What is Social Cohesion?

J.M. Densing

The term social cohesion refers to the bonds, or "glue," that holds a society together, often through common values, beliefs, and behaviors. Strong bonds indicate a higher level of social cohesion as shown by large percentages of the population following the rules of the society and displaying tolerance for one another. It is also demonstrated by cooperation by different groups within the community, particularly when working towards something that will benefit the society as a whole. In a cohesive society, individuals are apt to see themselves as a part of a greater whole, and to act in a way that upholds the accepted values of the society even if they don't personally agree.

The Boy Scouts is a good example of social cohesion, as it's a group of people banding together to achieve goals that will benefit society as a whole.
The Boy Scouts is a good example of social cohesion, as it's a group of people banding together to achieve goals that will benefit society as a whole.

When social cohesion is present in a society, citizens often share common beliefs and values which are reflected through their actions. This doesn't mean that people have to share the exact same beliefs; they instead have at least a few things in common and act in a similar fashion some of the time. For example, in regards to religion, it can mean that people can worship as they wish rather than all members of the society belonging to the same faith. There is often what is referred to as a "social contract" in place, which is the set of unwritten rules and expectations for which members of a society are expected to comply. Examples include voting, paying taxes, and displaying tolerance for others.

Racism can impair social cohesion in a community.
Racism can impair social cohesion in a community.

When there are strong bonds of commonality among members of a society, levels of social cohesion are considered high. This is demonstrated by significant portions of society following the rules and acting in the way that is expected of them. This type of behavior is also referred to as "playing by the rules." People can demonstrate this in many areas of their lives, for example by fulfilling society's expectations in going to school, getting a job, marrying, and starting a family. In other words, social cohesion is seen in groups when they tend to live in a similar fashion.

Thomas Hobbes wrote about a "social contract", which is the set of unwritten rules and expectations for which members of a society are expected to comply.
Thomas Hobbes wrote about a "social contract", which is the set of unwritten rules and expectations for which members of a society are expected to comply.

Another way that social cohesion is demonstrated is when groups of people band together for a common cause, usually to work towards a goal that will benefit society as a whole. An example of this could be when members of different community groups, such as the Boy Scouts and a church youth group, work together to raise money to build a park; this is also known as community cohesion. Often in the presence of high levels of social cohesion, citizens tend to see themselves as part of larger whole and are willing to act for the "greater good" of the community. This is also demonstrated when people behave in a way that is socially acceptable, even if it means their actions don't always reflect their personal beliefs.

Social cohesion is often built from established relationships.
Social cohesion is often built from established relationships.
Helping each other often helps create social cohesion.
Helping each other often helps create social cohesion.
Youth programs can contribute to social cohesion.
Youth programs can contribute to social cohesion.
Social cohesion easily occurs in groups of people who share the same faith.
Social cohesion easily occurs in groups of people who share the same faith.
Communities that have high social cohesion encourage people to get out and meet new friends.
Communities that have high social cohesion encourage people to get out and meet new friends.

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Discussion Comments

MagicRunner

That’s an extremely pessimistic way of looking at things. There’s a lot more positives in society than we get to see. The media, unfortunately, chooses to push the bad side of things because that’s what draws more ratings.

VioletPrince

@Roguerrilla. That’s a great story and I tend to agree with you regarding the media influence. Take a look at the sports headlines, for example. Players abuse their spouses, steal, cheat, or even are involved with murders, and they continue to be heralded for their playing and raking in the cash. Celebrities are the same way. Frustrating, frankly. You try to promote certain values at home with your kids, and one click of the remote can undo everything you’ve taught them.

Roguerrilla

I love the feeling of “community cohesion.” We had a older woman in our neighborhood who was having a tough time with money. She was a new widow and when her husband passed, he left her with nothing (they were just blue collar people). Our neighborhood came together with a huge yard sale and gave all the proceeds to the woman to use for bills and food. It was a good feeling and seemed to have brought some people (who live near to each other but never speak) together.

These things don’t happen often enough. People seemed to have lost their sense of values, don’t you think? I’m not sure where the blame can truly be placed, but I’m starting with the media.

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