Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2014
The term ‘social exclusion’ is not only used to refer to a wide range of phenomena and processes related to poverty, deprivation, and hardship, but is also used in relation to a wide range of categories of excluded people and places of exclusion. This chapter offers some evidence regarding the elusive and challenging nature of the concept, discussed briefly in the context of the West and largely in the context of India. Some authors argue that the concept of social exclusion can be traced to Max Weber, a late nineteenth and early twentieth century German political economist and sociologist, who saw exclusion as the attempt of one group to secure a privileged position at the expense of some other group (Hills, Le Grand, and Piachaud 2002). In fact, debates over social exclusion as a concept often begin with its history. Who used it first, why was it chosen as a policy term rather than the more familiar concepts of ‘poverty’ or ‘deprivation’ or ‘hardship,’ what did it mean in its earliest incarnation?
The concept of exclusion was originally coined in France in 1974, referring to various social categories of people, such as the mentally and physically handicapped, single parents, substance users, and other groups unprotected by social insurance. As the use of the term became widespread in the 1980s, it came to refer to a whole range of socially disadvantaged groups and became central to French debates about the ‘new poverty’ associated with rapid economic transformations.