What is Social Cohesion?

Meaning of Social Cohesion

Social cohesion is what keeps a social group united and constantly operating within society.

It has to do with the identity that a group can create and reproduce for itself and for others, and it also has to do with its norms and values, which characterize it.

Social cohesion can be worked on in smaller groups of society, but it is more correct to try to perceive it as a society in itself.

As society can have very plural subgroups, how to keep differences under control also enters into the debate on social cohesion .

Social cohesion can be understood through different sociological theories , but some authors stand out on this subject, such as Émile Durkheim.

This author will work on this idea in his book On the division of social labor, published for the first time in 1893. In this text, the author analyzes how the elements of social cohesion appear for traditional and modern societies.

What differentiates modern society from traditional ones, according to Durkheim, is a fundamental change in the path of social cohesion. The advent of industrialization caused the evolution of a new form of solidarity. (THORPE et al, 2016, p.36)

The cohesion of traditional societies derives from the exchange of customs, values, norms and social beliefs, which is why it is quite homogeneous.

The new cohesion emerging for modern societies stems from the opposite. With industrialization and the greater complexity of work in some societies, social cohesion derives from the interdependence of parts of the system, since each job collaborates with a part of social production.

For Durkheim, this cohesive movement will be called solidarity , thinking of how social parts collaborate to produce work.

Traditional societies would have mechanical solidarity, and modern societies would have organic solidarity.

However, not only Durkheim addressed the issue of social cohesion, but also the other classic authors of sociology and also Talcott Parsons.

In this last point of view, the author argues that cohesion is maintained through a consensus on the values ​​of society.

And these values ​​are transmitted and maintained by social institutions , such as the family, the school and the media.

This consensus would still be the result of individual action , which would seek to maintain cohesion based on their participation and the exchange of these values.

Other authors such as Karl Marx and Max Weber follow a different line of thought on this aspect, due to their studies on the types of domination that appear in modern industrial societies.

For the first, the domain of social classes with more emphasis, and for the second, the different types of social domination and its relationship with the State.

“Instead, the consensus may reflect the power of some groups to shape things according to their own interests. This idea is more linked to the Conflict Perspective and the work of Karl Marx and Max Weber, who argued that cohesion and order are, to some extent, created and maintained by coercion and domination, especially through institutions such as the state. Societies in which oppressed minorities, for example, may continue to exhibit social cohesion not only because of a true consensus of values, but because they may fear that if they dare to demand social justice, they may fall victim to even more violence and persecution.” (JOHNSON, 2016, pp. 41-42).

social coercion

Therefore, the authors give some thought to how cohesion has a counterpart associated with coercion , which can be physical, legal, or moral.

Coercion is a way of enforcing social norms . In the exemplified case, coercion can even maintain situations of inequality.

The authors argue that this power to maintain inequalities can also appear when a type of values ​​and norms are desired that will be the basis of social cohesion in society, which can be controlled by some social groups that have the capacity to propagate ideas. that they will have the consensus of some and the fear of others.

In this way, the perspective of Marx and Weber adds more complexity to Durkheim’s thought and helps to interpret other social situations.

Thus, we can understand social cohesion as both the social attitude and the configuration of a system that will be understood as a block and that shares values, norms, behaviors and symbols.

And that has social coercion as its counterpart , since it forces compliance with those attitudes that promote social identity.

Cohesion, depending on which theoretical line is pursued, can include degrees of conflict and power and divergences or focus on the social consensus of individuals with their group or focus on the interdependence of parts of the social system.

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