In this article I set out some principles about the new social exclusion, concluding that the appearance of the new excluded is the most convincing indicator that the social matter has changed its essence. I ask your attention to the way how development and its recent changes may transform the “new poor” into the necessary excluded which contributes with its income/taxes for the support of the state machine, and the “old poor” in the unnecessary and dangerous excluded from the financial point of view. A process in which the “new poor” tends to become the “new old poor” that inherits the whole social condition of the “old poor”. An orientation that can be diverted, if social policy is taken up in other terms, that is reflected in the individual and not only in numbers.

This article results from my previous one on New Poverty and is the development of one of its points – The New Poverty versus The New Social Exclusion.


I am outlining in this article some principles of my research on the New Social Exclusion. I do this succinctly, in a set of conjectures, more or less developed, and summarize the results that I have reached, up to the current point of my investigation, in the form of hypotheses. I draw a research dilemma, since the results are live and muting, allowing moving in that direction.

I invite you to read my previous article, The New Poverty, where this theme is launched and which is mandatory to the understanding of the present one.
The subject of social injustice, in its present form, is contemporary to the process of evolution of modern society between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This topic of study, and debate between sociologists and philosophers since that time, fades and resurfaces whenever new factors appear influencing the normal course of history. This resurgence is always wearing the fashion of the times and marking, for example, the nineteenth-century Europe with the industrial revolution.


The invention of the expression social exclusion is attributed to Rene Lenoir, Secretary of State for Social Work in the French Chirac government, who published Les Exclus: Un Francais sur dix, (The excluded: One in 10 French) 1974. The excluded of Lenoir included a wide variety of individuals, not only the poor, but also disabled, suicidal, elderly, abused children, substance abusers, etc. The expression gained popularity during the 1980s, a period of economic crisis and restructuring like the current one, crisis of social state and social policies. The term has been used to refer to the various types of social difficulty related to emerging new social problems such as unemployment, ghetto appearances and changes in the family’s way of life. The old welfare state was unable to solve these problems and triggered the development of new social policies.


The ordinary citizen confuses the main subjects of the topic of social injustice: poverty, exclusion and inequality.

Poverty means the condition in which individuals from a given society find themselves without sufficient financial resources to live with dignity, or who do not have basic living conditions. The definitions of dignified life and basic conditions always establish social and historical definitions, alternating in time. Abranches (1985) speaks of poverty as the “material destitution”.

The concept of social inequality alludes, as is well known, to the differentiated distribution of wealth produced or detained by a part of the society.
Although close, the terms inequality and poverty are clearly distinct, not implying one necessarily the other. Therefore, a country may have unequal inequality in the distribution of its wealth without the existence of poor people. Or yet it may have a difference in the distribution of wealth, with most of its individuals in a poverty condition. Of course, the term of absolute and not relative poverty is used here. Clearly, socially excluded individuals may not be in a situation of poverty but, on the other hand, poverty represents a situation of exclusion because poor people are excluded from participating in social, economic and political life.

These two concepts are as different from each other as from the concept of social exclusion. The last one is closer to the breaking point of the social bond. By similarity, it is also close to the concept of stigma. In this case the difference lies in the occurrence that the excluded does not need to commit any transgression, being this condition attributed to him by the external environment, without having contributed directly or indirectly to the fact.

From Durkheim’s point of view, social exclusion is one of the side effects of the breakdown of the bonds of solidarity conducive to modern society, sometimes replaced by ties of traditional solidarity. As I wrote in my previous article , these ties only satisfy the basic life needs of the individual not promoting his life to get out of this situation. The everyday life sociology (Maffesoli, 1991) tries to develop, under the idea of sociality, ties of “mechanical solidarity” that alternate the ties of “organic solidarity” in route of fragmentation. Community principles and symbolic values are launched with the intention of suppressing emptiness created by the way in which social cohesion is broken up. Both theories contain a symbolic greatness – an interactionist school (Goffman, 1975), and a material greatness, a defect of global social cohesion. Thus, exclusion occurs through the breakdown of social bonds. Xiberras (1993) will point out the presence of a rupture with three links: individual, community and social. As if exclusion were in the direction of consecutive and increasing breaks. Concepts related to Castels that will focus on the different paths of exclusion in the urban environment (1991).

