chapter  1
9 Pages

1 Introduction

This research-based book is aimed at a wide range of different readerships globally. The book addresses issues of concern for those engaged in debates about the provision of health and social welfare services, the case for collective responsibilities, and the public service ethos more generally. Our focus is particularly upon the role of social and cultural factors in the creation and recreation of categories of exclusion and inclusion; this finds relevance in a wide range of fields (health sciences, public health, health promotion, occupational therapy, disability studies, social work and social policy). The exploration of implications for policy and practice will make the book of relevance to a practitioner audience as well to academics. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there are a plethora of books

on social exclusion. Why another? The outline above indicates the particular approach that we wish to take, which we believe is not covered in any depth in any of the competing titles. Most of the existing titles are very strongly focused in terms of discipline and/or geography, for example (we could extend this list to several times its current length): Pierson (2001), Collins (2003), Weiss (2003), MacDonald (2004), Levitas (2005), Williams et al. (2005), Feldman (2006), Harness Goodwin (2006), Ryan (2007). Others, while being more multidisciplinary in approach, focus on the economistic aspects of social exclusion and do not fully address the important role of cultural and social factors in creating and re-creating categories of inclusion and exclusion, for example: Byrne (2005) and Hills et al. (2002). Few seek to address both issues of theory and professional practice. The concept of social exclusion attempts to help us make sense out of the lived

experience arising frommultiple deprivations and inequities experienced by people and localities, across the social fabric, and the mutually reinforcing effects of reduced participation, consumption, mobility, access, integration, influence and recognition. The language of social exclusion recognises marginalising, silencing, rejecting, isolating, segregating and disenfranchising as the machinery of exclusion, its processes of operation. By way of contrast, the language of social connectedness recognises acceptance, opportunity, equity, justice, citizenship,

expression and validation as the machinery of connectedness. As we will argue later, we see connectedness as the preferred conceptualisation of the opposite of exclusion, finding the concepts of inclusion and participation problematic both theoretically and in terms of policy formulation and implementation. This book works from a multidisciplinary and intersectoral approach

across health, welfare and education, linking practice and research to our growing understanding of the processes and principles that foster exclusion. We develop existing theories of exclusion and connectedness through reflection, analysis and commentary, across international perspectives and experiences recognising both global and local issues. Our focus on the role of cultural and social factors in theorising social exclusion implies a particular focus on the psychological, individual and symbolic elements of exclusion as experienced by different groups. In this first part of the book, we review and reflect on existing thinking,

literature and research into social exclusion and social connectedness. Theories of exclusion are developed concentrically across areas of action and experience, moving from the person as an excluded/connected agent, through structural, shared communities and places, to the upstream, culture, population and society. The links between these spheres of exclusion and connectedness are also discussed, to theorise an integrated framework for understanding the dynamics of social exclusion across dimensions of social action and along pathways of social processes. The second part of the book presents a series of chapters, addressing areas

of interest and knowledge gained through the experience and research of the authors. These chapters are presented so that, as readers, we come first to know the machinery of social exclusion and connectedness before coming to know the pathways towards exclusion, and finally come to know the excluded through their experience of exclusion and connection. The third and final part of the book draws together the chapters thus far,

finding points of congruence and dissension between spheres of action and applied areas of interest. In this short concluding part, we explore some of the implications for policy and practice, drawing on the chapters and research studies presented in Part 2 of the book. We also consider briefly a research agenda for the future.