University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Social Change and Social Cohesion

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Social Policy and Social Work

DESCRIPTION This study-unit will expose students to contemporary theories of social change, focusing on the direction, causes and consequences of change in such areas as globalisation; industrial development; demography; the knowledge economy and ICTs; changes in gender and family relations; and migration. Particular emphasis will be placed on the implications of these changes for solidarity and sustainability, as well as contemporary tensions between pluralism and populism. Students will be introduced to the concept of social institutions and to three theoretical perspectives (functionalist, conflict and interactionist) on the role of these institutions and how they have evolved. Particular emphasis will be placed on the following social institutions: the economy, politics, education, religion, families and the media. Students will be introduced to the concept of social cohesion, and its institutional and relational dimensions and prerequisites, in the context of a pluralist 'mixed economy' of welfare. Liberal, libertarian and communitarian approaches to the common good, the public interest and civil society will be discussed, as will a critique of social capital. Finally, students will be introduced to the concept, and development, of cohesion within the European Union and to relevant policy objectives and funding instruments.

Study-unit Aims:

Overall, this study-unit is intended to provide context to other core units on understanding and addressing poverty and social exclusion. The educational purposes of this unit are to equip students with the knowledge and skills to identify, analyse and measure social change across a number of key domains. The unit is also intended to enable students to think critically about how these changes affect social cohesion, and about the different socio-political approaches to understanding and promoting social cohesion in contemporary societies.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- demonstrate an in-depth understanding of social change in contemporary society and of the reciprocal impact of such change on social institutions and relationships.
- demonstrate a critical appraisal of the institutional prerequisites of social cohesion, and the impact of institutions on the structure and outcomes of welfare states and society more broadly.
- demonstrate the capacity for analytical thought in respect of different socio-political approaches to the common good and public interest, as well as the tensions between pluralism, populism and social cohesion.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- locate, interpret and analyse datasets pertaining to various dimensions of social change.
- critically appraise different socio-political accounts of social change and their impact for the organisation and sustainability of welfare.
- describe and evaluate different approaches to the definition and measurement of social cohesion.
- identify and describe the EU's approach to fostering cohesion, and locate and critique key policy developments and funding decisions in this area.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

Massey, Garth M. (2015). Ways of social change: making sense of modern times (2nd ed). London, UK: Sage Publications.

Green, Andy and Jan Germen Janmaat (2014). Regimes of social cohesion – societies and the crisis of globalisation. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jenson, Jane (2010). Defining and measuring social cohesion. London, UK: Commonwealth Secretariat, or available at$file/Jenson%20ebook.pdf

Supplementary Readings on Social Change:

Heath, Anthony F., John Ermisch, Duncan Gallie (2005). Understanding social change. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Weinstein, Jay (2010). Social change (3rd ed.). UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Schaeffer, Robert K. (2015). Understanding globalization – the social consequences of political, economic and environmental change. US: Rowman and Littlefield.

Wolff, Jonathan (2016). An introduction to political philosophy (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Mueller, Jan Werner (2016). What is populism? Pennsylvania, US: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Mueller, Jan Werner (2013). Contesting democracy: Political ideas in twentieth-century Europe. New Haven, US: Yale University Press.

Wren, Anne (2013) (ed.). The political economy of the service transition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Thelen, Kathleen (2014). Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Goodwin, Robin (2009). Changing relations – Achieving intimacy in a time of social transition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Zrinscak Sinisa and Susan Lawrence (2015). Active Ageing and Demographic Change: Challenges for Social Work and Social Policy. London, UK: Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Supplementary Readings on Social Cohesion:

Foa, Roberto (n.d.). The economic rationale for social cohesion. Paris, France: OECD. Available at

Easterly, William, Jozef Ritzan and Michael Woolcock (2010). Social Cohesion, Institutions, and Growth. Washington, US: Centre for Global Development.
Available at

European Committee for Social Cohesion (2004). A new strategy for social cohesion. Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe.
Available at

Dragolov, Georgi; Zsófia S. Ignácz, Jan Lorenz, Jan Delhey, Klaus Boehnke, Kai Unzicker (2016). Social Cohesion in the Western World 2016: What Holds Societies Together. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Peter L. Berger (1999). The Limits of Social Cohesion : Conflict and Mediation in Pluralist Societies. US: Perseus Books Group.

Larsen Christian Albrekt (2013). The Rise and Fall of Social Cohesion: The Construction and De-construction of Social Trust in the US, UK, Sweden and Denmark. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Ratcliff, Peter and Ines Newman (2011). Promoting Social Cohesion : Implications for Policy and Evaluation. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Romano, Serena and Gabriella Punziano (2015). The European Social Model Adrift : Europe, Social Cohesion and the Economic Crisis. London, UK: Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Cantle, Ted (2012). Interculturalism: The New Era of Cohesion and Diversity. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jeffrey G. Reitz, Raymond Breton, Karen K. Dion, Kenneth L. Dion (2009). Multiculturalism and social cohesion. New York, USA: Springer-Verlag.

Koopmans, Ruud, Bram Lancee and Merlin Schaeffer (2014) (eds). Social Cohesion and Immigration in Europe and North America : Mechanisms, Conditions, and Causality. London, UK: Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Mark Baimbridge (2017). European Economic Integration and Social Cohesion. London, UK: Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Dwyer, Peter (2010). Understanding social citizenship: Themes and perspectives for policy and practice. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Dobbernack, Jan (2014). The Politics of Social Cohesion in Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Van der Braak, Andrew and Caifang Zu (2016) (eds). Religion and Social Cohesion: Western, Chinese and Intercultural Perspectives. US: VU University Press.

Clark, Meghan J. (2011). The Vision of Catholic Social Thought: The Virtue of Solidarity and the Praxis of Human Rights. US: Fortress Press.

Sacks, Jonathan (2009). The home we build together. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Williams, Rowan (2012). Faith in the public square. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Seminar & Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 50%
Examination (2 Hours) Yes 50%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.

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