Framing Social Inclusion Policies - Draft Background Paper for the World Bank Social Development Department's Flagship Study on Social Inclusion

61 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2014

See all articles by Hilary Silver

Hilary Silver

Brown University; George Washington University

Date Written: December 1, 2012


Social inclusion discourse is nearly ubiquitous, but its meaning remains ambiguous. It refers to different things in different national, cultural, and political contexts. It is the objective of a plethora of policies in a wide range of institutional spheres. This paper seeks to clarify the variable understandings of social inclusion as a policy goal and to develop a broad framework for organizing, classifying, and analyzing social inclusion policies. Rather than an inventory of social inclusion policies and programs per se, the discussion presents broad kinds of policies, tools, and mechanisms that promote social inclusion. After clarifying the meanings of social inclusion, the first part of the paper discusses why it might be considered a worthy, if unattainable goal. There are in fact many values underlying the objective of social inclusion. Because the meaning and worth of social membership is so variable, the very ambiguity of the term may ironically facilitate reaching a reasonable international consensus to pursue it, despite significant cultural and contextual differences. The second part of the paper discusses policies aimed at realizing four notions of social inclusion. Social inclusion furthers the ideals, values, or goals of freedom, equality, democracy, and recognition. There are four corresponding conceptions or end points of social inclusion: capability, distributive justice, participation, and human rights. Different policies emphasize these to a greater or lesser extent. Inclusion as capability is the main objective of social investment, human capital, activation, and mobility policies. Inclusion as equality rests upon redistribution policies like minimum incomes and social assistance. Social inclusion as active participation is promoted procedurally by consultation and active involvement in decision making, such as participatory budgeting, and enabled by desegregation and mainstreaming. Finally, recognition is symbolic and legal. Cultural policies include memorials, apologies, ceremonies, holidays, and the like, as well as recognition of multiple languages, beliefs, and customs. Human rights also recognize people as members of the human community, thus protecting them from violence against their persons and other dehumanizing treatment. The third part of the paper breaks out one type of social inclusion policy that is controversial partly because it furthers some of these four ideals but may be considered contrary to others, namely, affirmative action policies.

Suggested Citation

Silver, Hilary, Framing Social Inclusion Policies - Draft Background Paper for the World Bank Social Development Department's Flagship Study on Social Inclusion (December 1, 2012). 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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