Sealey, Clive (2009)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
When New Labour came to power in 1997, one of the best known social policy changes they made was the prioritisation of social exclusion as at the vanguard of government policy, through the establishment of the Social Exclusion Unit. Social exclusion’s ‘value added’ potentiality is as a broader analysis of the causes and conditions of disadvantage than poverty. However, this potentiality is limited by the ‘weak’ form of social exclusion adopted by New Labour, wherein social exclusion is considered as a process engendered by the excluded themselves. Giddens’s notions of late modern individualisation and reflexivity underpin this weak account, and while agreeing with Giddens’s notion of the late modern, his claims of the centrality of individualisation are rejected. Instead, what appears most evident from treating young people as an illustrative case of individualisation is how ‘strong’ old processes of structural inequality and a new form of social relations through individualism are at the heart of social exclusion. This leads to the thesis that underlying structural inequalities are principally reproducing the disadvantaged nature of young people’s existence, and thus their social exclusion. This critical realist perspective rationalises an in-depth, qualitative, tripartite critical realist framework for data collection and analysis, focussed on the real underlying mechanisms reproducing social reality, and thus social exclusion. The research findings are directly related to the critical realist emphasis on both understanding and change from understanding, making it clear that there is a need to move social exclusion theory and policy away from the evidently flawed emphasis on its weak, individualised form towards its analytically and conceptually stronger, structural inequality focus.
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