Social Exclusion: Comparative Analysis of Europe and Middle East Youth
12 Dec 2007, Hilary Silver
Most typically, analyses of youth have employed either the neo-classical economic framework of human capital or the socio-demographic framework of lifecourse research in the Middle East. While both have produced important findings and insights, their focus on supply-side processes of individuals is limited. The role of institutions on the supply side is especially important in understanding youth disadvantage in the Middle East.
As research turns to the sources of youth disadvantage, comparative studies may fruitfully adopt a perspective oriented to the idea of social exclusion. Whatever the content and criteria of social membership, socially excluded groups and individuals lack capacity or access to social opportunity. Exclusion breaks the larger social bond holding groups together. Thus, exclusion is at once a macro and a micro phenomenon. The theoretical orientation of social exclusion can be distinguished from the previous two approaches in that it considers trajectories of group relations as well as relations between individuals, and examines not only those excluded, but also the excluding institutions and individuals that benefit from the process.
In this paper, we emphasize that social exclusion is context-specific, relationship, and multi-dimensional. Everyone goes through youth, and most of us are socially included, making the “normal” transition to adult social membership. However, studying the exclusion of youth as a status or group is justified insofar as age serves as a basis of social differentiation in both Europe and the Middle East that impedes full participation in adult social life. Thus, it is the intersection of youth with other dimensions of disadvantage that makes social exclusion a useful framework for analysis.