A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy
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A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy

Edited by Patricia Kennett

The current context of social policy is one in which many of the old certainties of the past have been eroded. The predominantly inward-looking, domestic preoccupation of social policy has made way for a more integrated, international and outward approach to analysis which looks beyond the boundaries of the state. It is in this context that this Handbook brings together the work of key commentators in the field of comparative analysis in order to provide comprehensive coverage of contemporary debates and issues in cross-national social policy research.
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Chapter 19: The International and Comparative Analysis of Social Exclusion: European Perspectives

Graham Room


Graham Room Introduction The analysis of social exclusion raises three methodological questions. First, how is social exclusion to be conceptualized? As a lack of financial resources, perhaps; or as poor housing, health and diet; or as detachment from the major institutions of society? Second, how is social exclusion to be measured? By reference to some financial poverty line; or in terms of the length of time for which an individual or household endures poor social conditions; or in terms of the range of social networks on which such a household can call in times of adversity? What are then the implications for organizations – especially public bodies – charged with the regular collection of data on such matters? Third, by reference to what theoretical and policy purposes is the investigation and analysis of social exclusion to be conducted? As a tool for allocating public resources between more or less deserving households or localities? As a means of illuminating competing theories of social deprivation? These three types of question are not of course peculiar to the study of social exclusion: they arise across many other areas of applied social science. Nor are they peculiar to international and comparative research. Nevertheless, this international and comparative dimension does give them a particular twist. In conceptualizing social exclusion, how far is it necessary to relate the analysis to the specific social and cultural features of the different countries being compared? If social exclusion is measured by reference to particular financial poverty lines, should these be...

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