Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Challenging Urban Exclusion? Theory and Practice

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Challenging Urban Exclusion? Theory and Practice

Article excerpt

Abstract: Urban exclusion has become one of the most studied subjects in the areas of both urban studies and exclusion studies. The problem is interpreted as a range of serious issues affecting the very social order of contemporary cities. Urban exclusion hinders the equal and sustainable development of society, hence leading policymakers to try and employ different programmes focused on tackling urban exclusion. Although their overall aims are similar, their specific means and measures differ significantly. However, it is important to ask whether the phenomenon of urban exclusion is sufficiently specific enough to allow for the development of particular effective approaches to challenge it.

Keywords: urban affairs, urban exclusion, social inclusion, social integration, tackling urban exclusion.

Social differentiation is an immanent attribute of every society. Once differences begin to be perceived as inequalities, and start to be interpreted as social problems, the serious question arises: how can we name and describe these differences? Problems of this kind appear to become even more difficult when attempts are made to characterise the social inequalities visible in the city, an allegory of modern society. From the beginnings of urban societies, cities have been places in which social differences have appeared most striking. Poverty and wealth, hopelessness and power, social disrespect and esteem - all found gathered cheek by jowl in a relatively small space. At first, such differences may simply have contributed to the tapestry of urban colour, but since the beginning of modern urbanisation, they have developed into serious social problems. The contrasts have become too vivid, have brought with them too many serious consequences, and have exasperated decent citizens, public opinion, and city governments. Urban exclusion has become, as a result, one of the most intensely studied subjects in both urban studies and exclusion studies (Madanipour, Cars and Allen 1998; Musterd and Ostendorf 1998; White 1995; Healy 1997; Andersen and van Kempen 2001).

All of the processes described here as part of urban exclusion are seen by urban researchers and practitioners as serious problems. As such, they are found to affect not only the quality of life, but also the very social order, of contemporary cities, and are often perceived as serious threats to society as a whole. Urban exclusion hinders the equal, sustainable development of society. Thus governments at different levels (from local municipal governments to supranational ones, such as the European Commission) attempt to use specific programmes to tackle urban exclusion. Their overall aims are similar, but the specific means and measures they employ differ significantly. The aim of this article is to review the variety of contemporary sociological concepts of urban exclusion, as well as the means that have been proposed to tackle this phenomenon. It also aims to answer the question of whether urban exclusion is specific enough to allow the development of particular effective approaches for challenging it. The paper is organized in the following way: Initially, as necessary background, concepts of poverty, marginalisation, and deprivation will be described. The second part contains a description of the concept of social exclusion. The third part focuses on urban exclusion, and its significance in contemporary societies. In the fourth section, social inclusion and integration are described as opposites of exclusion. The last part of the paper discusses types of approaches and programs that have been implemented against urban exclusion.

Concepts of Poverty, Marginalisation, and Deprivation

In the early days of modernisation, a simple concept of poverty was sufficient enough to describe the phenomena of social inequality. Poverty could be defined as the inability to achieve an adequate standard of living. Such a popular definition is entirely relative: 1 the adequateness of living standards can vary across time and space. …

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