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Civility, community cohesion and antisocial behaviour: policy and social harmony

Bannister, J., and O'Sullivan, A. (2013) Civility, community cohesion and antisocial behaviour: policy and social harmony. Journal of Social Policy, 42 (1). pp. 91-110. ISSN 0047-2794 (doi:10.1017/S0047279412000736)

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Abstract

Intergroup conflict, whether manifest as the absence of community cohesion or as the presence of antisocial behaviour, is an issue of international concern. In the UK, confronting the reality or perceived threat of intergroup conflict is a core feature of community cohesion and antisocial behaviour policies. To varying degrees, the frameworks underpinning these policies see the absence or breakdown of community relations as a cause of social disharmony. A key challenge for policy is therefore improvement of the quality of community relations. In this paper, we consider how government has approached this challenge. We filter our analysis through the lens of civility, which proposes that the peaceful coexistence of diverse social groups rests on the existence and maintenance of intergroup empathy and mutual respect. This proposal is supported by international research evidence on the outcomes of meaningful interactions, where these are predicated on equal group status, leading to changes in group and intergroup perceptions and behaviours (the contact hypothesis). We consider the extent to which community cohesion and anti-social behaviour policies in the UK demonstrate a coherent conception of the problem of community relations, the quality of community relations to which these policies aspire and whether the strategies deployed to address community relations seek to support civility through meaningful interaction. We find that the policy debates start from different presumptions concerning the roots of social disharmony, and this is reflected in the nature of the interventions which the community cohesion and antisocial behaviour policy frameworks support. In particular, we find that the social interaction promoted through policies in the UK is not necessarily aimed at achieving social harmony through meaningful interaction based on recognition of equal group status. We also show that these policies are based on little in the way of evidence and prior knowledge.

Item Type:Article
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s):Bannister, Mr Jonathan
Authors: Bannister, J., and O'Sullivan, A.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:Journal of Social Policy
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0047-2794
ISSN (Online):1469-7823
Published Online:31 October 2012
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2012 Cambridge University Press
First Published:First published in Journal of Social Policy 42(1):91-110
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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