Social Cohesion Contested

Dan Swain, Petr Urban

In recent decades social cohesion has emerged as a major concern of states, policymakers and researchers. Social cohesion is represented as a desirable policy goal and as the basis for everything from economic growth to individual well-being. At the same time, it is increasingly presented as a single substance, which can be measured, tracked, and compared across diverse societies. But why should we think of the complex ways in which we can live well together in terms of a single substance? Social Cohesion Contested challenges this way of thinking, suggesting that social cohesion has become a buzzword that obscures more than it illuminates.

Dan Swain and Petr Urban trace the rise of the concept through the policy agendas of transnational and international bodies, and analyze the reactions of social researchers to the demands of policymakers for a clear and operationalizable concept. They argue that the term is frequently used in a way that assumes broad understanding and agreement, while in practice it is subject to contradictory definitions and often loaded with various implicit and explicit values, which become masked behind a veneer of scientific authority and normative legitimacy. The more that social cohesion is treated as a single substance with a clear…

Rowman & Littlefield