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In search of territorial cohesion: An elusive and imagined notion

Atkinson, Rob; Pacchi, Carolina

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Carolina Pacchi


Territorial cohesion has figured in the lexicon of the European Union for some years. However, there has never been a clear definition of the notion, not even after its inclusion in the Lisbon Treaty. Moreover, within the European Union Cohesion Reports and, more generally, within European Union documents, along with the other two dimensions of cohesion (economic and social) it has been treated separately without any serious attempts to reconcile them and develop a coherent interpretation of cohesion - the result being the creation of a contested and ill-defined understanding of territorial cohesion and its relationship to the other two dimensions of Cohesion Policy. Given that the approach advocated by Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy aims to embed the different dimensions and how they interact in specific spatial configurations (created by the confluence of a range of different 'flows' that can create multiple overlapping assemblages with 'fuzzy' boundaries), this raises important questions about how we understand these relationships. Moreover, the policy discourses in which each dimension of cohesion is situated create their own frameworks that are conducive to developing the conditions, including appropriate policy strategies, to supporting these individual cohesion formations. The rather arbitrary separation of these approaches in 'official discourse' impedes addressing cohesion in a coherent and integrated manner. Thus, after reviewing the relevant key policy literature, the article will seek to consider how territorial cohesion relates to the other two dimensions of cohesion taking into account the role of the place-based approach. However, it is argued that the search for territorial (social and economic) cohesion has been subordinated to neoliberal notions such as competitiveness and economic growth.


Atkinson, R., & Pacchi, C. (2020). In search of territorial cohesion: An elusive and imagined notion. Social Inclusion, 8(4), 265-276.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 31, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 3, 2020
Publication Date Dec 3, 2020
Deposit Date Nov 10, 2020
Publicly Available Date Dec 10, 2020
Journal Social Inclusion
Electronic ISSN 2183-2803
Publisher Cogitatio Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 4
Pages 265-276
Series ISSN 2183-2803
Keywords place-based policy; social cohesion; spatial planning; territorial cohesion
Public URL
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