Social exclusion, or social marginalization, is the social disadvantage and relegation to the fringe of society. It is a term used widely in Europe and was first used in France. It is used across disciplines including education, sociology, psychology, politics and economics.
Social exclusion is the process in which individuals or people are systematically blocked from (or denied full access to) various rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of a different group, and which are fundamental to social integration within that particular group (e.g., housing, employment, healthcare, civic engagement, democratic participation, and due process).
Alienation or disenfranchisement resulting from social exclusion can be connected to a person's social class, race, skin color, educational status, childhood relationships, living standards, or personal choices in fashion. Such exclusionary forms of discrimination may also apply to people with a disability, minorities, LGBT people, drug users, institutional care leavers, the elderly and the young. Anyone who appears to deviate in any way from perceived norms of a population may thereby become subject to coarse or subtle forms of social exclusion.
Most of the characteristics listed in this article are present together in studies of social exclusion, due to exclusion's multidimensionality.
Another way of articulating the definition of social exclusion is as follows:
Social exclusion is a multidimensional process of progressive social rupture, detaching groups and individuals from social relations and institutions and preventing them from full participation in the normal, normatively prescribed activities of the society in which they live.
One model to conceptualize social exclusion and inclusion is that they are on a continuum on a vertical plane below and above the 'social horizon'. According to this model, there are ten social structures that impact exclusion and can fluctuate over time: race, geographic location, class structure, globalization, social issues, personal habits and appearance, education, religion, economics and politics.
In an alternative conceptualization, social exclusion theoretically emerges at the individual or group level on four correlated dimensions: insufficient access to social rights, material deprivation, limited social participation and a lack of normative integration. It is then regarded as the combined result of personal risk factors (age, gender, race); macro-societal changes (demographic, economic and labor market developments, technological innovation, the evolution of social norms); government legislation and social policy; and the actual behavior of businesses, administrative organisations and fellow citizens.
"The marginal man...is one whom fate has condemned to live in two societies and in two, not merely different but antagonistic cultures....his mind is the crucible in which two different and refractory cultures may be said to melt and, either wholly or in part, fuse."
Social exclusion at the individual level results in an individual's exclusion from meaningful participation in society. An example is the exclusion of single mothers from the welfare system prior to welfare reforms of the 1900s. The modern welfare system is based on the concept of entitlement to the basic means of being a productive member of society both as an organic function of society and as compensation for the socially useful labor provided. A single mother's contribution to society is not based on formal employment, but on the notion that provision of welfare for children is a necessary social expense. In some career contexts, caring work is devalued and motherhood is seen as a barrier to employment. Single mothers were previously marginalized in spite of their significant role in the socializing of children due to views that an individual can only contribute meaningfully to society through "gainful" employment as well as a cultural bias against unwed mothers. Today the marginalization is primarily a function of class condition.
More broadly, many women face social exclusion. Moosa-Mitha discusses the Western feminist movement as a direct reaction to the marginalization of white women in society. Women were excluded from the labor force and their work in the home was not valued. Feminists argued that men and women should equally participate in the labor force, in the public and private sector, and in the home. They also focused on labor laws to increase access to employment as well as to recognize child-rearing as a valuable form of labor. In some places today, women are still marginalized from executive positions and continue to earn less than men in upper management positions.
Another example of individual marginalization is the exclusion of individuals with disabilities from the labor force. Grandz discusses an employer's viewpoint about hiring individuals living with disabilities as jeopardizing productivity, increasing the rate of absenteeism, and creating more accidents in the workplace. Cantor also discusses employer concern about the excessively high cost of accommodating people with disabilities. The marginalization of individuals with disabilities is prevalent today, despite the legislation intended to prevent it in most western countries, and the academic achievements, skills and training of many disabled people.
There are also exclusions of lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) and other intersexual people because of their sexual orientations and gender identities. The Yogyakarta Principles require that the states and communities abolish any stereotypes about LGBT people as well as stereotyped gender roles.
"Isolation is common to almost every vocational, religious or cultural group of a large city. Each develops its own sentiments, attitudes, codes, even its own words, which are at best only partially intelligible to others."
One example is the Aboriginal community in Australia. Marginalization of Aboriginal communities is a product of colonization. As a result of colonialism, Aboriginal communities lost their land, were forced into destitute areas, lost their sources of livelihood, and were excluded from the labor market. Additionally, Aboriginal communities lost their culture and values through forced assimilation and lost their rights in society. Today various Aboriginal communities continue to be marginalized from society due to the development of practices, policies and programs that “met the needs of white people and not the needs of the marginalized groups themselves”. Yee also connects marginalization to minority communities, when describing the concept of whiteness as maintaining and enforcing dominant norms and discourse. Poor people living in run-down council estates and areas with high crime can be locked into social deprivation.
