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Culturelink review, no.33/April 2001 - contents - imprint - archive

Social Cohesion and Culture: Contrasting Some European and Canadian Approaches and Experiences


Two conferences which tried to clarify the interrelationship between culture and social cohesion took different approaches, not only where the European and Canadian perspectives are concerned, but also where Europe is divided regionally into Western and Eastern (transitional) part. The first conference was organized by CIRCLE (Cultural Information and Research Centres Liaison in Europe) and CCRN (Canadian Cultural Research Network) on 26-27 May 2000 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, under the title Making Connections: Culture and Social Cohesion in the New Millennium. The second one entitled New Alliances: Culture - Social Cohesion - Civil Society, held as a follow-up CIRCLE Round Table Meeting, took place in Vienna, on 24-25 November 2000 and was co-organised by the österreichische kulturdokumentation / internationales archiv für kulturanalysen from Vienna.

The Canadian approach regards this very issue as a central part of its cultural policy. In the basic documents the terms 'social cohesion' and 'connectedness' are defined in the following manner: Connectedness pertains to the ways that citizens connect to each other and to the rest of the world through intricate networks of social, economic, political and cultural ties (Canadian Government definition). Social cohesion is defined as the capacity of citizens living under different social or economic circumstances to live together in harmony, with a sense of mutual commitment (Senate of Canada definition). Finally, culture in this Canadian context is defined as symbolic patterns emerging from the people's ways of living together. Evidently, the common thread running through all theses three definitions is that they are fundamentally about relationship among people.

The European approaches are quite different in nature. Social cohesion for most of the countries is not central to their cultural policies. On the contrary, the notion of the term is mainly understood in its pragmatic dimension related to issues like economic problems and their reflection on culture and social communication, the question of unemployment and its consequences, as well as measures related to cultural diversity and social marginalization. This set of questions in the case of the Eastern and Central European countries opens some dramatic and warning issues like the possibility of overall social reconstruction in the new democracies, the problems of overcoming potential political and regional fragmentation and determining whether state intervention is able to fulfil the roles formerly assumed by the communities and families.

More common approaches can be found regarding possible responses to the overall process of globalization and changing of dominant patterns in cultural participation. The trends are to some degree similar as are also some practical measures in the Canadian and European contexts. Traditional ways of participation are less present and the gap between Europe, Canada and United States in productivity in the so-called content industries is widening. This opens space for various types of measures: from protective to accommodation, and to enforcing ones. In both cases, all those three types of reaction are combined, with unpredictable results.

The following papers reflect only some of the issues raised above. At the same time, they raise some additional ones which are not tackled here. The interrelationship between social cohesion and culture, because of the growing cultural and social differences within Canadian and European societies, will undoubtedly grow in importance. One of the evident signs of this trend is the third CIRCLE conference, which will be organised under the title Culture, Civil Society and Volunteerism, to be held in Newcastle, United Kingdom, 2-4 November 2001 (see pp. 90-91 in this issue), opening again a new angle on this ongoing international debate.

Sanjin Dragojević

Contact address:
Sanjin Dragojević
Faculty of Political Science
University of Zagreb
Lepušićeva 6
10000 Zagreb
Tel.: 385 1 45 58 022
Fax: 385 1 46 55 316


  • Social Cohesion and Culture: Contrasting Some European and Canadian Approaches and Experiences

  • by Sanjin Dragojević
  • Cultural Symbiosis: Cultural Participation and Cohesive Communities

  • by M. Sharon Jeannotte
  • Social Cohesion and Cultural Policy in The Netherlands

  • by Eva Brinkman and Cas Smithuijsen
  • Space of Social Dialogue: Who is Speaking?

  • by Matko Meštrović
  • Globalization, Mergers and Media Violence: What are the Links?

  • by Rose A. Dyson