1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Special Events (2000 - 2009)

Social Integration: Approaches and Issues



One of the three main issues to be addressed at the World Summit for Social Development is the “enhancement of social integration”. However, it is not clear what exactly social integration is, or what its enhancement would entail. This paper explores the concept of social integration in terms of its policy implications, and examines the particular patterns and processes of social integration of the 1990s.

Because “social integration” is such a vague and ambiguous term, it has been used to represent a wide variety of concerns. As popularly used, the term carries with it ideas of justice, equality, material well-being and democratic freedom, and it also implies harmonious interaction and solidarity at all levels of society.

The opposite of social integration is thus considered to be either the exclusion of certain groups from the mainstream of society, or a generalized state of disorder and conflict conceived of as disintegration. In some ways it is useful to have such a shorthand way of encompassing a broad spectrum of normative goals with which most people would agree. However, if social integration is to be a policy objective, it must be defined more rigorously, and the assumptions underlying the popular perception of the concept must be carefully examined.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Mar 1994
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1022-8780
    From: UNRISD