Key debates and the concept of ‘social inclusion’

One critique of social exclusion is that the concept is based on an ‘underlying moral meta-narrative’ which assumes that social inclusion or integration, as the opposite of social exclusion, is inherently good and desirable (Hickey & du Toit, 2007: 3). As a result, efforts to tackle exclusion can often be led by implicit normative assumptions about how social life should be organised. This often ignores the ways in which the terms of inclusion can be problematic, disempowering or inequitable.

Adverse incorporation

The concept of ‘adverse incorporation’ sees poverty and inequality as a result, primarily, of unequal economic and power relations, thus requiring efforts to change the societal, political and economic dynamics that keep people disadvantaged. Many impoverished and exploited people are in fact included, but on highly adverse terms. Indeed, total exclusion on any dimension is rare, and so adverse incorporation might be a preferable term to social exclusion for many situations.

Hickey, S., & du Toit, A.( 2007). Adverse Incorporation, Social Exclusion and Chronic Poverty (Working Paper No. 81). Chronic Poverty Research Centre, University of Manchester.
How do the processes of adverse incorporation and social exclusion (AISE) underpin chronic poverty? This paper examines the politics and economy of poverty’s causal processes over time. Challenging AISE involves a shift from policy to politics and from specific anti-poverty interventions to longer-term development strategies. Particular attention should be given to: industrialisation and labour market restructuring; moves towards developmental states; and supporting shifts from clientelism to citizenship.
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Social integration

Social integration has been defined as ‘the process of promoting the values, relations and institutions that enable all people to participate in social, economic and political life on the basis of equality of rights, equity and dignity’ (UN Expert Group Meeting on Promoting Social Integration 2008). However, social integration can also imply integration on poor terms (like adverse incorporation), and cultural homogenisation.

Ferguson, C. (2008). Promoting Social Integration: Background Paper for Discussion. Report commissioned by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) for the Expert Group Meeting on Promoting Social Integration, Helsinki, Finland, 8-10 July 2008.
What are the policy instruments that provide the most coherent and consistent cross-sectoral approach to social integration? This paper reviews policy instruments and institutions that promote social integration, finding that the human rights framework provides the most effective basis for policy development. This framework can help to resolve some of the tensions between conflicting processes.
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Voluntary exclusion

Some minority groups voluntarily exclude themselves from wider society. This phenomenon should be distinguished from social exclusion, which occurs for reasons that are beyond the control of those subject to it.

Barry, B. (1998). Social Exclusion, Social Isolation and Distribution of Income. Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics.
While social exclusion is unquestionably closely associated with poverty, is it inextricably linked? Can a community marked by significant inequalities of power and status still be socially integrated? This paper discusses the relationships between social exclusion, justice and solidarity, with a particular focus on class systems within the USA and Britain. Despite varying income distribution, government policies targeting inequality and favouring social solidarity can promote an integrated society.
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