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Bengünur Bozoğlu, 2073872
Problem of Social Exclusion
Social justice (or the absence of social justice) is one of the most significant problems of
the humanity in the neoliberal world order. In the Keynesian era, there was an endeavor by the state
to bring justice to the society. However, within the new paradigm, neoliberals have introduced a
new definition of the concept of “social justice” which reversed the former meaning of it (Brodie,
2018). Now, the state is not responsible for protecting the citizens from the uncertainties of the
market, but it is just to facilitate and create market in such a way that most deserving ones get their
rewards i.e., who making greater contribution takes the bigger piece of the cake as stated in the
Brodie’s article (2018). Similarly, Eizaguirre et al. (2012) argues that in the neoliberal order, the
notion of “social citizenship” is substituted by the notion of “social cohesion”. This substitution
points out to eradication of social justice objectives of the nation state in its redistribution policies
in the welfare times. However, in the Brodie’s study, the argument goes, social welfare policies
are unjust because they spoil the symbiotic relationship between reward and contribution. In such
a competitive environment, neoliberalism loads full responsibility to the individuals and undertakes
a blaming role regarding them for their failures in the market although the fact that people are not
that powerful to change the rules of the game on their own, according to Brodie (2018). So, in this
neoliberal atmosphere, inequality appears as an inevitable outcome. Likewise, Brodie argues that
“inequality, whether measured in terms of income, wealth, well-being, or life opportunities, has
been the defining legacy of neoliberal market affirming discourses, policies and practices” (2018,
p.18). From this point forth, “social exclusion”, which can be seen as a consequence of social
inequalities in the society, will be discussed in this paper as another major issue for humanity. This
concept will be tackled with a reference to two main issues: poverty and participation.
Firstly, we should frame the concept of “social exclusion”. According to Arriagada, social
exclusion can be explained with its two dimensions: “lack of social ties linking the individual with
the family, community and, more generally speaking, society, and lack of the basic rights of
citizenship” in general (2005, p.104). Besides, Reimer emphasizes Room (1995) and Chapman
(1998)’s ideas that “social exclusion and inclusion is about having access and resources critical to
well-being” (as cited in Reimer, 2004, p.77). He argues that people can gain access to them in
various ways. In this regard, he defines four types of social relations in the society in which
exclusion might occur. These are market, bureaucratic, associative and communal relationships.
According to him, people can gain access to resources and services by using these types of social
relations. However, in order to do so, they should meet the norms of the dominant types of relations.
Failure might mean exclusion from any or all types of relationships and resources and services
provided by them. For example, one need to be capable of adapting formal structures and
procedures in order to benefit from bureaucratic relations. That is to say, people who form more
personalized relations may be excluded from this formal structure. To illustrate, a family might not
be able to access the government’s transfer payments. Additionally, one has to have access to
tradable goods and services, enough information about markets and prices or negotiation skills, for
example, in order to take action in the market relations. Failures to do so, again, might mean
exclusion from the market.
After putting the general framework for the “social exclusion”, a concept in relation to it
comes to the front, which is “poverty”. Focusing on the examples presented above, it is clear that
exclusion in different degrees from these types
of relationships brings about poverty. For example, if one cannot participate in labor the
market, it is obvious that he cannot earn income within that relationship. Similarly, he cannot
compensate for this situation with the help of government subsidies, for instance, if he is also
excluded from the bureaucratic type of relationship. Moreover, according to Mitlin (2005),
connections are important for accessing basic services and livelihood opportunities. In parallel to
this, informal ties may help reducing poverty. Patronage relations, for example, may ease the
process of seeking for work. On the contrary, poor connections may mean low level of job
opportunities. Similarly, discrimination -which is a type of social exclusion- in labor market and
residential settlements might bring about poverty, as Mitlin argues (2005). For instance, being a
woman, being old or belonging to an ethnic group may make difficult to secure livelihood In short,
once people are socially excluded, it is much likely that they fall into poverty. With an imagination
we can say that one of the most important ways of earning money is participating in the market
relations. There are other ways of making money, of course. However, if one is being excluded
from communal relationships or bureaucratic relationships for example, the only place to gain
money becomes the market. Mitlin (2005) argues that, even if one can participate in the market
relation, he might still be in poverty because of low wages, informal markets, demand for specific
skills, job insecurities, or poor working conditions. As an addition, low income profoundly affects
the living standards by reducing the chance of getting proper education. Thus, the possibility to get
into market in the future falls as well, which causes the emerging of vicious circle that makes
poverty a hard problem to be solved individually.
