Exclusion and more specifically social exclusion stems from the denial of recognition on the part of a group of people of ‘the other or others’ exactly due do his/her alterity. In this sense the ‘the other’ is excluded from the functions of a community or group and therefore does not substantially enjoy the same rights and does not have the same opportunities as the people who are included in the group. 

Exclusion is an ideological principle that is internalized in the belief and value systems of people and is performed through their acts, judgements and attitudes. In this sense we can speak of an exclusionary mentality. 

Exclusion in other words is practiced and mostly threatens those who are divergent from a dominant moral, cultural, ethnic, gender attributing role or even economic paradigm as they are in an inferior power position towards the excluding community. Therefore the ‘divergent other(s)’ are the ones who are most vulnerable to suffer the consequences of exclusion.

Exclusionary practices can occur at any social level. On the micro level e.g. on the level of everyday social interaction or in a classroom, on the meso-level e.g. a school or any institution and on the macro level were the state legally excludes certain groups from its function, the most prominent example being the apartheid racial laws in South Africa that lasted until 1991(1).

The excluded other has always been socially and historically determined. For example, in classical Greece the ‘polis’ was inclusive towards its citizens but rigidly exclusionary to slaves, foreigners and women. The medieval city expelled the lepers mentally ill (2) and persecuted people and groups with different religious beliefs. Even in modern times we have the example of the USA racial segregation laws that were in force in the southern states until the introduction of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 (3).

  1.  On the macro level exclusion quite often occurs in ‘closed’ societies that distinguish themselves through their adherence to a rigid code of values that provide the groundwork for its strong identity characteristics (e.g. a community of white Christians) that are perceived as immutable through time.
  2. Foucault, M (2006) History of Madness  (Routledge, London)
  3. Το be precise the abolition started in 1948 and was completed in 1968 through a series of legislative interventions and court decisions in that direction. Nonetheless, the milestone is the introduction of the civil rights act in 1964