Published August 1998
Social exclusion can be distinguished from social isolation, defining social isolation as the phenomenon of non-participation (of an individual or group) in a society's mainstream institutions, while reserving 'social exclusion' for the subset of cases in which social isolation occurs for reasonsthat are beyond the control of those subject to it. The familiar form of social exclusion affects those who are unable to participate in the institutions patronised by the majority. There is also, however, exclusion of the majority by a minority who are in a position to opt out of the mainstream institutions: the epitome of this is the 'gated community'. Social exclusion is a violation of the demands of social justice in two ways: it conflicts with equality of opportunity and is associated with an inability to participate effectively in politics. An alternative account of what is wrong with social exclusion is that it undermines social solidarity. Voluntary social isolation has the same effect, but is less likely to have such adverse consequences. The relation between social exclusion and the distribution of income is not the same in all societies. However, for a society such as that of Britain, it seems plausible that to avoid the social exclusion of a minority it is necessary for nobody to have less than half the median income, and that to avoid the social exclusion of the majority it is necessary for only a few to have more than three times the median income.