Three discourses of social exclusion

  • Ruth Levitas


The term social exclusion is intrinsically problematic. It represents the primary significant division in society as one between an included majority and an excluded minority. This has implications for how both included and excluded groups are understood, and for the implicit model of society itself. Attention is drawn away from the inequalities and differences among the included. Notably, the very rich are discursively absorbed into the included majority, their power and privilege slipping out of focus if not wholly out of sight. At the same time, the poverty and disadvantage of the so-called excluded are discursively placed outside society. What results is an overly homogeneous and consensual image of society - a rosy view possible because the implicit model is one in which inequality and poverty are pathological and residual, rather than endemic. Exclusion appears as an essentially peripheral problem, existing at the boundary of society, rather than a feature of a society which characteristically delivers massive inequalities across the board and chronic deprivation for a large minority. The solution implied by a discourse of social exclusion is a minimalist one: a transition across the boundary to become an insider rather than an outsider in a society whose structural inequalities remain largely un interrogated.


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Copyright information

© Ruth Levitas 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Levitas
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BristolEngland

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