The essentials of social cohesion: A literature review

David Schiefer / Jolanda van der Noll (2017)

Key facts

Social Indicators Research
Type of publication
Journal article
Elements of social cohesion
Identity/feeling of belonging
Orientation towards the common good
Geographical focus
Main thematic areas
Concept & measurement


The social cohesion literature repeatedly criticizes a lack of consensus regarding the theoretical conceptualization of the construct. The current paper attempts to clarify this ambiguity by providing a literature review on the recent approaches. By taking a bird’s eye view on previous conceptualizations of social cohesion we emphasize that in the majority of approaches there is in fact more overlap in the concept than has so far been assumed. In particular, we suggest three essential dimensions of social cohesion: (1) social relations, (2) identification with the geographical unit, and (3) orientation towards the common good. Each dimension is further differentiated into several sub-dimensions. We argue that additional elements identified in the literature (shared values, inequality, quality of life) are rather determinants or consequences of social cohesion, but not constituting elements. Suggestions for future research are discussed.

Publication_2017_David Schiefer / Jolanda van der Noll

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