How can we promote and create social cohesion in a diverse society?
Today’s societies’ diversity has increased in recent decades, owing to secularization, migration, recent refugee crises, and the breaking down of ideological and religious ‘compartments’. This trend has raised new questions about the nature, scale, and progress of diversity; how we should deal with it, and how we can curb any societal conflicts that it could potentially give rise to.
Social cohesion occurs when members of a society cooperate with each other, connect in meaningful ways, and find ways to survive and prosper. Societies that lack social cohesion experience significant social conflict and resort to violence. It is difficult for a society to thrive when its fabric is being torn asunder.
A contrast exists between generations and society is constantly changing in this sense. The Baby Boomers will soon pass the baton of power to the Gen Xers and Millennials. Will the next generation be able to rebind the fabric of society?
The main goal to this challenge will be to investigate the issue of social cohesion and how it can be achieved in nowadays Western society.
Perspectives and possible directions
Current developments in movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, movements for LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights, but also the widening of income disparities and political power plays in the Western world, have made even more clear that we operate in a world where there is a lot of diversity, but also still a lot of inequality and friction. The Covid-19 crisis, and the war in Ukraine has made this even more apparent.
Interdisciplinary research is the only way to explore the question of social cohesion in a diverse society. Expertise is needed in such fields as sociology, law, social studies, religion, history, didactics, philosophy, educational theory, and psychology.
We must identify ways of inviting individuals and groups to live together in harmony despite their differences. Three types of questions are relevant in this context.
The first seeks explanations for the tensions, for example disparities between group or individual values and the values of a Western society.
The second type seeks to find methods for preventing and dealing with tensions between groups. Can education play a role, for example, and what options are available to us in that context? What behavioral patterns come into play and how can they be influenced or changed? Are there any examples from the past that we can revisit?
The third type of question seeks to explain and look for ways to avoid the rise of extremism.