Hanna de Jong-Markus

Chapter 1 16 Call for social cohesion Calls for greater social cohesion are frequently made in response to concerns around diversity (Schiefer & Van der Noll, 2017; Schmeets & Te Riele, 2014). Most definitions of social cohesion include the following three components: social relations between groups and individuals, sense of belonging to the social entity (identification), and orientation towards the common good (Schiefer & Van der Noll, 2017). This leads to a description of social cohesion like “individuals and groups with different cultures, values, beliefs, life styles, and socio-economic resources have equal access to all domains of societal life and live together without conflict” (Schiefer & Van der Noll, 2017, p. 584). Or, as Koonce (2011) indicates, social cohesion is about the degree of trust society members have in each other and in society itself (see Chapter 5). Schmeets and Te Riele (2014) note, based on data between 1989 and 2010, that there is limited empirical evidence for a general decline in social cohesion (cf. Dekker & Den Ridder, 2014), but that there are major differences between groups in Dutch society when it comes to degree of social cohesion. There is less social cohesion among the lower educated than among the higher educated (cf. Dekker et al., 2014), among ethnic minorities than among natives, and there are differences between the various religious groups. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) (2015) concludes that although there is no proven decrease in social cohesion, people do experience it and expect this decline to continue. The latter is also reflected in a publication by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) (2019, p. 17; translation by the author; cf. Dekker, 2021): Many Dutch people say they are concerned about increasing polarisation, intolerance, differences of opinion and the pressure to take sides. Social media play an amplifying role in this respect. What the Dutch do agree on, falls by the wayside in the discussion and remains mostly unaddressed, in contrast to what we disagree on. The 2008 financial crisis does not seem to have caused changes in social cohesion (CBS, 2015). The extent to which the European refugee crisis, the Covid19 pandemic with its accompanying measures, and climate issues will have an impact remains to be seen (cf. CBS, 2015; De Hart, 2021; Dekker, 2021). De Hart (2021) concludes that the results of the 2021 Dutch general elections, which were characterised by fragmentation and radicalisation (cf. Trommels, 2021), show indeed a growing polarisation.