Social Exclusion and Discrimination

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Do we, as citizens, have the ability to be included, to function and to participate fully in the varied aspects of today’s society? This essay will look at defining the terms described in the title by exploring research and theories that measure these problems. The essay will identify a group of people who experience one of these struggles, citing evidence to confirm this. The essay will also look at what can be done to prevent people being excluded, oppressed and discriminated against. Sociology is the study of human social behaviour, especially the study of the backgrounds, groups, establishments, and development of human society, and some theories help to decide why and how to choose between alternative distinctions (Payne 2005). Theories are statements of ideas, and Fook (2002) states that putting names to things help provide explanations and understanding of practice. Payne (2005, p6) stated that “ Because social work is a practical action in a complex world, a theory must offer a model of explicit guidance.” There are different sociological theories on social influences, and these are interesting in their comparisons. Emile Durkheim was a structural functionalist. He was also a positivist, believing that society conforms to unwavering laws and that there is an objective reality(Giddens 2001). He operated within a framework that sees society as a complex structure or system in which the parts work together to promote cohesion and stability (Dubois & Prade 1990). Structure in this context refers to any stable pattern of social behaviour; the function aspect is the examination of the consequences of individual actions for the operation of society as a whole. This perspective basically perceives all different parts of a society come together and work as one whole part, in which power is underplayed. This could mean that if an individual or group does not work with the rest of society then they may be excluded. Howe (2002) explains that sociology would be the backbone of the structural perspective within social work and would look at the political, economic and material environment in which people find themselves. He goes on to say that this theory encompasses an anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory perspective and that poverty, inequality and lack of social justice can seriously disadvantage some people and that these disadvantages can contribute to poor social functioning. Structural theorists maintain that these people are not a problem to society but that society has become a problem for them. However, functionalism is often criticized for not adequately explaining change, and placing too much order on order and stability. (Haralambos et al 2004) The conflict theorists view the society from an objective and hierarchical point of view. In this perspective some individuals are inferior to society. The basis of social order is power or intimidation and the only way to change within the society is through a power struggle in which there is a lot of competition. Social class is extremely important in this perspective for it defines an individual’s place in the pyramid of power. Karl Marx was the originator of the conflict theory and described societies like Britain as capitalist systems whereby rich employers and business owners with capital set up businesses which exploit working classes to generate maximum profits (Macionis & Plummer 2008). Therefore, according to this theory, the working classes could be discriminated against. Social exclusion is a multidimensional, dynamic concept which emphasises the processes of change through which individuals or groups are excluded from the mainstream of society and their life chances reduced. (Philip & Shucksmith 1999.) There is no agreed definition of social exclusion, but there are considered to be conditions that many agree are contributing factors. Shaw et al (2006) described social exclusion as affecting individuals or areas that suffer from linked problems...
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