The term exclusion

The term social exclusion refers to the act of excluding; even if the most comprehensive sociological concept refers to a social process of intolerance or rejection. That is, a representation that has obstacles in recognizing in the other individual the rights who are inherent to him. Thus the excluded breaks the social bond, developing particular community bonds, as a way of survival in society. They are vestiges of a divided social cohesion or of the variety of principles of solidarity in the same social space.

There are three forms, from the sociological point of view, of the term social exclusion. The first one already described above is the most generalized conception. Thus, the concept of social exclusion approaches those of discrimination of any order, be it racial, sexual, religious or ethnic, that is, discrimination seen as a form of social exclusion. Gypsies, criminals, drug addicts, etc., seen as excluded social groups, who still participate in social life, but in very particular ways of socialization. Although they are not excluded from rights, their diversity is neither accepted nor tolerated. They then lead to confusion with groups of stigma or deviant.

In the second form, the non-recognition of the individual manifests itself in a visible exclusion of rights.

These social groups without integration into the world of work, as a consequence, do not have the minimum required basic life conditions. This disintegration generates the effect of social non-insertion. Paugam labels them as “disadvantaged” (1992), and Castels calls them “unaffiliated” (1991). They end up being confused with the “new poor”. In addition to the effects of discrimination, they also suffer from the exclusion of rights. Like the new poor, for the reasons explained in my article on the “New Poverty”, they suffer the exclusive process of not integrating the world of rights or being wholly or partially driven out of it.

The third interpretation is nothing less than the New Exclusion. Here non-recognition goes beyond denial or rejection of rights. It is included in a “refusal of the space of the obtaining of rights” (Hannah Arendt). This social group tends to “have no right to have rights” previously acquired, achieved, through the imposition of government measures – Government Budget, with retroactivity, which in one way or another would run against the Constitutional Rights. Without being recognized as such, the tendency is to exclude them differently. Looking to this thematic, there is currently social exclusion – New Exclusion – without necessarily existing social inequality (distinct division of wealth). Just as there is no need for having an old poverty status, being the old poor, for this phenomenon to occur, it is only needed to have acquired the New Poverty status. Although closely related, the three concepts can be treated separately, with some independence, which contracts or increases according to the subject matter under analysis.


The divergence between the three themes, poverty, inequality and exclusion can also be understood as compared to the process of modern society organization, specially the ideal that feeds it. Modern society is conceived as an open society, of great social mobility, in which the individual establishes himself as a central character. The initial conception is that of generality, putting away the concept of exteriority, thus originating as consequence an important phase of history, constituted by two distinct areas in collision. Firstly the area of legal-political equality, a single law which considers equality amongst men and secondly the area of inequality in accessing material goods.

Social inequality in our society has an inherent concrete understanding to the method of competition and development, where the centre of technological innovation and economic and social dynamism are located. The inequality between peers in an open mobility society implies that it has an exceptional dynamism. The mobility that characterizes the current society causes each one to be in charge of the place holded in the social dimension. There is, however, a negative understanding because inequality is opposed to the conception of equality. This negative equation is more externalized when social groups are brought in line with the space of absolute poverty, especially on the threshold of survival.

Thus, inequality within certain limits, such as lack, is not a problem for modern society, but is actually one of its basic components.

If relative poverty is only a consequence of inequality, absolute poverty has another perception and its existence does not create a real problem for modern society, its presence is always perceived as temporal, normal. These are moments of great technological innovation that provoke unemployment, and global financial instability that reduces family income, which lead certain social groups to situations of lack. To cope with these moments, both social and individual, modern society conceived mechanisms of protection that ended up in the State of Social “Well-Being” (Rosanvalon, 1981). Contrary, social exclusion, while distancing social groups from the egalitarian space, is a problem for modern society, because it directly opposes its ideal. In a sense, social exclusion is a permanent threat, jointly, to the existence of equal space between peers and the absence of the externality characteristic of our society. On the one hand, it removes or impedes the access of certain individuals to the world of equality, contradicting the existence of a single unique universal law. On the other hand, it generates an unacceptable exterior for modernity, which has always been claimed to be unique and universal.

Understanding social exclusion as a problem for the formation of modern society, the desire for a future of equality for all, which Montesquieu called Treaty of the Foundation of our Society, is evident the repulsion to anti-democratic ideologies throughout Europe. In this way, the first general hypothesis arises: social exclusion as expulsion from the egalitarian space or non-recognition of the rights of the others (not as social discrimination), considering them as non-alike, is a threat to modernity. Taking into account that we are facing a growing global phenomenon, the question arises – what is the new social exclusion?