At this point, as one of the most important components of social exclusion, we should
explain what poverty is. According to Arriagada, poverty means “the deprivation of essential assets
and opportunities to which all human beings are entitled”. Also, she states that “poverty is related
to unequal and limited access to productive resources and to a low level of participation in social
and political institutions” (2005, p.100). Moreover, she puts a number of elements for a proper
definition of it like income level, access to goods and services provided by the government,
difficulties in getting educated and limited free time for it together with resting and recreative
activities. Besides poverty, the concept of “chronic poverty” points out to severity and
multidimensionality of poverty. As Mitlin (2005) states, it is basically the duration that
differentiates chronic poverty from poverty. However, because of its multidimensional character,
assessments about it should also be multidimensional. That is to say, for both Mitlin (2005) and
Arriagada (2005), using only money-metric measurements is not appropriate to assess it. Especially
regarding the spatial analyses of him, Mitlin (2005) argues that one should take into account
features like price levels across different spaces, expenditure habits, level of commodification or
the existence of non-food essentials in some areas etc. Arriagada (2005) also mentions the fact that
causes and characteristics of it change on a special basis. We should not forget that besides the
place of residence, vulnerability also matters to define poverty appropriately (Mitlin, 2005).
Similarly, Arriagada (2005) states that in order to interpret the exact nature of poverty, we should
also look at cultural factors such as gender, race, ethnicity and economic, social and historical
context. All in all, once again focusing on the conceptualization of poverty, it is clear that it is an
important reflection of social exclusion. There is a reinforcing relationship between the two. That
is to say, social exclusion can cause poverty on the one hand, and poverty can reinforce social
exclusion on the other.
The second critical point to be addressed in this paper in relation to social exclusion is the
issue of participation. As it is known, participation constitutes one of the most important
cornerstones in the neoliberal agenda, especially when the emergence of the governance paradigm
is considered. This notion started to be supported by the policies of international organizations. For
instance, in the European Commission’s White Paper on governance, the virtues of democratic
governance were promoted such as transparency, accountability, participation and effectiveness
(Eizaguirre et al., 2012). With this emphasis, multileveled decision-making processes, cooperation
between market and civil society in multiple policy-making scales, a competitive environment have
come to the front, as stated by Eizaguirre et al. (2012) with the EU’s regulatory role especially. It
should be noted that in this competitive environment in which economic growth is seen as more
important than economic redistribution, social inequalities has increased. In this frame, European
Commission has drawn attention to the increase in poverty and social exclusion and recognized the
need to implement social inclusion policies (Eizaguirre et al., 2012). Thus, we see an increasing
effort to diversify the participation methods, to go beyond voting behavior which is only a one
dimension of participation, as an inclusion mechanism, but it is debatable (Wilson, 1999).
Regarding the participation issue, two main discussions should be made in the framework
of social exclusion. The first one is that more participation does not necessarily bring about more
democracy as Wilson stated (1999). That is to say, more participation does not mean that the
demands of participants will be heard and taken into consideration, as it should be in democracies.
According to him, effectiveness and activity do not mean the same. In other words, although there
are lots of initiatives for enhancing participation, policy impact for some specific sectors in the
society may not be at the sufficient level or simply does not exist. Even, these initiatives may
increase the expectations that cannot be met. So, this makes socially excluded groups who
participate for the first time feel disenchantment (Wilson, 1999). To give an example, last week in
the commission, the minimum wage was announced in Turkey. In the decision-making process,
the state, representator of employers and representator of employees were all included. However,
the representation of the employee stated that they were against the decision. This clearly states
that participation does not necessarily lead to policy impact. In this point, the issue of social
exclusion gains importance regarding the participation debate. Wilson states that “patterns of social
exclusion can be reproduced within participation initiatives” (1999, p.252). To continue the
example above, even if employees participate in the decision-making process, the fact that their
demands are constantly undermined makes the hierarchy between the stakeholders more obvious.
