The Social Fabric

Nigel Cohen
6 min readMar 17, 2019

What is the social fabric and how can we make is stronger?

We have all heard of the social fabric, but what exactly is it? Let’s break it down from the ground up.


Values are the fundamental building blocks of social DNA; they are the core principles that guide our behaviour and shape our relationships with one another. Values are the foundation upon which we construct our social fabric, and they are essential for creating a cohesive and harmonious society.

We have dozens of individual values, such as respect, kindness, compassion, trust, and joy, that guide our thinking and behavior in particular circumstances. For example, it is kind to help someone across the street who may be blind or elderly, but only if they want to cross. Through experience, we learn how to apply each value in our own unique way, as we all have different experiences. We have so many values because we live amongst so many different people, in so many different ways. Kindness, for instance, is a combination of values that helps us respond to any given situation. It depends on the value of kindness, but also on respecting the wishes of the person we are trying to help, as well as compassion, understanding, acceptance, and togetherness.

Individuals are part of many different communities, such as families, social circles, sports teams, and workplaces. We are able to adapt our values combinations to each of these communities, infusing our individual, adapted social DNA into each. This allows us to navigate our way through the various social settings we find ourselves in, while still staying true to our core values.

Values are deeply ingrained in our humanity. Whether we are aware of them or not, our values are embedded within us. The language of values helps us to comprehend what our values are and whether we are able to live in accordance with them. Values do not merely describe our actions, but rather, they explain why we do what we do. The vast array of values we possess is a testament to the complexity of human relationships, as most of our values shape our relationships with ourselves and with others. Examples of self-related values include self-compassion, self-esteem, and hope, while examples of interpersonal values are respect, integrity, and love.

Social Threads

Communities are composed of many individuals, ranging from small families of three or four people to nations with more than a billion inhabitants. Despite their size, all communities share a common thread: the unique DNA of each member. This DNA is the foundation of the community’s values and objectives, forming the social fabric that binds them together.

The individual mix of values of each person shapes the strength and resilience of this fabric, defining its tone and impact.

Social Fabric

Each community develops its own unique set of social threads, designed to address the various situations it encounters. These values-built threads define the community’s culture, and how it is understood and applied by each individual, as well as how members of the community interact with one another. They set the template for how the community will respond to different scenarios and how each of its members fits into the larger picture. This collective weaving becomes the community’s social fabric.

The nation’s social fabric is composed of thousands of intertwined threads, from individuals, families, friends, work colleagues, and people from all walks of life. The threads of values-infused attractions and repulsions shape the environment in which we experience life.

The threads are, of course, invisible. However, we often choose to express the values we aspire to through physical clothing and social associations, reflecting the threads that surround us.

Refreshing the Social Fabric

The key to transforming the social fabric of society lies in experience. It is the most essential element in the formation of our values. Fortunately, we are able to learn and adjust our values through experience. This is how humans are able to adjust to the diverse range of people, communities, and situations we encounter throughout our lives.

Experience is essential to any policy that seeks to alter a community’s or nation’s values. Values cannot be imposed or taught; they are acquired through trial and error. They evolve when people come across new experiences, or when they re-evaluate a previous experience in light of later experiences. The way they change is entirely dependent on the circumstances. To achieve a closer social cohesion, people must witness or experience the advantages of closer social cohesion, in a manner that is relevant to their lives and to their way of thinking.

We must create safe spaces for people to experience the warmth and support of environments that are guided by positive, universal values. This could be in the form of family units, schools, workplaces, or local communities. Positive change requires individuals to experience positive environments firsthand.

To illustrate, the human brain has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, and as a result, we all share similar patterns of thought. Our brains cut through the vast amounts of information that bombards our senses every minute by creating models and shortcuts in how we understand the world. For example, when we see a spider, most of us instinctively recoil without having to wait for the spider to bite us first. Some of these models and shortcuts can be learned, while others are hardwired at birth.

One such process is found in the Anterior Insula of the brain. There is an Insula on both sides of the brain, and it is responsible for creating a sense of disgust. It is what helps us to gag when we eat something that tastes unpleasant, protecting us from harm without having to experience it ourselves. Just as well for anyone staring a Black Widow spider in the face.

This process can become a tool of manipulation. It works so effectively and profoundly that it can be used to create a perception in our minds that those whom the manipulator hates are a threat to us. To further this agenda, they often resort to animalistic language to describe their target, as seen in the Rwandan genocide where the Hutu hate leaders referred to the Tutsis as cockroaches, the Nazi hate leaders referred to Jews as rats and gipsies as thieves, and Donald Trump’s characterization of Mexican refugees as rapists and murderers despite evidence to the contrary.

The antidote to this social division lies in providing people with first-hand experiences that challenge these false characterizations. By creating an environment that is free from artificial pressures and prejudice, we can begin to restore the cohesive social fabric that is inherent in our human nature. Through positive interactions and experiences, we can re-energize the bonds that evolution has programmed us to have with one another.


The threads of each community wrap intricately around each of its members, intertwining with those of all other communities, forming the social fabric of our nation. These social ties bind us together, or not, depend on the values and interactions that each thread brings. The character of our nation is shaped by the cohesive and adaptable nature of the social fabric from which it is woven.

The quality of the social fabric determines how effectively society is able to organize its people to achieve inclusive, sustainable prosperity. Divisions and rivalries can impede society from reaching its goals. The key to creating a stronger, more cohesive social fabric is not in the establishment of rigid, inflexible values, but rather in the conscious renewal, nourishment and reinforcement of the pro-social values that form the foundation of the social fabric.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy my website which brings to life a vision of the people we live with and the world we live in. And to see more of my Photo Art, check out the Photo Art gallery at

And if you are an artist seeking to influence the world, you may want to explore whether to incorporate the emerging genre of Morally-Explicit Art as part of your artistic expression.