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Community cohesion in crisis?

Community cohesion in crisis?: New dimensions of diversity and difference

John Flint
David Robinson
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  • Book Info
    Community cohesion in crisis?
    Book Description:

    There is an alleged crisis of cohesion in the UK, manifested in debates about identity and 'Britishness', the breakdown of social connections along the fault lines of geography, ethnicity, faith, income and age, and the fragile relationship between citizen and state. This book examines how these new dimensions of diversity and difference, so often debated in the national context, are emerging at the neighbourhood level. Contributors from a range of disciplinary backgrounds critically assess, and go beyond the limits of, contemporary policy discourses on 'community cohesion' to explore the dynamics of diversity and cohesion within neighbourhoods and to identify new dimensions of disconnection between and within neighbourhoods. The chapters provide theoretically informed critiques of the policy responses of public, private, voluntary and community organisations and present a wealth of new empirical research evidence about the dynamics of cohesion in UK neighbourhoods. Topics covered include new immigration, religion and social capital, faith schools, labour and housing market disconnections, neighbourhood territoriality, information technology and neighbourhood construction, and gated communities. Community cohesion in crisis? will be of interest to academics, policy makers, practitioners and students in the fields of human and urban geography, urban studies, sociology, politics, governance, social policy, criminology and housing studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-359-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables and figures
    (pp. iv-iv)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    John Flint and David Robinson

    Britain is more and more often portrayed as a broken society. Politicians, religious leaders, media commentators and academics appear increasingly convinced that the social cement that binds local and national social systems together is crumbling and the established standards and values essential for maintaining civic order are collapsing around us. The demise of ‘community’ is presumed, by Left and Right alike, to be the key driver of this breakdown in society. Problems as diverse as Islamic terrorism, educational underachievement, gang violence, teenage pregnancy, worklessness, drug crime and anti-social behaviour are all explained through reference to the erosion of the informal...

  3. ONE Community cohesion and the politics of communitarianism
    (pp. 15-34)
    David Robinson

    It is difficult to find any reference to community cohesion in the statements of public policy or the work of urban theorists prior to the street disturbances that rocked a number of northern UK towns and cities in the summer of 2001. Yet, community cohesion quickly emerged as the favoured reference point of politicians and policymakers seeking to explain and articulate a response to the violence and disorder. A flurry of policy statements and guidance documents on community cohesion followed, ranging from advice about promoting community cohesion during the delivery of Area Based Initiatives (ABIs), to advice to schools about...

  4. TWO Community cohesion in Bradford: neoliberal integrationism
    (pp. 35-56)
    Jon Burnett

    Following a series of urban disorders in northern towns and cities in England in 2001, the New Labour government embarked upon a community cohesion agenda that has significantly shifted the terrain of race relations policy and thought.² While gaining popular crossparty political support (see for example Oaten, 2005; BBC, 2007a; Cameron, 2007, p 31; Johnston, 2007, p 2), the aims and rationales of this agenda have been subjected to considerable criticism from antiracist campaigners (see in particular Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, 2002; Fekete, 2004; Sivanandan, 2006; Kundnani, 2007a).

    As Sivanandan (2007, pp 48–9) has argued, the community cohesion...

  5. THREE Connectivity of place and housing market change: the case of Birmingham
    (pp. 57-80)
    Ian Cole and Ed Ferrari

    In his foreword to the seminal British study of race and housing,Race, community and conflict, J.B. Rose noted: ‘The city is a crucible into which we pour the most disparate elements in our modern industrial society vaguely expecting that given time they will fuse into an acceptable amalgam’ (Rex and Moore, 1967, p v). Rex and Moore’s groundbreaking research was adequate testament to how far this ‘vague expectation’ could be confounded by the operation of social and economic processes, notably the dynamics of the local housing market. This was crystallised in their observation that the ‘competition for the scarce...

  6. FOUR Shifting geographies of minority ethnic settlement: remaking communities in Oldham and Rochdale
    (pp. 81-98)
    Deborah Phillips, Ludi Simpson and Sameera Ahmed

    This chapter explores the way in which young British Asian and white adults living in the Pennine towns of Oldham and Rochdale understand ideas of ‘community’ and how these affect their decisions and aspirations about where to live. The image of community relations in the multi-ethnic, former industrial towns of northern England was tarnished by the urban disturbances of 2001 in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford. Press reports at the time sensationally referred to the existence of ‘no-go areas’, ethnic territories and ghettoisation in these localities. The ethnic residential segregation evident here was widely thought to be indicative of social separation,...

  7. FIVE Employment and disconnection: cultures of worklessness in neighbourhoods
    (pp. 99-118)
    Del Roy Fletcher

    The labour market is a key arena in which the cohesiveness of society is shaped. It is where the economic well-being of individuals and families is determined and their social values and relationship to society are, in part, moulded. It follows that long-term unemployment may have a disintegrative effect leading to economic marginalisation, poverty and social exclusion. Tackling unemployment and economic inactivity are integral to the UK government’s strategy for increasing prosperity and reducing social exclusion: ‘Work is the best route out of poverty. It strengthens independence and dignity. It builds family aspirations, fosters greater social inclusion and can improve...