Prior to the explanation about the essence of the new social exclusion it is needed to insert another key concept of the problem. That social exclusion is a fact of multiple extensions. Thus, we begin by the historical facts.

I would like to mention again that the dilemma of social exclusion is not recent. Foucault duly proved the process of its formation and validation in the eighteenth century.

Xenophobia and racism are the two most noticeable forms. Currently the phenomenon has new manifestations not fully studied, nowadays the social exclusion is directly linked to the society in creating employment for its individuals, or in assigning a minimum income that guarantees them basic life conditions.

Along with the historical factors, social exclusion has economic causes at its origin, especially in the aspect it has recently assumed. The worsening of unemployment and social inequality lead to social groups that do not have access to material goods that symbolize belonging to a group in general and mainly those who cannot get a job. Here we have as influential factors the scientific-technological revolution as a more comprehensive type, and the multiple crises since the 70’s as a more conjunctural type.

The question that arises for us researchers is, in what way the results of this scientific-technological change are not regressive, the spread of new technologies creating new jobs that can reduce unemployment. Others perceive something more substantive, such as full employment being impossible, because of the distinct character of this scientific-technological change.

Today it is impossible to say who is right, the protectors of the temporary factor of unemployment have very strong historical arguments, and the protectors of the appearance of the new type of society, in which work is a rarity, have relevant experimental data.

There is no intention here to enter into a controversy, it is merely to point out that the new excluded are catalogued by the unemployment situation or the lack of sufficient income for their basic needs of to live, becoming the new poor. We will understand the fact of the New Social Exclusion if we introduce another, and also important, extension of the social role. So, the non-inclusion in the world of employment is completed with the social non-inclusion. As people cannot recover their lost ties, they are led to elaborate survival plans of the most extreme that can be imagined, as Carretero (1993) points out, recognized plans that he calls sickness projects as the way that the excluded find to calm down their torment and acquire some social attention, some compassion that leads at the moment to the gratification with an alms, thus rewarding a non social recognition.

It is concluded that the New Social Exclusion is built up in a process:

– Economic, with the exclusion of the world of employment;

– Cultural, for the non-recognition and / or denial of rights;

– Social, with the breakdown of social and community ties.

If we take the citizenship categories of Marshal, it can be said that, besides the exclusion of the world of the economy, the new excluded are in the process of being excluded from social rights and, as a consequence, in danger of restrictions of citizenship in the political space, once their voice and demonstration begins to be ignored.

It is evident that everything that has been explained is about a hypothesis to be proven, and that in international terms is based on elucidative experimental data, taking into account that it is a living and mutant process requires permanent investigation to understand and combat the phenomenon.


Based on these hypotheses it is feasible to anticipate where the new social exclusion is based, to be able to enter in detail in the European scope. I ask your attention for the fact that we are before the formulation of a generalist hypothesis that will need further investigation, but we cannot fail to address.

The new social exclusion is a process that relates several quantities and develops with the evolution of times and history. It is therefore a living and mutant process in each passing second, in which nothing can be assured from a future point of view.

For now, there is a hunch that the present scientific-technological process produces fundamental reforms both in labour relations, and in the nature of the world of employment. It is a well-known problem, fewer and fewer individuals are needed in order to ensure the widespread proliferation of society. With this technological process, the exchange and increase of the intelligence is initiated, contrary to the past processes that only changed the muscular energy. With the automatism of the productive process and the use of new materials human force is increasingly unnecessary, thus digging up social inequality in terms of per capita income with a direct consequence on the individuals’ lifestyle. We are faced with a new type of unemployment, the structural one, which each country responds in a different way, according to its geographic nature, corporate culture and, above all, the capacity for evaluation and deliberation of politicians.

The main problem in this process is that a more significant number of people become the industry waste. Not only do they not have a job, so unable to generate enough income, as well as they are losing their skills, needed to rejoin the process. They become poor with totally modern social characteristics, completely mutating their social role.

Here individuals, in addition to losing their productive contribution, become economically useless and only become a burden on society and the state.

With these galloping social mutations, these individuals, besides being socially discriminated, are seen as threatening individuals to the society, due to the growth of urban violence, which is a constant, and which society attributes to those who in some way have a lack of work and income, to ensure their survival and of their families, whether they do it or not.

