Edited by Janie Percy-Smith.
Open University Press
ISBN 0 335 20473 2
The concept of social exclusion has its origins in French social
policy of the 1980s when it was used to denote the experience of
groups surviving on the margins of society with little access to
financial safety nets or the institutions of mainstream
From there it moved swiftly to the heart of thinking on social
welfare in the European Union and in a further step was
enthusiastically taken up by the Labour government in 1997.
In a sense the concept attempts to identify the same elements of
social isolation that the notion of the “underclass” describes but
to explain them as the consequences of a social process rather than
cultural and moral weakness.
While academics have been examining the concept in their
journals for some time little has been produced that is accessible
to the very people – practitioners and managers – who need to know
more about its policy consequences. This volume takes a large step
toward filling the gap. While practitioners will have to wait for
further work to illuminate directly the world of practice, their
grasp of policy and government strategy will be immeasurably
The volume opens with a clear introduction to what social
exclusion means, what its dimensions and indicators are, and how
the Labour government has adopted it. The subsequent chapters take
us through the major services and social processes where exclusion
happens. Thus contributors look at exclusion from the labour
market, the impact of poverty as the prime (but not sole) driver of
exclusion, and the effect of political exclusion. Others examine
exclusion in education, housing and health.
In each chapter readers get an effective explanation of current
Labour policy as an important part of the attempts to reverse
exclusion such as the New Deal, actions zones and reform of the
health service. In their assessment of these initiatives most of
the contributors get the balance right and avoid the dismissive
cynicism evident in some academic appraisals of New Labour.
One prominent theme is that of “place”. Local areas and
neighbourhoods now matter as a focus for tackling exclusion.
Whether in estate-based attempts to join up services or in shoring
up social networks, the importance of “neighbourhood” is well
John Pierson is senior lecturer, Institute of Social
Work and Applied Social Studies, Staffordshire