Biography and Social Exclusion in Europe: Experiences and Life Journeys

Biography and Social Exclusion in Europe: Experiences and Life Journeys

Biography and Social Exclusion in Europe: Experiences and Life Journeys

Biography and Social Exclusion in Europe: Experiences and Life Journeys

Synopsis

Throughout Europe, standardised approaches to social policy and practice are being radically questioned and modified. Beginning from the narrative detail of individual lives, this book re-thinks welfare predicaments, emphasising gender, generation, ethnic and class implications of economic and social deregulation.

Excerpt

Michael Rustin and Prue Chamberlayne

This book describes the life experiences of individuals in contemporary Europe whose lives have been marked by one or more forms of ‘social exclusion’, as this term has come to be used over the past decade or so (Askonas and Stewart, 2000; Levitas 1998). We try to make meaningful such experiences as being made redundant, being blocked in a career, leaving school without qualifications, finding a place as a migrant in a European country, or bringing up children as a ‘single parent’. These were among the life contingencies that had originally led to individuals being selected for our study sample in the Social strategies in risk society (Sostris) research project, upon which this volume is based.

The project’s research was undertaken between 1996 and 1999, and was funded by the eu Targeted Socio-Economic Research Programme 4 on Social Exclusion. Its aim was to investigate the experience of individuals who found themselves excluded, or at risk of exclusion, from important spheres of life in their societies. For, of the categories of risk that we chose – early retirement, loss of work for traditional industrial workers, unemployment among graduates, and unemployment among unqualified young adults – all were related to the labour market. This choice reflected widespread concern about unemployment in Europe during the 1990s. the other two categories – single parenthood, and migration or membership of an ethnic minority – highlighted dimensions of gender, race and civic status. Our research was conducted in seven European nations – Britain, France, Germany (in particular the former German Democratic Republic), Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden. We studied samples of individuals in all of the categories in each nation. Our project team comprised small teams of researchers from each country. the biographical interviews and other data collection were undertaken by the separate national teams, on the basis of agreed protocols. However, analysis of the data, and reflection on its meanings, was guided by regular joint research conferences at which the contextual knowledge and theoretical understanding of the different teams were intensively shared. in the third year, a second phase of the research was devoted to studying examples of ‘flagship social agencies’ within each country. These were agencies that were developing new practices in working with individuals who were facing problems of social exclusion. the research project drew on other work with which its members were engaged: sociobiographical . . .

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