The term social cohesion refers to the bonds, or "glue," that holds a society together, often through common values, beliefs, and behaviors. Strong bonds indicate a higher level of social cohesion as shown by large percentages of the population following the rules of the society and displaying tolerance for one another. It is also demonstrated by cooperation by different groups within the community, particularly when working towards something that will benefit the society as a whole. In a cohesive society, individuals are apt to see themselves as a part of a greater whole, and to act in a way that upholds the accepted values of the society even if they don't personally agree.
When social cohesion is present in a society, citizens often share common beliefs and values which are reflected through their actions. This doesn't mean that people have to share the exact same beliefs; they instead have at least a few things in common and act in a similar fashion some of the time. For example, in regards to religion, it can mean that people can worship as they wish rather than all members of the society belonging to the same faith. There is often what is referred to as a "social contract" in place, which is the set of unwritten rules and expectations for which members of a society are expected to comply. Examples include voting, paying taxes, and displaying tolerance for others.
When there are strong bonds of commonality among members of a society, levels of social cohesion are considered high. This is demonstrated by significant portions of society following the rules and acting in the way that is expected of them. This type of behavior is also referred to as "playing by the rules." People can demonstrate this in many areas of their lives, for example by fulfilling society's expectations in going to school, getting a job, marrying, and starting a family. In other words, social cohesion is seen in groups when they tend to live in a similar fashion.
Another way that social cohesion is demonstrated is when groups of people band together for a common cause, usually to work towards a goal that will benefit society as a whole. An example of this could be when members of different community groups, such as the Boy Scouts and a church youth group, work together to raise money to build a park; this is also known as community cohesion. Often in the presence of high levels of social cohesion, citizens tend to see themselves as part of larger whole and are willing to act for the "greater good" of the community. This is also demonstrated when people behave in a way that is socially acceptable, even if it means their actions don't always reflect their personal beliefs.