Some intellectuals and thinkers are marginalised because of their dissenting, radical or controversial views on a range of topics, including HIV/AIDS, climate change, evolution, alternative medicine, green energy, or third world politics. Many authors from the former Soviet regime faced exile, assignment to a mental institution, or imprisonment in a labor camp for their writings (See Soviet dissidents, including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn). They are more widely regarded as intellectual freethinkers and dissidents whose ideas and views run against those of the mainstream at the risk of their and their family's lives. At times they are marginalised and abused, or even executed, often systematically ostracized by colleagues, and in some cases their work ridiculed or banned from publication. Examples include Immanuel Velikovsky, Peter Duesberg, Susan George, Martin Fleischman, Stanley Pons, Fred Hoyle, James Lovelock, E. F. Schumacher.
Social exclusion has many contributors. Major contributors include race, income, employment status, social class, geographic location, personal habits and appearance, education, religion and political affiliation.
Global and structural
Globalization (global-capitalism), immigration, social welfare and policy are broader social structures that have the potential to contribute negatively to one's access to resources and services, resulting in the social exclusion of individuals and groups. Similarly, increasing use of information technology and company outsourcing have contributed to job insecurity and a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Alphonse, George & Moffat (2007) discuss how globalization sets forth a decrease in the role of the state with an increase in support from various “corporate sectors resulting in gross inequalities, injustices and marginalization of various vulnerable groups” (p. 1). Companies are outsourcing, jobs are lost, the cost of living continues to rise, and land is being expropriated by large companies. Material goods are made in large abundances and sold at cheaper costs, while in India for example, the poverty line is lowered in order to mask the number of individuals who are actually living in poverty as a result of globalization. Globalization and structural forces aggravate poverty and continue to push individuals to the margins of society, while governments and large corporations do not address the issues (George, P, SK8101, lecture, October 9, 2007).
Certain language and the meaning attached to language can cause universalizing discourses that are influenced by the Western world, which is what Sewpaul (2006) describes as the “potential to dilute or even annihilate local cultures and traditions and to deny context specific realities” (p. 421). What Sewpaul (2006) is implying is that the effect of dominant global discourses can cause individual and cultural displacement, as well as an experience of “de-localization”, as individual notions of security and safety are jeopardized (p. 422). Insecurity and fear of an unknown future and instability can result in displacement, exclusion, and forced assimilation into the dominant group. For many, it further pushes them to the margins of society or enlists new members to the outskirts because of global-capitalism and dominant discourses (Sewpaul, 2006).
With the prevailing notion of globalization, we now see the rise of immigration as the world gets smaller and smaller with millions of individuals relocating each year. This is not without hardship and struggle of what a newcomer thought was going to be a new life with new opportunities. Ferguson, Lavalette, & Whitmore (2005) discuss how immigration has had a strong link to access of welfare support programs. Newcomers are constantly bombarded with the inability to access a country's resources because they are seen as “undeserving foreigners” (p. 132). With this comes a denial of access to public housing, health care benefits, employment support services, and social security benefits (Ferguson et al., 2005). Newcomers are seen as undeserving, or that they must prove their entitlement in order to gain access to basic support necessities. It is clear that individuals are exploited and marginalized within the country they have emigrated (Ferguson et al., 2005).
Welfare states and social policies can also exclude individuals from basic necessities and support programs. Welfare payments were proposed to assist individuals in accessing a small amount of material wealth (Young, 2000). Young (2000) further discusses how “the provision of the welfare itself produces new injustice by depriving those dependent on it of rights and freedoms that others have…marginalization is unjust because it blocks the opportunity to exercise capacities in socially defined and recognized way” (p. 41). There is the notion that by providing a minimal amount of welfare support, an individual will be free from marginalization. In fact, welfare support programs further lead to injustices by restricting certain behaviour, as well the individual is mandated to other agencies. The individual is forced into a new system of rules while facing social stigma and stereotypes from the dominant group in society, further marginalizing and excluding individuals (Young, 2000). Thus, social policy and welfare provisions reflect the dominant notions in society by constructing and reinforcing categories of people and their needs. It ignores the unique-subjective human essence, further continuing the cycle of dominance (Wilson & Beresford, 2000).
