Social exclusion:some conceptual issues

O'Brien, Martin and Penna, Sue (2008) Social exclusion:some conceptual issues. International Journal of Social Welfare, 17 (1). pp. 84-92. ISSN 1468-2397

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Social exclusion in the European policy and social research agenda is understood as both a process and an effect of the failure of key social institutions, in particular labour markets, to secure appropriate conditions to fulfil their integrative potential. This conception of exclusion is, as Room (1995) has pointed out, derived from the French intellectual tradition, in particular from the functionalist social theory of Durkheim. Such theory is premised upon a particular understanding of 'the social' and the relationships between the institutions which comprise it. Within such a framework, social exclusion is posited as a dysfunction in a basically sound structure which can be repaired by some adjustments. Yet, there are alternative understandings of exclusion which pose a fundamental challenge to this functionalist conception, and which direct us to a very different research agenda. In this paper we discuss some of the problems with the neofunctionalist position and outline alternative ways of conceptualising social exclusion. In particular, we argue that exclusion, rather than being an effect of the failure of key social institutions, is built into such institutions. This can lead to a potentially more radical understanding of the role of social research and social policy in Europe.

Item Type:
Journal Article
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International Journal of Social Welfare
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The definitive version is available at (c) Blackwell 2008.
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20 Apr 2009 07:53
Last Modified:
21 Nov 2022 19:23