It is not completely clear what social cohesion means, and there is no unanimous consensus about the term either. The term is widely used in European policy and research, and brings up a powerful image of a society that hangs together, that has sufficient unity to avoid continual conflict and division. It is conceived as the ideal solution to all social tensions and problems in modern cities, such as social exclusion, poverty and violence.
However, social cohesion cannot really be defined or taken for granted, because it refers to the contradictions of the human condition and capitalism:
- As regards the human condition, people desire to be part of something and to belong, but also to be different and unique. People want to be treated equal and also valorise diversity.
- As regards the contradiction inherent in capitalist modernization, in capitalism change and innovation are the main drivers, but at the same time people aspire to belong and to lead a good and secure life, and therefore, there are constant tensions between stability and transformation which people, communities and cities have to negotiate.