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This article focuses on explanations of housing inequality in relation to key social divisions such as 'race' and ethnicity. Much of the recent debate about these issues, both in the academic literature and in the sphere of politics (especially within the European Union) has been framed in terms of 'social exclusion'. It is argued that the term is used in a number of distinct senses, which leads to considerable confusion at a conceptual level and obscures rather than clarifies key theoretical issues. Its use also leads to oversimplified accounts of complex processes, and can in extremis lead to the pathologization of communities. In the latter case, its dangers mirror those of related concepts such as the 'underclass'. Illuminating the theoretical arguments in the current literature by reference to British data, the article concludes that the 'paradigm of social exclusion' should be jettisoned by social scientists in favour of a return to a serious analysis of social divisions within a context of debates about structure and agency.

Original publication




Journal article


Ethnic and Racial Studies

Publication Date





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