Social Inclusion, Social Exclusion and Social Closure: What can we learn from studying the social capital of social elites?
Theories of social exclusion focus on the shortcomings and barriers that prevent members of disadvantaged groups improving their life circumstances. Their failure to do so perpetuates social inequalities though generations and through time. Greater utilisation of social capital and community capacity building among these groups are seen as avenues to break this cycle of disadvantage. This paper identifies and considers the inverse process of social inclusion. Social inclusion involves processes that allow advantaged members of society ('elites') to build on the advantages and community support available to them to sustain or improve their inherited life circumstances. The paper identifies some key areas of sociological theory and research on social elites and the professions that contribute to an understanding of social inclusion understood in this way. Neo-Weberian theorists of the 1970s discussed social inclusion under the rubric of social closure. This approach tends to assume that social inclusion creates social exclusion. However, the theory also allows for open and meritocratic forms of social 'closure' that do not have this assumption. This paper argues that we need to redefine concepts of social inclusion and social closure so that social closure is just one possible, but undesirable and avoidable, potential of social inclusion. Social inclusion is thus the umbrella concept and social closure just one aspect of it. This way we see dual paths for ameliorating social exclusion. We can keep open the potential for the institutions and practices of elite social inclusion to be made inclusive as well the strategies already identified by theorists of social exclusion.
Proceedings of International Conference on Engaging Communities
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