980:30%, 1995:40%

Vancouver: 1980:7%, 1995:14%

Ottawa: 1980:28%, 1995:28%.

See Table:

Income Inequality

The wealthiest families in Toronto and Montreal have 4 times as much income as the poorest. The ratio is lower, but still significant in Vancouver and Ottawa.

Ratio of income of top 5% of families to bottom 5% in 1995:

Toronto 4.9
Montreal 3.9
Vancouver 3.0
Ottawa 3.0

Source  (Maxwell 1996)

Diversity, an Opportunity and Challenge

“The coincidence of inequality and diversity complicates the challenge of social cohesion. The diversity of our people greatly enriches our life, but it also introduces different value systems, more languages, and different ethnic and religious traditions. Even second and third generation minority groups are still treated as strangers. Many of them do prosper in this country. But too many are stuck in the poor neighbourhoods where their economic and social prospects are severly limited.

The changing political culture is also creating greater distances between citizens and their governments. People no longer defer to authority, they have lost patience with political institutions which are not accountable for their actions, are slow to respond to the needs of the population, or seem to be out of touch with the lived experience of ordinary people.

If citizens are to gain a sense of solidarity and common purpose, they must trust their political institutions to represent them fairly, to serve their needs, and to reflect a basic understanding of turbulent changes they experience in their daily lives.

In this context of competition, diversity, and greater inequality, people yearn for a sense of belonging and common purpose to anchor their lives and to define their identity. They are looking for respect and reciprocity in workplaces, schools, community spaces, and political institutions.

The most successful societies, going forward, will be those that create those social connections and foster a sense of mutual responsibility, even as they strive to compete head on with the industrial might of the global economy.

This is our shared challenge – a challenge we each face in our own neighbourhood, our city, region, province and country  (Maxwell 1996).”

Judith Maxwell is President of Canadian Policy Research Networks, a social and economic policy think-tank based in Ottawa. This article is based on a commentary prepared for the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

—————-

Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN:0521709431.

Nieuwenhuysen, John. 2007. “Introduction.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. p. 1.

Part 1 Defining, Measuring and Seeking Social Cohesion.

1. Jupp, James. 2007. “Quest for Harmony.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. p. 9.

2. Markus, Andrew; Kirpitchenko, Liudmila. 2007. “Conceptualising social cohesion.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 21-32

3. Economou, Nick. 2007. “Measuring social cohesion in a diverse society.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 33-44.

4. Andrews, Kevin. “Australian government initiatives for social cohesion.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 45-59.

Part II The Dynamics of Social Cohesion

5. Collins, Jock. 2007. “The landmark of Cronulla.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 61-69.

6. White, Rob. 2007. “Policing the other: Lebanese young people in a climate of conflict.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 70-79.

7. Bouma, Gary D.’ Ling, Rod. 2007. “Religious resurgence and diversity and social cohesion in Australia.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 80-89.

8. Rowse, Tim. 2007. “Family and nation: the Indigenous/non-Indigenous relationship.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 90.

http://books.google.ca/books?id=QFbXxzlPHccC&pg=PA22&lpg=PA22&dq=set+of+social+processes+that+help+instill+in+individuals+the+sense+of+belonging+to+the+same+community+and+the+feeling+that+they+are+recognized+as+members+of+that+community&source=web&ots=9ynhiMwUMy&sig=AAjsGrztMBgRRoidrBGDQfPanQ&hl=en#PPA29,M1

Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN:0521709431.

Categories: Social sciences >> pluralism.

Tags, social cohesion, Indigenous Australians, multiculturalism, Muslim, Aboriginal, social capital, bill of rights, Cronulla beach, globalisation, subcommunities, racial profiling, James Jupp, native title, counter-terrorism, immigration, Monash University, Lebanese, Sydney, war on terror

From

Excerpt from Markus, Andrew; Kirpitchenko, Liudmila. 2007. “Conceptualising social cohesion.” Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. Eds. 2007. Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 21-32.

“. . . society, based on overall ‘conformity with a shared system of value-orientation standards’ (1951: 24).

“While acknowledging that academic insights are essential for this chapter, its main objective is to examine policy-related discourse on the ways in which social cohesion can be defined and conceptualised. From the mid-1990s, interest proliferated in new conceptual frameworks of social order, social cohesiveness and solidarity. To our knowledge the first definition of social cohesion as as policy tool (as opposed to academic concept) was suggested by Judith Maxwell, who is the founding and past president of the Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN):

“Social cohesion involves building shared values and communities of interpretation, reducing disparities in wealth and income, and generally enabling people to have a sense that they are engaged in a common enterprise, facing shared challenges, and that they are members of the same community (Maxwell 1996:13).”

