This article aims to clarify the concept of social cohesion by embedding it within a dynamic, multiscalar and complex understanding of socioeconomic development in the city. Section 1 gives a European perspective on the relationship between differing views of social cohesion and urban policy and how its relation to competitiveness is inherent to contemporary EU cohesion discourse. It examines the ambiguity of policy orientations that seek an answer to this failing functionalisation. Section 2 unravels the complexity and multidimensionality of social cohesion as a problématique. It systematises social cohesion as an ‘open concept’, distinguishing between its socioeconomic, cultural, ecological and political dimensions. Section 3 offers ways of accommodating the tensions and contradictions between cohesion and competitiveness inherent in capitalist market economies, and argues in favour of a progressive neo-structuralist approach, capable of laying out policies to make cities more inclusive for all inhabitants in all their uniqueness and diversity.