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Post-industrial Solidarity or Meritocracy?

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The article deals with present forms of social and system integration and discusses what institutional reforms and new formations of actors and coalitions could counteract social exclusion in a way that takes post-industrial conditions into account. The term 'social exclusion' is primarily used in the European discourse, while the concept of an 'underclass' is normally used in the Anglo-Saxon discourse. These two discourses take very different approaches to what can be seen as the forces undermining societal harmony and social coherence. A paradox is identified between the rejection of class theory in most contemporary dominant social theory and the emergence of a new 'underclass'. It is argued that, today, the real missing link is the analysis of the growing power of elites. Whereas the underclass has been almost over-researched, the analysis of new elite formation, collective action, and coalition-building by powerful actors is almost absent. Therefore, the concept of social exclusion should be linked to the concept of social polarization.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 1999

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