Maxwell’s all-encompassing definition is still often cited today. It identified the crucial areas for social policy intervention, such as the need for creating shared values and common goals and combating inequality. Almost simultaneously with Maxwell, the Commissariat Generale du Plan (1997) of the French government proposed its definition, which emphasizes social processes involved in building and maintaining shared values:

“Social cohesion is a set of social processes that help instill in individuals the sense of belonging to the same community and the feeling that they are recognised as members of that community.”

The government of Canada set up an Interdepartmental Policy Research Subcommittee on Social Cohesion which included more than 20 departments and agencies. In March 1997 it produced the Social Cohesion Research Workplan with its own working definition of social cohesion stressing multiple shared values and beliefs needed to acheive cohesion in a society:

“Social cohesion is an 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.”

In its interim report, 18 months later, the Policy Research Sub-committee identified societal fault lines – or cleavages – that were perceived to be opening in Canadian society. They related to:
1. the ageing population
2. the changing ethnic and cultural composition of Canada
3. evolving family structures. (Jupp, Nieuwenhuysen and Dawson 2007:22)

This list of fault lines is indicative of the scope of issues perceived to be of concern to the social cohesion agenda in Canada. Explicitly, social cohesion issues were conceived in the broadest possible terms, which included not only exclusively addressing differences based on ethnic or cultural background, but also those based on economic status, gender inequality, age group, rural dwelling and family structure (Markus and Kirpitchenko 2007:22).

A leading Canadian scholar, Jane Jenson, who is past director of CPRN Family Network, published a comprehensive review of Canadian research (1998b) and offered a definition paralleling the Workplan in its stress on process rather thatn end result: (Markus and Kirpitchenko 2007:22)

“The term ‘social cohesion’ is used to describe a process more than a condition or state, while it is seen as involving a sense of commitment, and a desire or capacity to live together in some harmony.”  Jenson (1998b: 15) developed an approach to social cohesion through five constituent dimensions; in 1999, Paul Bernard added the sixth:

Belonging – Isolation
Inclusion – Exclusion
Participation – Non-involvement (Passivity See Bernard)
Recognition – Rejection
Legitimacy – Illegitimacy
Equality – Inequality

(Markus and Kirpitchenko 2007:23)

 

Bernard’s typology distinguished the formal and substantial aspects of social cohesion in three spheres of human activity: economic, political and socio-cultural.

Bernard’s typology of social cohesion:

1. Sphere of activity: Economic: Formal character of the relation: insertion/exclusion; substantial character of the relation: equality/inequality

2. Sphere of activity: Political: Formal character of the relation: Legitimacy – Illegitimacy; substantial character of the relation: Participation – Passivity.

3. Sphere of activity: Socio-cultural: Formal character of the relation: Recognition – Rejection; substantial character of the relation: Belonging – Isolation.

Forrest and Kearns (2001: 2129) contributed a further, comprehensive representation of the domains of social cohesion:

Common values and a civic culture: Common aims and objectives; common moral principles and codes of behaviour; support for political institutions and participation in politics

Social order and social control: Absence of general conflicts and threats to existing order; absence of incivility; effective informal social control; tolerance; respect for difference; intergroup co-operation

Social solidarity and reductions in wealth disparities: Harmonious economic and social development and common standards; redistribution of public finances and of opportunities; equal access to services and welfare benefits; ready acknowledgement of social obligations and willingness to assist others Social networks and social capital: High degree of social interaction within communities and families; civic engagement and associational activity; easy resolution of collective action problems

Place attachment and identity: Strong attachment to place; intertwining of personal and place identity (Forrest and Kearns 2001: 2129)

Other reseachers have tried to develop definitions which explore the complexity of the value systems that underlie social cohesion. Thus the Council of Europe (1999) suggests the following:

“Social cohesion comprises a sense of belonging: to a family, a social group, a neighbourhood, a workplace, a country or, why not, to Europe (though care must be taken to avoid erecting a Schengen wall to replace the Berlin wall). Yet this sense of belonging must not be exclusive; instead, multiple identity and belonging must be encouraged. (cited in Beauvais and Jenson 2002:4) (Markus and Kirpitchenko 2007:23)

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