Discourses of Society and the Politics of Cohesion
Department of International Politics Aberystwyth University Aberystwyth, Wales
Over the last 15 years, a wide range of policy problems have emerged that are considered to be causally connected to processes of social fragmentation and to a lack of social cohesion. Crime, political disengagement and unrest, or the alleged breakdown of multiculturalism are brought into focus through the lens of social cohesion and addressed as a consequence of the failure of modern social arrangements to sufficiently hang together. This new problematisation of society can be witnessed across the OECD world and has prompted calls for new types of governance. More fine-tuned and more far-ranging measures are called for that are supposed to impact on societies' fabric and the moral outlook of a citizenry whilst, paradoxically, remaining committed to the liberal tenets of 'government at a distance'.
This paper will investigate the process in which social cohesion becomes a problem amenable to governmental intervention. With reference to policy agendas that accompany the British 'community cohesion', the French 'cohésion sociale' and the German 'Bürgergesellschaft' it explores how discursive struggles over society precede the discovery of new types of social governance. Thus, its overall aim is to point out how changing discourses on society provide knowledge-base and relevant expertise for, and are thus intimately linked to, new technologies of governance.