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Even the so called included people can be excluded from some arenas or subcultures — one may just not think of this as exclusion, because those arenas are not necessarily highly valued socially. The excluded are, then, seen as a rather homogeneous group, and this is also true of the included as a group.

In reality we are all different in many ways. The discourse on exclusion is frightfully good at hiding these differences while bringing just one single difference into the limelight. When one says that someone is excluded, one is at the same time making the assumption that he or she is outside our community and our society. This assumption can be questioned from two directions.

Firstly one might ask whether anyone can ever really be outside society. Is it possible to get outside society even if you want to?

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Secondly, and on the other hand: We live in an individualized age, and one often comes across worried statements about the loss of community, loss of family values and common values, and even claims purporting the end of society. What are the excluded excluded from, if all this is true? And where are they to be included? The discourse on exclusion is yet another way of talking about diminishing community.

It shows how fragile our community is, and in doing so it does even more: Is all well in the best of worlds?

Are the included happy? Why do so many studies tell of depression and stress? Exclusion is often exclusion from work, but many of those who work suffer from work-related illnesses and from the consequences of too much overtime. Even schoolchildren and high school students suffer from stress and mental problems. This is also the goal of the European union. Globally this competition widens the gulf between rich and poor nations.


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Also the ecological consequences of this drive can be disastrous. It has been said that the two main problems of our time are exclusion and ecological problems. Could it be that the two phenomena are related? The French sociologist Yves Barel once wrote that marginalized people are the enemies of society.

He drew a parallel with the former heretics and suggested that the marginalized persons of our time could be described as secularized heretics.

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Barel , 31, By this he meant that the excluded are potentially dangerous: So it is better to beware of doing so, and paint a sombre picture. What I am saying is that the current way of life needs a counter model which is so negative that it makes the present way of life appear as the only possible one. Should anybody want to question it and think of leaving the rat race, he or she will risk becoming an excluded person or being called one, which can be almost as bad.

To avoid this situation and this label, it is best to keep struggling, keep working overtime, keep trying to find the hero inside you, to use a fashionable Finnish expression. The point here is that the discourse on exclusion can be very useful in governing society. It seems especially well suited for neo-liberal governance, in which individuals carry both the blame and the credit for their life situation. In the words of Ulrich Beck , this all means that how people live their life becomes the biographical solution of systemic contradictions. Has, then, anything good come out of the concept of exclusion?

It is often said that one sees society better if one is at its margins. This may be true. There has also lately been talk in Finland about the hidden or tacit knowledge of the excluded. This knowledge can be supremely important when looking for ways to a more equal society. NGOs, for example, have a big role in making this knowledge heard. It can be yet another way of assigning to them qualities they do not have or essentializing them.

Faced with problems of everyday living, coping from one day to the next, one may be prevented from seeing anything else or having the energy to think about greater social or societal problems. Numb to logical reasoning, they are like the animals of the jungle: What is this unseen? Partly it is the existence of persons in need that our society ignores when focusing its attention on success and winners.

Thus the discourse on exclusion reminds us of the necessity to help the needy and of the necessity to try to make our society a better place for all. In short, the discourse on exclusion reminds us of the need of a universalist social policy and of the welfare state, a project that in the affluent countries has lost some of its momentum and attractiveness but that in the less affluent counties has not even properly begun. On a more global level, the talk about exclusion reminds us of the urgency of global solidarity and sustainable development both in social, ecological and economic terms.

In doing so, it urges us to question the goals of our societies. However hard we try to make a difference between the included and the excluded, the dividing line is always arbitrary. This may be a typical feature of the media culture and the political culture of our day: The reason behind this is perhaps the fact that our society is so complex that it is difficult or even impossible to understand the interconnectedness of many processes; it is easier to talk about people instead — or about victims, as in the case of exclusion.

The excluded are indeed victims of many current economic developments, for example the tightened economic competition and the corresponding demand for efficiency both at the level of the economic structures and at the level of individuals. However, the excluded are not always represented as victims, but as persons who are at least partly to blame for their situation.

These kinds of usages or insinuations can be found for example in journalistic language, in which the excluded may be described as depressed persons who lack self-esteem and initiative. Unfortunately characterizations such as these are not uncommon in research either. To make my case, I shall give some examples that I have come across in the French research literature on which my doctoral thesis on exclusion was largely based. One French researcher has written that the excluded are bound by the immediate needs of their existence.

This makes them culturally blind, which means that they are incapable of seeing the reasons for their situation or its consequences and incapable of changing it or acting solidarily. Another researcher has stated that the excluded are weakly integrated citizens who do not use all their rights and are not politically oriented Thomas , A third researcher has claimed that the typical attitudes of the excluded are resignation and addiction to alcohol as well as watching TV and propensity for AIDS and psychic disorders Lamarque , 51, In the Finnish research, too, exclusion has been characterized as a state of hopelessness, pathology, immobility and lack of perspective.

Julien Damon

I do not disagree with the fact that the processes of exclusion can indeed have these kinds of consequences. It is not uncommon for the unemployed, for example, to get depressed. What I fear is the inverse logic, which means that the consequences of exclusion are conceived of as its causes. Exclusion can then begin to appear as something that is caused by character flaws, be they innate or learned. We start blaming the excluded for their difficulties, and in the extreme case they begin to carry the blame for many social problems — if only for the rising welfare costs.

When this happens, we could borrow the words of the German sociologist Ulrich Beck , 75 and say that we are living in a scapegoat society. I also fear that this kind of language can have harmful effects among those who are referred to as the excluded. The power of language is terrific and terrifying; descriptions and definitions can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If the excluded are claimed to be apathetic over and over again, they may end up believing it themselves and start behaving accordingly.

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Even when this does not happen, they carry the stigma that the discourse on exclusion attaches to them. In this way, they become somehow less than they are or less than they could be. In short, what I want to say here is that the discourse on exclusion may in itself become an exclusive factor. What happens here could be called double exclusion c. Rahkonen , which means that exclusion is not caused only by social mechanisms but also by the discourse on exclusion itself. Who wants to be called excluded?

When speaking about the excluded we make a distinction between them — the excluded — and ourselves — the included. This is an oversimplification, because one can be excluded in one arena, but included in many other arenas. Even the so called included people can be excluded from some arenas or subcultures — one may just not think of this as exclusion, because those arenas are not necessarily highly valued socially.

The excluded are, then, seen as a rather homogeneous group, and this is also true of the included as a group. In reality we are all different in many ways. The discourse on exclusion is frightfully good at hiding these differences while bringing just one single difference into the limelight. When one says that someone is excluded, one is at the same time making the assumption that he or she is outside our community and our society. This assumption can be questioned from two directions. Firstly one might ask whether anyone can ever really be outside society.


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  5. Is it possible to get outside society even if you want to? Secondly, and on the other hand: We live in an individualized age, and one often comes across worried statements about the loss of community, loss of family values and common values, and even claims purporting the end of society. What are the excluded excluded from, if all this is true? And where are they to be included? The discourse on exclusion is yet another way of talking about diminishing community. It shows how fragile our community is, and in doing so it does even more: Is all well in the best of worlds? Are the included happy?

    Why do so many studies tell of depression and stress? Exclusion is often exclusion from work, but many of those who work suffer from work-related illnesses and from the consequences of too much overtime. Even schoolchildren and high school students suffer from stress and mental problems. This is also the goal of the European union. Globally this competition widens the gulf between rich and poor nations. Also the ecological consequences of this drive can be disastrous.