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Towards an actor-oriented approach to social exclusion: a critical review of contemporary exclusion research in a Swedish social work context

Journal article
Authors Tobias Davidsson
Frida Petersson
Published in European Journal of Social Work
Volume 21
Issue 2
Pages 167-180
ISSN 1369-1457
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Social Work
Pages 167-180
Language en
Keywords Social exclusion; social work; Sweden; critical perspectives; critical review
Subject categories Sociology, Social Work


Social exclusion has emerged as a key concept within Swedish social work research during the last decade. Yet, despite the plethora of conceptualisations put forward there is a dearth of critical discussion on potential pitfalls and limitations following this fragmentation. This article investigates the deployment of social exclusion in national social work research during the period 1999–2016. Three separate but linked research strands are identified: (1) a policy-absorbed approach, characterised by conceptual and analytical closeness to the Swedish policy discourse on exclusion, (2) a diluted approach, characterised by conceptual confusion and conflation and (3) an autonomous approach, distinguished by its conceptual and analytical distance from the official policy discourse on exclusion. Based on presented findings, we argue that there is need for an actor-oriented approach to social exclusion within social work research. We conclude with proposing a multi-level analytical framework that involves studying the sequence of events leading up to people being denied access to social, economic, material, cultural and/or political resources.

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