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- Author or Editor: Tania Burchardt x
Debates about social exclusion are a relatively recent development in Britain, but the terminology now permeates social policy, both in theory and in practice. Confusion and controversy about its meaning have multiplied as its use has spread, generating in turn an interpretative literature. Empirical applications of the concept are rarer, and those which exist tend to investigate one or more particular facets of exclusion in depth rather than offering an overview. Arguably, these two features – conceptual uncertainty and lack of empirical work – are not unrelated. This chapter examines whether a measure of social exclusion can be developed which has a role in social science over and above the associated concepts of deprivation and poverty. The first section canvasses uses of the term ‘social exclusion’ and the following section considers its relationship to ‘poverty’ and ‘deprivation’. The data source for this present analysis, the British Household Panel Survey, is then introduced and key variables are defined. The fourth section presents a summary of results and the conclusion draws out what can learnt about the usefulness of social exclusion as a concept.
The term ‘social exclusion’ probably originated in France. ‘Les exclus’ (the excluded) were those who fell through the net of social protection – in the 1970s, disabled people, lone parents and the uninsured unemployed (Evans, 1998). Later, the increasing intensity of social problems on peripheral estates in large cities led to a broadening of the definition to include disaffected youth and isolated individuals. The concept has particular resonance in countries which share with France a Republican tradition, in which social cohesion is thought to be essential to maintaining the contract on which society is founded (Silver, 1995). Where solidarity is championed, the existence of groups who feel excluded threatens to undermine the unity of the state.
This chapter argues that the task of uncovering the range of beliefs among policy makers about the purpose of social policy in general, and the welfare state in particular, is important for making social policy work, because without clarity over guiding principles, the debate between different normative positions is obscured, and the risk of inadvertently developing contradictory policies is increased. It begins by considering whether searching for underlying normative principles in social policy makes sense. It argues that even if different conceptions of what is right and good are necessarily traded against each other and against other values and objectives in the messy business of practical politics, it is nevertheless worthwhile to analyse the theories of social justice that contribute to the overall mix of motivations. An example is given that examines the rhetoric and practice of the current government and finds evidence of a lack of coherence in values and conceptions of social justice. The next section offers a framework for analysing the different conceptions that may be in play. Another section argues that social scientists should tease out the implications in practice of adopting different normative positions and they should differentiate between those which help to resolve policy dilemmas and those which simply throw up new ones. Particular attention is given to one conception, the capability approach, which has a number of advantages over the others considered. The concluding section returns to the question of whether this is all idealistic nonsense, irrelevant to the real worlds of welfare and policy making.
This chapter assumes a basic degree of familiarity with the capability approach; it does not try to establish or defend its credentials as compared to other accounts of social justice or equality. It demonstrates the methodological, definitional, and theoretical challenges that emerge from applying the capability approach to a certain policy context. It then analyses the definition of equality that is adopted by the Equalities Review, and includes a section on the justification and specification of a list of central and valuable capabilities. The relationship of process and opportunity freedoms, the limitations of the available tools to detect inequalities, and the reflections on the application of the capability approach are discussed in the final sections of the chapter.
Richard Titmuss was Professor of Social Administration at the London School of Economics (LSE) from 1950 until his death in 1973. His publications on welfare and social policy were radical and wide-ranging, spanning fields such as demography, class inequalities in health, social work, and altruism. Titmuss’s work played a critical role in establishing the study of social policy as a scientific discipline; it helped to shape the development of the British Welfare State and influenced thinking about social policy worldwide. Despite its continuing relevance to current social policy issues both in the UK and internationally, much of Titmuss’s work is now out of print.