Saturday, 6 February 2010

Social cohesion is a term used in social policy, sociology and political science to describe the bonds or "glue" that bring people together in society, particularly in the context of cultural diversity. Social cohesion is a multi-faceted notion covering many different kinds of social phenomena.

According to the government-commissioned, State of the English Cities thematic reports, there are five different dimensions of social cohesion: material conditions, passive relationships, active relationships, inclusion and equality.

* The report shows that material conditions are fundamental to social cohesion, particularly employment, income, health, education and housing. Relations between and within communities suffer when people lack work and endure hardship, debt, anxiety, low self-esteem, ill-health, poor skills and bad living conditions. These basic necessities of life are the foundations of a strong social fabric and important indicators of social progress.
* The second basic tenet of cohesion is social order, safety and freedom from fear, or "passive social relationships". Tolerance and respect for other people, along with peace and security,are hallmarks of a stable and harmonious urban society.
* The third dimension refers to the positive interactions, exchanges and networks between individuals and communities, or "active social relationships". Such contacts and connections are potential resources for places since they offer people and organisations mutual support, information, trust (law)trust and credit of various kinds.
* The fourth dimension is about the extent of social inclusion or integration of people into the mainstream institutions of civil society. It also includes people's sense of belonging to a city and the strength of shared experiences, identities and values between those from different backgrounds.
* Lastly, social equality refers to the level of fairness or disparity in access to opportunities or material circumstances, such as income, health or quality of life, or in future life chances.

Social disintegration is the tendency for society to decline or disintegrate over time, perhaps due to the lapse or breakdown of traditional social support systems. In this context, "society" refers to the social order which maintains a society, rather than the political order that defines its boundaries. Society in the sociological sense is not the same as a country.

The theoretical origins of this idea lie with Émile Durkheim and Ferdinand Toennies. For both researchers one can see a division into two types of social integration corresponding to two historical phases. First there is a primitive integration based on likeness and intimate interaction, which Durkheim called mechanical solidarity and Toennies labelled Gemeinschaft. Second, there is a more complex and modern integration based on abstracted interdependence, which is known as organic solidarity or Gesellschaft.

Those who espouse social disintegration beliefs tend to doubt the integrative capacity of organic solidarity, claiming that if it is not based on primordial ties and relationships, it is fabricated. On the other hand, optimists might argue that new complex forms of integration can emerge, for example through new communal forms of identity formation or through economic interdependence.

In sociology, social facts are the values, cultural norms, and social structures external to the individual. For French sociologist Émile Durkheim, sociology was 'the science of social facts'. The task of the sociologist, then, was to search for correlations between social facts to reveal laws. Having discovered the laws of social structure, it is posited that the sociologist is then able to determine whether any given society is 'healthy' or 'pathological' and prescribe appropriate remedies.

Durkheim made two main distinctions between social facts--material and nonmaterial social facts. Material social facts, he explained, has to do with the physical social structures which exerts influence on the individual. It is something that can be touched emerging because of society's shared belief that it serves a purpose. Nonmaterial social facts are the values, norms and other conceptually held beliefs.

Social norms
are the behavioral expectations and cues within a society or group. This sociological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit. Failure to follow the rules can result in severe punishments, including exclusion from the group."[1] They have also been described as the "customary rules of behavior that coordinate our interactions with others."[2]

The social norms indicate the established and approved ways of doing things, of dress, of speech and of appearance. These vary and evolve not only through time but also vary from one age group to another and between social classes and social groups. What is deemed to be acceptable dress, speech or behaviour in one social group may not be accepted in another.

Deference to the social norms maintains one's acceptance and popularity within a particular group; ignoring the social norms risks one becoming unacceptable, unpopular or even an outcast from a group. Social norms tend to be tacitly established and maintained through body language and non-verbal communication between people in their normal social discourse.

A social network is a social structure made of individuals (or organizations) called "nodes," which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.

Six degrees of separation (also referred to as the "Human Web") refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth. It was popularized by a play written by John Guare.

The modern world 'shrinking' due to this ever-increasing connectedness of human beings. And that despite great physical distances between the globe's individuals, the growing density of human networks made the actual social distance far smaller.

A fascinating game grew out of this discussion. One of us suggested performing the following experiment to prove that the population of the Earth is closer together now than they have ever been before. We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth—anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.

This idea both directly and indirectly influenced a great deal of early thought on social networks.

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