Social integration is the blending and unifying of social groups, most commonly seen in the desegregation of races throughout history (See Slave Trade, Civil Rights). Integration in sociology and other social sciences is more precisely the movement of minority groups such as ethnic minorities, refugees and underprivileged sections of a society into the mainstream of societies. Social integration requires proficiency in an accepted common language of the society, acceptance of the laws of the society and adoption of a common set of values of the society. It does not require assimilation and it does not require persons to give up all of their culture, but it may require to forgo some aspects of their culture which are inconsistent with the laws and values of the society. In tolerant and open societies, members of minority groups can often use social integration to gain full access to the opportunities, rights and services available to the members of the mainstream of society. Major agents of social integration are cultural institutions such as churches and civic organizations. Mass media content also performs a social integration function in mass societies.
The term "social integration" first came into use in the work of French sociologist Emile Durkheim. He wanted to understand why rates of suicide were higher in some social classes than others. Durkhiem believed that society exerted a powerful force on individuals. He concluded that a people's beliefs, values, and norms make up a collective consciousnesss, a shared way of understanding each other and the world.
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs defines social integration: "Social Integration can be seen as a dynamic and principled process where all members participate in dialogue to achieve and maintain peaceful social relations."
In the emerging world of social networking applications on the internet, social integration is a term that can be considered when members are being transparent in all of their various work, personal, faith and local community interactions.
The United Nations has a Social Integration Branch, which is a part of the Division for Social Policy and Development (Department of Economic and Social Affairs). It also issues a quarterly publication named Bulletin on Social Integration Policies. The UN Alliance of Civilizations initiative works on Migration and Integration as a key for intercultural understanding. An Online Community on Migration and Integration shows Good Practices from around the world.
- Jim Crow Laws (Racial Segregation and Discrimination)
- Cultural assimilation
- Cultural diversity
- United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/sib/peacedialogue/soc_integration.htm
- Rubin, M. (2012). Social class differences in social integration among students in higher education: A meta-analysis and recommendations for future research. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 5, 22-38.
- Working-Class Students are Left Out at University Mark Rubin's Social Psychology Research, retrieved 29 March 2013
- Rubin, M., Watt, S. E., & Ramelli, M. (in press). Immigrants’ social integration as a function of approach-avoidance orientation and problem-solving style. International Journal of Intercultural Relations. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.12.009