The Process of Social Exclusion: The Dynamics of An Evolving Concept
Most theorists maintain that social exclusion is a process, not only the condition reflecting the outcome of that process. Yet few, if any, people ever reach the ultimate end of the imagined trajectory. There are no formal ‘exclusion thresholds’ to cross, as exist for poverty. Rather, at any one time, people are situated on a multidimensional continuum and may be moving towards inclusion in one or another sense, or towards a state of comprehensive, cumulative social rupture. This process has been labelled social ‘disaffiliation’ or ‘disqualification’, among other terms, and encompasses humiliation as well as social isolation. Longitudinal and panel studies reviewed here document some of the mechanisms of individuals’ downward spiral, with the accumulation of dimensions of exclusion. At a more macro-level, groups, communities, and societies also may undergo a process of social exclusion from larger collectivises in which progressive isolation and a decline of solidarity give rise to new social boundaries – exclusion lines, so to speak – between insiders and outsiders. The process of residential segregation is a notable example. Despite the EU’s designation of common exclusion indicators, national differences in the meaning of social exclusion, in contrast to poverty, may impede comparative study. The concept and its measures are still evolving.