Forms of intolerance increase in European cities, with the growth of xenophobia, and the disadvantaged, for various reasons, including that of political incompetence, the new excluded are gradually removed from social space.


It is curious to note that the struggle for political and social integration succeeds along with the process of creating an economic market, with high social mobility and transformations in educational and occupational structures, always according to the different social categories. Women have acquired a high status in their social position. However, this process was also simultaneous with the increase of social inequality. At the same time that Europe grew to extraordinary levels, inequality in the social structure increased. The middle class has been disappearing, transforming itself into the high middle class or in the new poverty.

Social inequality has continued to increase with the EU economic model but poverty declined in the 1990s. It was noted in this decade a contradiction, the cohesion of society within a growing inequality.

Thus the novelty of the 1990s was not the reduction of inequality, simultaneously with the decline in the rate of growth, but in the fact that the groups of poor are within society with a reduction of absolute poverty. These groups remained stationary throughout the decade. Poverty moved more and more from the interior to the city, and globally from the interior of Europe to the coast. What happened in reality was that society maintained the same percentage of poor, its visibility is what increased, thus provoking its new exclusion.

The bibliographies on the motto of social injustice went from the problem of social inequality to that of poverty. The poor and their living conditions as well as their social roles have become the focus of research, and the poverty theme has fallen.

The social issue has shifted to the problem of exclusion. Perceived however as the intrinsic risk of forming a two-way society as a result of the crisis, developing a social chaos, and as a result of the reasoning of the current economic policy, developing the separation.

The space of social representation becomes less favourable to the new excluded and the state suspends its social policies. There are two possibilities left for them:

– to cope with the situation of material deprivation, theirs and their descendants, because the opportunities to overcome the limits of poverty tend to escape from their perspective of life;

– violate the law in isolation or in groups, to raise forms of subsistence for themselves and for their own.

The current violence, as Machado (1993) suggests, has the outlines of a kind of urbanity as a response of revolt to the society that does not present solutions, but, instead, aggravates the mechanisms of expulsion.


As last hypothesis, we have that our system of Development depends on a new type of social exclusion, New Exclusion, in which the result is the modification of the “new poor” in the necessary excluded that contributes with their income to the support of the state machine, and the “old poor” in the unnecessary and dangerous excluded, from the economics point of view, only consuming the State Social Budget and not contributing at all. A process in which the “new poor” tends to evolve and acquire the status of “old poor” and to inherit the whole social condition of the “Old Poverty”, threatening from the social point of view as a law transgressor.

Is thus a social group that ceases to be economically necessary, becomes politically cumbersome and socially threatening, and can therefore be socially eliminated. This last point is the pillar of the New Social Exclusion.

This propensity, the expulsion of the consumer society, due to the loss of income, precedes that of the political and social relationships, which is ultimately the impulse for the exclusion of life. As a consequence, the only social movement in development is that of the Third Sector. It could be seen as a sign of hope, but it is also a sign of fear. Of hope because there is a strong solidarity in the society, and of fear because the signs of a closing society are increasing. After all, the third sector may be the last of the social movements born.

Thus, it will be necessary to retain internally excluded groups. Between the current situation and that of social separation, the most extreme form of exclusion, there is a long period of time to be covered. To say that it is still possible to reverse the process before more individuals fall into the situation of New Poverty and these in the situation of New Exclusion.

The serious situation is not so much in its imminence, but in the fact that it is only resolvable with a different approach from facing social dynamics. Nowadays, theories and social policies that embody the effect of integration simply do not result in the current context. The emergence of increasingly excluded new people is the clear indication that the social theme has changed its essence. Bit by bit it assumes new contours, still uncertain, that rational policies are not foreseen for their minimization. The states at this time of severe crisis would have every interest in employing the knowledge of their sociologists to understand the process, rather than experimenting with policies developed by perfect strangers (political unacquainted) of social reality, which, as I have already referred, govern people as if they were numbers.

I am dropping here a new hypothesis to be investigated. A new phenomenon that I understand is already a group present in today’s society. Those I have discussed in my previous paper, New Poverty, which in some way for reasons beyond their control have lost part of the income that guaranteed them the basic life condition, and which has worsened with the recessive spiral of social and economic policies, end up losing their jobs and becoming the New Old Poor.

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion, when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing, when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors, when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you, when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed.

Ayn Rand, Russian-American Philosopher, 1920

Antonio Evaristo


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