The notions of social mix and social cohesion are gained widespread currency in both academic and professional debates. Historically, the development of a policy agenda devised to promote more socially balanced neighbourhoods and then to reduce the inequalities, is particularly contemporaneous of the emergence of the so-called “problematic neighbourhoods” in Europe and the increasing of the urban renewal programmes. However, the ways in which these issues have been framed and the interventions it has provided have varied considerably from the 70’s.
The paper - based on a research in progress- deals with the place of social mix and social cohesion in the policy discourses. It focuses on different periods in which these concepts have gained prominence in policy debates in France and Spain. But globally, it is closely connected to a series of antinomies: thus social mix contrasts with segregation, “ghettoisation”, gentrification, and generally with the idea of social specialization of areas.
Through two in-depth case studies in the cities of Saint-Etienne (France) and Barcelona (Lyon), this paper is aiming at:
- Showing how these concepts constitute a series of policy discourse by drawing up their genealogy within the political and academic fields,
- Examining the meanings and scopes of urban policies and how they relate to the causes of social segregation and/or social imbalances.
I propose to open a critical debate by questioning these concepts (social mix, social cohesion, gentrification and segregation) in order to describe the nature and the meanings of urban policies from the example of the two cities mentioned.