Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 72, Issue 4, pp 365–385 | Cite as

Social cohesion and violence in South Africa: constructing a puzzle with missing pieces

  • Guy LambEmail author


Using social disorganisation theory as a framework for analysis, this article analyses the relationship between social cohesion and violence in post-apartheid South Africa. On the basis of published research, it considers the association between social cohesion and violence in the context of the family home and community, with a focus on violence against children, violence against women, youth violence, and collective violence. Available evidence is piecemeal in South Africa and elsewhere, but it does suggest that a lack of cohesion within families, particularly in economically depressed communities, is a major determinant of the perpetration of most forms of interpersonal violence. Available studies have also implied that neighbourhood factors related to social cohesion have a significant bearing on the level and intensity of violence in poorer neighbourhoods. Nonetheless, the literature on vigilantism, violent protests and xenophobia in poor communities in South Africa has suggested that such violence may have been facilitated by perverse forms of social cohesion that emerged out of common grievances about community well-being, particularly in relation to inadequate delivery of government services and resources.



This study was funded by the Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Safety and Violence InitiativeUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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