Whilst recognising the multi-dimensionality of exclusion, policy work undertaken at European Union level focuses on unemployment as a key cause of, or at least correlating with, social exclusion. This is because in modern societies, paid work is not only the principal source of income with which to buy services, but is also the fount of individuals' identity and feeling of self-worth. Most people's social networks and sense of embeddedness in society also revolve around their work. Many of the indicators of extreme social exclusion, such as poverty and homelessness, depend on monetary income which is normally derived from work. Social exclusion can be a possible result of long-term unemployment, especially in countries with weak welfare safety nets. Much policy to reduce exclusion thus focuses on the labour market:
- On the one hand, to make individuals at risk of exclusion more attractive to employers, i.e. more "employable".
- On the other hand, to encourage (and/or oblige) employers to be more inclusive in their employment policies.
The EU's EQUAL Community Initiative investigated ways to increase the inclusiveness of the labour market. Work on social exclusion more broadly is carried out through the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) among the Member State governments.
In some circumstances, transport may be a factor in social exclusion - for instance, if lack of access to public transport or a vehicle prevents a person from getting to a job, training course, job centre or doctor's surgery, entertainment venues. Some schemes therefore promote accessibility, for instance:
- By ensuring public transport is available.
- By subsidising the purchase of a scooter, which is relevant to young people living in rural areas, or a car, or a bicycle, etc.
Some religious traditions recommend excommunication of individuals said to deviate from a religious teaching, and in some instances shunning by family members. Some religious organisations permit the censure of critics.
Across societies, individuals and communities can be socially excluded on the basis of their religious beliefs. Social hostility against religious minorities and communal violence occur in areas where governments do not have policies restricting the religious practise of minorities. A study by the Pew Research Center on international religious freedom found that 61% of countries have social hostilities that tend to target religious minorities. The five highest social hostility scores were for Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Bangladesh. In 2015, Pew published that social hostilities declined in 2013, but Harassment of Jews increased.
Links between exclusion and other issues
The problem of social exclusion is usually tied to that of equal opportunity, as some people are more subject to such exclusion than others. Marginalisation of certain groups is a problem even in many economically more developed countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, where the majority of the population enjoys considerable economic and social opportunities.
Since social exclusion may lead to one being deprived of one's citizenship, some authors (Philippe Van Parijs, Jean-Marc Ferry, Alain Caillé, André Gorz and Axel Wolz) have proposed a basic income, which would impede exclusion from citizenship. The concept of a Universal Unconditional Income, or social salary, has been disseminated notably by the Green movement in Germany.
In the last few years, there has been research focused on possible connections between exclusion and brain function. Studies published by the University of Georgia and San Diego State University found that exclusion can lead to diminished brain functioning and poor decision making. Such studies corroborate with earlier beliefs of sociologists. The effect of exclusion may likely correlate with such things as substance abuse and crime.
Social inclusion, the converse of social exclusion, is affirmative action to change the circumstances and habits that lead to (or have led to) social exclusion. The World Bank defines social inclusion as the process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of people, disadvantaged on the basis of their identity, to take part in society.
Social Inclusion ministers have been appointed, and special units established, in a number of jurisdiction around the world. The first Minister for Social Inclusion was Premier of South Australia Mike Rann, who took the portfolio in 2004. Based on the UK's Social Exclusion Unit, established by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1997, Rann established the Social Inclusion Initiative in 2002. It was headed by Monsignor David Cappo and was serviced by a unit within the department of Premier and Cabinet. Cappo sat on the Executive Committee of the South Australian Cabinet and was later appointed Social Inclusion Commissioner with wide powers to address social disadvantage. Cappo was allowed to roam across agencies given that most social disadvantage has multiple causes necessitating a "joined up" rather than a single agency response. The Initiative drove a big investment by the South Australian Government in strategies to combat homelessness, including establishing Common Ground, building high quality inner city apartments for "rough sleeping" homeless people, the Street to Home initiative and the ICAN flexible learning program designed to improve school retention rates. It also included major funding to revamp mental health services following Cappo's "Stepping Up" report, which focused on the need for community and intermediate levels of care and an overhaul of disability services. In 2007 Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Julia Gillard as the nation's first Social Inclusion Minister.
Sociologists see strong links between crime and social exclusion in industrialized societies such as the United States. Growing crime rates may reflect the fact that a growing number of people do not feel valued in the societies in which they live. The socially excluded population are in favor of illegal means of fulfilling their goals and motives in life as they have no other way to fit into a society that will not accept them. Crime is favored over the political system or community organization. Young people increasingly grow up without guidance and support from the adult population. Young people also face diminishing job opportunities to sustain a livelihood. This can cause a sense of willingness to turn to illegitimate means of sustaining a desired lifestyle.
