Immigration, 'ethnic minorities', and 'social exclusion' in the European Union: a critical perspective

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66 Scopus citations


In this paper, I explore the relationship between immigration, 'ethnic minorities', and so-called 'social exclusion' by questioning the concept of 'social exclusion' itself, and the stance of Brussels and individual European states on policies of 'integration'. Restricting my investigation to continental Europe, I present a critical analysis of both the existing literature on the relationship between immigration, 'ethnic minorities', and 'social exclusion', and of European policy. What I want to argue (or rather admonish) is that first, the term social exclusion is a 'chaotic concept' (similar to 'sustainability' or 'globalization') which has unfortunately come to eclipse a more sensitive understanding of the way in which marginalization plays itself out in particular European contents. Perhaps here we require a hermeneutic understanding of 'social exclusion' (from the perspective of those supposedly 'social excluded'), such as that offered by the emerging literacy work on migration (eg King et al., 1995). Second, I wash to adopt a more dialectical understanding and appreciation of 'social exclusion' and 'integration'. I argue that the distinction between exclusion and inclusion is far more ambigous than is implied by liberal academics and policy-makers. Third I present a critical reading of the academic literature on the economic, political, and social citizenship of immigrants and 'ethnic minorities'. I maintain that grand discourses which constitute the ideaological construction of nationhood continue to be significant in the social construction of social exclusion. I argue further that discussions of economic inclusion or exclusion based around the 'global cities paradigm' and the transition to 'post industrial society' are too theoretically simplistic and/or 'spatially fetishist', and I advance a certain conceptual apparatus for situating immigrants and ethnic minorities in European labour markets. Finally, I argue that immigrants and ethnic minorities continue to participate politically in diverse ways which services to counter simplistic conceptions of 'social exclusion'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-144
Number of pages22
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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