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  • Cited by 13
  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: September 2009

8 - Between individuals and culture: individuals' evaluations of exclusion from social groups


One of the most complex aspects of social life is how to balance individual goals with collective concerns of the group. This difficult task involves weighing individual values, such as rights and personal goals, with group functioning, such as social expectations, traditions, and group identity. While group memberships are an important source of social identity and group functioning, group memberships also contribute to intergroup conflict. This is because, at times, group identifications conflict with individual goals and liberties. For example, when members of a group hold expectations about who belongs to the group, the result is often exclusion. Depending on the criteria, exclusion may constitute a violation of the rights and liberties of the excluded individuals as well as prejudicial and stereotypical attitudes about others, often resulting in severe moral transgressions (Opotow, 1990). However, there are also times when individual goals are subordinated to group goals in a way that does not result in conflict, and in contexts in which the exclusion of an individual is viewed as legitimate, and not as an insult to another person in the form of a violation of individual rights or psychological harm. As examples, cultural organizations and institutions, such as sports teams, schools, the workplace and family life all involve expectations, and sometimes regulations, that result in the exclusion of individuals from full or partial participation. In some cases, these decisions are viewed as a benefit to all, with a goal of coordinating social interactions among individuals and promoting social group functioning.