In gay men, results of psychoemotional damage from marginalization from both heterosexual society and from within mainstream homosexual society include bug chasing (purposeful acts to acquire HIV), suicide, and drug addiction.
The marginal, the processes of marginalisation, etc. bring specific interest in postmodern and postcolonial philosophy and social studies. Postmodernism question the "center" about its authenticity and postmodern sociology and cultural studies research marginal cultures, behaviours, societies, the situation of the marginalized individual, etc.
Implications for social work practice
Upon defining and describing marginalization as well as the various levels in which it exists, one must now explore its implications for social work practice. Mullaly (2007) describes how “the personal is political” and the need for recognizing that social problems are indeed connected with larger structures in society, causing various forms of oppression amongst individuals resulting in marginalization (p. 262). It is also important for the social worker to recognize the intersecting nature of oppression. A non-judgmental and unbiased attitude is necessary on the part of the social worker. The worker must begin to understand oppression and marginalization as a systemic problem, not the fault of the individual (Mullaly, 2007).
Working under an Anti-oppression perspective would then allow the social worker to understand the lived, subjective experiences of the individual, as well as their cultural, historical and social background. The worker should recognize the individual as political in the process of becoming a valuable member of society and the structural factors that contribute to oppression and marginalization (Mullaly, 2007). Social workers must take a firm stance on naming and labeling global forces that impact individuals and communities who are then left with no support, leading to marginalization or further marginalization from the society they once knew (George, P, SK8101, lecture, October 9, 2007).
The social worker should be constantly reflexive, work to raise the consciousness, empower, and understand the lived subjective realities of individuals living in a fast-paced world, where fear and insecurity constantly subjugate the individual from the collective whole, perpetuating the dominant forces, while silencing the oppressed (Sakamoto and Pitner, 2005).
Some individuals and groups who are not professional social workers build relationships with marginalized persons by providing relational care and support, for example, through homeless ministry. These relationships validate the individuals who are marginalized and provide them a meaningful contact with the mainstream.
There are countries, Italy for example, that have a legal concept of social exclusion. In Italy, "esclusione sociale" is defined as poverty combined with social alienation, by the statute n. 328 (11-8-2000), that instituted a state investigation commission named "Commissione di indagine sull'Esclusione Sociale" (CIES) to make an annual report to the government on legally expected issues of social exclusion.
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, a document on international human rights instruments affirms that "extreme poverty and social exclusion constitute a violation of human dignity and that urgent steps are necessary to achieve better knowledge of extreme poverty and its causes, including those related to the program of development, in order to promote the human rights of the poorest, and to put an end to extreme poverty and social exclusion and promote the enjoyment of the fruits of social progress. It is essential for States to foster participation by the poorest people in the decision making process by the community in which they live, the promotion of human rights and efforts to combat extreme poverty."
To be "excluded from society" can take various relative senses, but social exclusion is usually defined as more than a simple economic phenomenon: it also has consequences on the social, symbolic field.
"Women of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Caribbean descent [in Britain] are doing well in schools but are still being penalised in the workplace...80-89% of 16-year-olds from those ethnic groups wanted to work full-time...but they were up to four times more likely to be jobless."
Philosopher Axel Honneth thus speaks of a "struggle for recognition", which he attempts to theorize through Hegel's philosophy. In this sense, to be socially excluded is to be deprived from social recognition and social value. In the sphere of politics, social recognition is obtained by full citizenship; in the economic sphere (in capitalism) it means being paid enough to be able to participate fully in the life of the community.
This concept can be gleaned from considering examples of the "social integration crisis: poverty, professional exclusion or marginalization, social and civic disenfranchisement, absence or weakening of support networks, frequent inter-cultural conflicts", These relate not only to gender, race and disability, but also to crime:
"Social exclusion is a major cause of crime and re-offending. Removing the right to vote increases social exclusion by signalling to serving prisoners that, at least for the duration of their sentence, they are dead to society. The additional punishment of disenfranchisement is not a deterrent. There is no evidence to suggest that criminals are deterred from offending behaviour by the threat of losing the right to vote.....(and) the notion of civic death for sentenced prisoners isolates still further those who are already on the margins of society and encourages them to be seen as alien to the communities to which they will return on release".
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