The Process of Social Exclusion: The Dynamics of an Evolving Concept

25 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2008

See all articles by Hilary Silver

Hilary Silver

Brown University; George Washington University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 1, 2007


Most theorists maintain that social exclusion is a process, not only the condition reflecting the outcome of that process. Yet few, if any people ever reach the ultimate end of the imagined trajectory. There are no formal exclusion thresholds to cross, as exist for poverty. Rather, at any one time, people are situated on a multi-dimensional continuum and may be moving towards inclusion in one or another sense or towards a state of comprehensive, cumulative social rupture. This process has been labeled social disaffiliation or disqualification, among other terms, and encompasses humiliation as well as social isolation. Longitudinal and panel studies reviewed here document some of the mechanisms of individuals' downward spiral with the accumulation of dimensions of exclusion. At a more macro-level, groups, communities, and societies also may undergo a process of social exclusion from larger collectivities in which progressive isolation and a decline of solidarity give rise to new social boundaries - exclusion lines, so to speak -- between insiders and outsiders. The process of residential segregation is a notable example. Despite the EU's designation of common exclusion indicators, national differences in the meaning of social exclusion, in contrast to poverty, may impede comparative study. The concept and its measures are still evolving.

Keywords: social exclusion, social dynamics, disaffiliation, solidarity, sociological theory

JEL Classification: A14, I30, J60, N30, O52

Suggested Citation

Silver, Hilary, The Process of Social Exclusion: The Dynamics of an Evolving Concept (October 1, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Hilary Silver (Contact Author)

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

George Washington University ( email )

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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