The term 'social exclusion' originated from France, nearly three decades ago, where its application is generally credited to Rene' Lenoir when he was Secretaire d'Etat a l'Action Sociale (Lenoir 1974). Initially, French socialist politicians used social exclusion to refer to individuals who were not covered by the social security system. The groups included single parents, the physically disabled, substance abusers and people with mental health problems (International Labour Organisation 1998). Over time the term broadened to cover other groups seen as excluded, for example, disaffected youth, the unemployed and the homeless.
Silver (1994) argues that the European endorsement of social exclusion was a response to new social divisions emerging in contemporary society. The divisions were the product of a multitude of processes. These included the impact, since the 1970s, of global restructuring, which was characterised by high levels of unemployment, a rapid decline in manufacturing industry and an increase in information technology, along with a series of protracted economic recessions. In the French context, social exclusion was a response to the perception that wider economic inequality was increasing and social cohesion was being undermined. The term was broadened to encompass 'spatial concentrations of disadvantage' in the late 1980s, after a number of violent incidents on French social housing estates (Silver 1994).
Subsequently, the terminology of social exclusion was adopted by the European Commission in its mandate to report, on a European wide basis, about prevailing levels of poverty and unemployment. 'Social exclusion' was substituted for 'poverty' within European Union poverty programs from the 1990-1994 programs onwards (Room 1995). In this instance, social exclusion proffered a way of combating the problem whereby individual European Union member states could not agree on a proposed objective for combating poverty.. As a term, social exclusion was politically more palatable than poverty, and general enough in meaning to appeal to individual member states with different welfare regimes and often-conflicting interests. As Marsh and Mullins (1998: 751) state, social exclusion provided a way for “member states to commit themselves to an imprecise, but nonetheless worthy-sounding mission”.
THE LINKS BETWEEN SOCIAL EXCLUSION AND HOUSING
Given the multitude of factors and interrelationships implicated in causing social exclusion, it would be expected that any academic and policy discussion of the concept would consider the role of housing. Housing is the main item of the family budget and without State assistance, many low-income families could not access decent and affordable housing. It is equally apparent that disadvantaged individuals end up living in particular neighbourhoods, spatially concentrated with like individuals. However, although within the literature spatial concentration is considered a key aspect of social exclusion (Forrest & Kearns 1999), the role of housing is less discernible (Marsh & Mullins 1998). In view of this finding, this chapter commences by outlining the key elements constituting housing and summarises how each of these elements might relate to the processes and outcomes involved in social exclusion. Then the literature on 'social exclusion and the spatial dimension of inequality', and ...