Contested Concepts in Gender and Social Politics

Contested Concepts in Gender and Social Politics

Edited by Barbara Hobson, Jane Lewis and Birte Siim

An important contribution to the current literature on gender and social politics, this book challenges mainstream thinking on welfare states, citizenship, family, work, and social policy. Contested Concepts in Gender and Social Politics analyses the corresponding shifts in political discourse, and the changes in socio-political configurations that mirror changing gender relations.

Chapter 4: Social exclusion and gender relations

Mary Daly and Chiara Saraceno

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, family and gender policy


Mary Daly and Chiara Saraceno Exclusion has long been a central idea in feminist analysis. For feminists exclusion was a way of understanding women’s social situation and a basis for political mobilization. Feminists understood exclusion in a broad way, to refer not just to the absence, marginalization or subordination of women in different social spheres but to women’s position vis-à-vis power relations in the public, private and symbolic domains. Thus, exclusion as part of a feminist critique served to radically expose the contradictions and tacit assumptions governing the polity and its self-representations (see also Chapters 2 and 5 on citizenship and contractualization, respectively). This understanding of exclusion never fully informed mainstream discourse that utilized the concept to define individuals and groups living on the margins of society due to some personal or biographical deficit, for example, the mentally ill, the handicapped and so forth. In this latter understanding exclusion did not invoke an analysis of power relations and rather than questioning the core of the polity directed attention to its side-effects (if at all). Recent years have seen a change. Exclusion, now with the word ‘social’ attached, has developed as a concept that speaks also to the polity. Social exclusion in this new version evokes those who are outside/different, not partaking of mainstream resources and values because of processes within the polity itself. Such processes include restructuring in the labour market, diffusion of conditions of vulnerability and exposure to risks across the life...

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