The media and social cohesion

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Social Cohesion in Australia, 2007, pp. 158 - 169
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© James Jupp, John Nieuwenhuysen, Emma Dawson 2007. Social cohesion as a concept suggests that societies need some sort of glue to sustain them over time, some broadly shared orientations to the world among their populations, and ways of testing the commonality or divergence of ideas and values. It is a contentious concept because it can produce a very simplified model of society, denying important dimensions of social conflict. Social cohesion has one locus in which it can be negotiated and experienced: the terrain of ‘the public sphere’, which can provide the opportunities for discursive engagement among the many social groups that make up contemporary societies (Habermas 1989). The public sphere is in part constituted through the mass media, which in all their diversity accommodate the sweep of the social in today's open societies. The public sphere is a space of the mind as well as the body, a space where creative energy is invested in ‘imagining communities’ (Anderson 1991) as well as enabling face-to-face interaction, engagement, negotiation, accommodation and resolution. As public concern about social conflict intensifies (in part due to media influences) (Jakubowicz 2005), so the media increasingly address the factors perceived to lie beneath disengagement, violence and intergroup antipathies. In complex societies there are always processes that tend to bring people together, and others that may deepen divisions, what some have described as the building and demolition of social capital. Social capital contains two elements: Bonding processes that build links within groups, and bridging processes that build links between groups.
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