  8. SIX Beyond ‘social glue’? ‘Faith’ and community cohesion
    (pp. 119-138)
    Robert Furbey

    Religion has been conspicuous in the recent development of social and community cohesion discourse in the UK and other nation states. Religion is seen simultaneously as problem and solution, a cause of social division and bloody conflict, but also a resource in building civic ‘partnership’, inclusive local governance, ‘strong communities’ and a vibrant civil society. This public prominence of ‘faith’ and ‘faith communities’ is a relatively recent development, a cause, variously, for surprise, dismay, celebration and often for febrile debate.

    Secularisation, the draining of social significance from religious thinking, practice and institutions (Wilson, 1966), had been regarded as irreversible and...

  9. SEVEN The third sector and community cohesion in deprived neighbourhoods
    (pp. 139-158)
    Peter Wells

    Policy and academic debate in the UK and internationally on the third sector has ascribed it myriad roles in, and emphasised its positive contribution to, public policy delivery, civil society, civil renewal, social inclusion, neighbourhood renewal and community cohesion. The aim of this chapter is to review some of these debates, with respect to community cohesion, to problematise certain policy and academic positions, and to outline future directions for investigation.

    The focus of the chapter is on the contribution of the third sector to cohesion in deprived neighbourhoods. Clearly, the sector plays active roles in different policy domains and at...

  10. EIGHT Welfare state institutions and secessionary neighbourhood spaces
    (pp. 159-176)
    John Flint

    The welfare state has always been associated with attempts to forge a cohesive sense of British identity and a contractual reaffirmation of the relationship between state and citizen. It is no coincidence, for example, that the housing pillar of publicly funded welfare during the 20th century was strengthened in the aftermath of the two world wars that so powerfully shaped the understanding of Britishness: the ‘Homes for Heroes’ campaign after 1918 and Aneurin Bevan’s programme of council housing and new town developments after 1945. Bevan himself recognised the potential for the welfare state to promote cohesion and residential integration between...

  11. NINE New immigration and neighbourhood change
    (pp. 177-198)
    Kesia Reeve

    The UK has witnessed a significant shift in the nature of immigration in recent decades: migrants are arriving in greater numbers, and from a far more diverse range of countries, than 20 or 30 years ago. There is evidence that a new geography of immigration is emerging, resulting in the local presence of households with different motivations, aspirations and needs, raising issues for neighbourhood dynamics and trajectories. Public policy, meanwhile, has prompted renewed interest in the notion that ethnicity (and religion) is a divisive issue, suggesting that ethnic residential ‘segregation’ is undermining community cohesion in UK cities (Community Cohesion Independent...

  12. TEN Too much cohesion? Young people’s territoriality in Glasgow and Edinburgh
    (pp. 199-218)
    Keith Kintrea and Naofumi Suzuki

    The existence of a cohesive society is often taken for granted in Scotland, and community cohesion has not featured as a concern of government in the same way as it has in England. The term is rarely used in policy debates and there have been no reports or inquiries relating to community cohesion in Scotland. When it has been used, it has usually been introduced by those familiar with developments in England. To take the example of cohesion between religious groups and/or ethnic groups, in response to the car bomb at Glasgow Airport in summer 2007, First Minister Alex Salmond...

  13. ELEVEN Geodemographics and the construction of differentiated neighbourhoods
    (pp. 219-238)
    Roger Burrows

    This chapter is concerned with the relationship between social geography and digital representations of it. It argues that it is increasingly the case that vernacular, proximate, immanent perceptions of neighbourhood identity are losing their influence to a range of urban informatics technologies able to ascribe powerfully the supposed essential character of localities from afar (Burrows and Gane, 2006; Parker et al, 2007). Further, it argues that there are good theoretical reasons to suggest that these digital attributions of neighbourhood character are forming ever-more recursive associations with whatever passes for ‘ground truth’ (Pickles, 1995), to the extent that we may need...

  14. TWELVE Secession or cohesion? Exploring the impact of gated communities
    (pp. 239-258)
    Sarah Blandy

    This chapter explores the implications for social cohesion arising from the recent increase in the number of gated communities in England, focusing on their impact both for residents and for those outside the gates.¹ Starting with perceptions and definitions of gated communities, the chapter goes on to outline the academic and policy debates about these residential developments. It then examines their implications for social cohesion among individual residents within gated communities, and for cohesion in areas within which gated communities are situated, drawing on findings from recent empirical studies. The chapter concludes by discussing the implications of gated communities for...

  15. Conclusions
    (pp. 259-266)
    John Flint and David Robinson

    This chapter identifies the key themes that have emerged in the book and sets out some future research agendas for the analysis of cohesion and new dimensions of diversity and difference.

    This collection has explored the political project of governance being pursued through the active reinvigoration of the community realm, the stated objective of which is the promotion of greater ‘cohesion’ within British society. The most vivid articulation of this policy agenda was the government response to the disturbances in northern England in 2001. Both the functional and political elements of governance were evident in the resulting community cohesion agenda,...