Journal of Social Sciences

Social Cohesion: Its Meaning and Complexities

Itumeleng Mekoa and Dauda Busari

DOI : 10.3844/jssp.2018.107.115

Journal of Social Sciences

Volume 14, Issue 1

Pages 107-115


The concept Social cohesion is relative and a somewhat difficult concept to define. Many scholars have offered varying degree of definitions but the main challenge noticed in the definition, is the multiple definitions based on individual scholar’s orientation or ideology. Another problem poised by these definitions of the concept is that of multi-level and multi-dimensional nature. Contemporary scholars of social cohesion have defied a way of treating the concept as a phenomenon with a multi-dimensional feature or as a kind of potentially construct concept structured around many varying indices. Academics and policy makers have unanimously arrived at a consensus that, "Social Cohesion" as a concept, is enjoying an ever-increasing popularity. Inspite of this perceived ubiquity in many literatures, the concept of social cohesion is still a hugely ill-defined concept that exact meaning varies from one scholar to another. While some scholars or researchers understand the concept as being synonymous to trust, solidarity and peace; many others tend to be of the view that the concept can incorporate such terms as inclusiveness, poverty and social capital. Sociologists however have associated or aligned the concept to ideas that includes social integration and system integration. In furtherance of the search for a clear definition, sociologists have attempted to simplify the challenges embedded in its definition. They highlighted interest in developing a general theory of social cohesion that is confronted with a complex body of work that involves various definitions of social cohesion and engaged specialized literatures on particular dimensions of social cohesion (e.g., membership turnover, organizational commitment, categorical identifications, interpersonal attachments, network structures) and encourage lines of inquiry that is focused on the specific types of groups (e.g., families, schools, military units and sports teams. The apparent theoretical confusion pointed out by other scholar critically is geared towards a critical view of the concept of cohesion which could be viewed as nothing beyond a "quasi-concept" or "concept of convenience" that can be seen to be flexible enough to allow for tweaking, meanderings and also offer rooms for necessities associated with political action in its everyday activities. The goal of the article therefore is to proffer an in-depth analysis of how the concept of social cohesion has been defined and applied in the literature, taking into cognizance the two traditions used in analyzing social cohesion. The first that has its origin in the disciplines of social sciences such as Political Science, Sociology, Social Psychology etc. Coming after social science discipline is the more recent and increasingly significant approaches that were formulated by policy-makers.


© 2018 Itumeleng Mekoa and Dauda Busari. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.