Post-industrial Solidarity or Meritocracy?
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.