We should not ignore the fact that there are power asymmetries in the table of decision-making.
Some groups or individuals may dominate the process because of their privileged position due to
economic reasons, for instance. Also, human resource opportunities may create inequalities
between the participating groups due to education level or know-how, for example. Wilson also
comes to the conclusion that initiatives to increase participation actually doesn’t change the power
relationships but “reinforces existing patterns of social exclusion and disadvantage” (1999, p.252).
The second pillar of the discussion is that there might be some participation barriers,
especially for the socially excluded people. First, according to Evans “effective political
participation is linked to educational attainment, political equality and, most significantly,
economic resources and political efficiency” (as cited in Wilson, 1999, p.258). Second, there
should be time and energy for one to participate in decision-making processes of public policies.
However, poor people might see direct participation as a “risky and time-consuming strategy”
(Hickey and Bracking, 2005) Apart from this, they argue that the poorest mostly prefer to delegate
their participation rights to intermediaries since they tend to avoid from directly participating
(2005). At that point, the issue of representation should be touched upon. According to Hickey and
Bracking (2005), the representation of the poor can be realized with two channels. One is discursive
and the other is material way. He argues that in a discursive manner the poor are spoken “of” in
academic and policy discourses. He continues his argument by stating that four formal or informal
actors from civil or political life can speak “for” the poorest: civil society organizations, political
parties, political elites and informal political actors. However, in each type of representation there
might be problems. For example, there may occur misrepresentation problems in the civil society
organizations, or even the groups consisting of poor people may exclude the poorest ones.
Regarding political parties, there is the possibility that even the pro-poor parties may fail in terms
of adequate representation. Also, since the poor does not constitute a constituency as a whole, the
poorest again may not be represented because of “politics of middle-ness”. Regarding the political
elites, the differences between the local and national elites may point out a problem. Lastly, the
representation of the poor within the patron-client relationships might be reproducing the local
causes of poverty. All in all, if we approach to the issue of participation and representation
especially considering the poverty, we can say that as Hickey and Bracking argue in poverty
assessments, the inclusion of the poor weight less than the ways in which they are represented
within the elite political discourse (2005). One critical point to address here is that when these
problems of representation are taken into consideration, the effectiveness of it becomes debatable.
Of course, self-representation is better than representation with one of the agents above. However,
as I mentioned earlier, the poor people for example, do not have a chance to actively or effectively
participate in the processes. Here it seems that there is a paradox. Neoliberal agenda wants the poor
to participate in decision-making activity at least in order to provide a peaceful atmosphere for
reproduction of the system on the one hand. This was mentioned above, especially in the context
of decreasing social inequalities and exclusion and enhancing social cohesion. However, on the
other hand, we see that this is not possible, in an ideal manner. Here, we should look at the ideas
of Marx and Rousseau, as cited in Bracking’s article, for the majority of the poor, the ideals in the
liberal ideology cannot be delivered in the capitalist societies. This is because the equal opportunity
for participating and attaining comprehensive well-being and precious existence are undermined
desperately by the economic conditions of liberalism itself. This is just an illusion. Yet, at this
point, quoting Bracking would be meaningful: “liberal representation is better than no
representation, but it is not adequate representation” (p. 1022, 2005).
To sum up, in this paper, the issue of social exclusion was discussed in relation to two
concepts which are poverty and participation. In short, neoliberal world order is obviously full of
inequalities. Unsurprisingly, constant reproduction of these inequalities makes the problem of
poverty tangled. In this paper, poverty was explained with its relation to social exclusion, and it is
argued that social exclusion and poverty may reinforce each other. Second, the representation and
political participation of the socially excluded people was mentioned. It was argued that, although
neoliberal discourse seems to glorify participation, when it comes to the socially excluded groups,
it just turns to an illusion. This can be best understood with the absence of policy impact.
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