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Social exclusion and the road not taken: an insider account of conceptual travel within development practice

Arjan de Haan


Unlike the concept of social capital, which can claim to have had a significant impact on thinking and practice within some development agencies, the concept of social exclusion has had a more mixed track-record. Initially promoted in the late 1990s within the UK Department for International Development, the concept achieved more traction in developing country contexts with overt forms of group-based discrimination (e.g. Latin America, India) than in situations characterised more by mass poverty (sub-Saharan Africa) or, perhaps, by a more constrained political discourse around poverty (China). Whereas social exclusion shares with social capital the kind of conceptual flexibility required to be attractive to a range of institutional and ideological interests, its epistemological aversion to methodological individualism and more critical focus on the underlying and often politically-sensitive causes of poverty and exclusion seem to have rendered it less amenable to take-up within the dominant disciplinary and paradigmatic orientations within international development. Despite the significant analytical strengths of the concept, particularly in terms of bringing a richer tradition of social science theorising to bear than is often the case in development studies, its future influence looks set to be further limited by the recent policy shift away from social issues to growth and productivity.

Publication Type(s)


growth discrimination social exclusion

ISBN: 978-1-908536-15-0


1 Social exclusion and the road not taken PDF 297.3 KB

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