Inter-disciplinary Conference: The Politics of Social Cohesion

The concept of social cohesion is becoming increasingly important in politics as well as public opinion. In particular, migration and the forms of ethnocultural diversity to which it gives rise are increasingly considered causes of conflict and destabilizing factors in contemporary democratic regimes, in part because such diversity is believed to undermine important values, including trust and solidarity. The main idea is that social identities determine attachment to and solidarity with those who belong to one’s group and separation and detachment from those who do not belong. As a result of this, it is further feared that diversity tends to undermine social spending and ultimately the welfare state. One aspect of these developments is that the work of social scientists on social cohesion is increasingly becoming politicized.

This inter-disciplinary conference aims to address social cohesion and the political uses to which this concept is put, in particular in relation to ethnocultural diversity. Important questions include:

  • What are the mechanisms through which social or national identities foster cohesion (e.g. trust and solidarity) and inclusion, and what are the mechanisms through which they foster conflict and exclusion?
  • To what extent does the empirical evidence support various political claims about the importance of e.g. shared national identities as a precondition for solidarity and peaceful community life?
  • Which kinds of community are (most) conducive to integration and stability, e.g. is citizenship enough?
  • How is immigration related to social cohesion and levels of social spending?
  • Why have social cohesion discourses gained such prominence in contemporary liberal societies?
  • What do normative ideals such as liberty and equality imply with respect to a) immigration policies that aim at protecting/fostering social cohesion, and b) what we may legitimately expect from minorities and majorities with respect to conforming to a shared identity?
  • Do multicultural policies undermine social cohesion?

Confirmed speakers include:

Keith Banting, Policy Studies, Queen’s University

Nils Holtug, Philosophy, University of Copenhagen

Christian Joppke, Government, American University of Paris

James Jupp, Immigration and Multicultural Studies, Australian National University

Niels Kærgård, Economics, University of Copenhagen

Yngve Lithman, Sociology, University of Bergen

Andrew Mason, Social Science, University of Southampton

Per Mouritsen, Politics, University of Aarhus

Varun Uberoi, Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford 

Eric Uslaner, Government and Politics, University of Maryland

Ellie Vasta, COMPAS, University of Oxford

Download the conference programme here.

Call for Papers:

Please send an abstract of no more than 200 words to on May 1, 2009 at noon at the latest.

Registration is necessary. To registrate click here.

Links to hotels in near distance of the conference venue: