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. Read the rest of this entry »


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