Participation and exclusion : a qualitative study of processes of power and inequality in area-based initiatives in an English town
The processes of three area-based initiatives relating to health provision, urban and neighbourhood renewal in Luton are used to examine whether political participation affects social exclusion. Government policies presume that increased participation reduces exclusion, while critical literature questions the type of participation produced in state initiatives, and also whether the discourse of exclusion adequately articulates social inequality. Participation is analysed in its relations to power, the political and to a social typology. Exclusion is analysed by delineating its contested meaning, and developing a dialectical model of inclusion and exclusion, that enables exclusion to be prefigured both as an analytical concept and as a critical component for exploring inequality. This thesis explores the processes of participation and exclusion via voluntary and community groups by presenting a predominantly qualitative analysis of the frameworks and processes of participation and the circumstances and experiences of exclusion. The study finds that: • The participation of the voluntary and community groups in the initiatives was on an unequal basis with the statutory sector, it was constrained by bureaucratic procedures, and led to a combative relationship between the sectors in two of the initiatives. • The voluntary and community sectors -elements of which are here characterised as "remedial movements" -had some effects on micro-and mesolevel processes, but no direct effect on macro-policy that controls the initiatives. Participation in the groups and initiatives faced a number of structural dilemmas. • Social exclusion in the areas was heterogeneous, but associated with the lack of interactional processes that enable inclusion. The range of experiences of exclusion demonstrated what I shall define as an "inequality of capabilities for inclusion". The research concludes that participation via initiatives does not necessarily result in the total incorporation of the voluntary and community sector, and claims for rights to be recognised had both achieved gains and reflected an antagonistic, if complementary, approach by some groups to the state. If the aim is to increase participation, however, the evidence implies that it needs to be consistently driven; that while the initiatives have affected exclusion, their effects have been limited and are fragile, and that reducing inequality is necessary to enable inclusive participation.