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Sociology Social Closure
by
Juergen Mackert

Introduction

“Social closure” is one of the most basic terms and concepts in sociology. Basically, closure refers to processes of drawing boundaries, constructing identities, and building communities in order to monopolize scarce resources for one’s own group, thereby excluding others from using them. Society is not a homogenous entity but is instead internally structured and subdivided by processes of social closure. Some social formations, such as groups, organizations, or institutions, may be open to everybody, provided they are capable of participation, while access to most others is limited due to certain criteria that either allow people to become members or exclude them from membership. Therefore, social closure is a ubiquitous, everyday phenomenon that can be observed in almost every sphere and place in the social world. Members of societies experience closure from the very beginning of their social life. To be excluded from certain groups starts at school, where presumably homogenous classes begin to subdivide into distinct peer groups or sports teams. Here, exclusion may be rather arbitrary, but the experience of having a door slammed in one’s face proceeds in cases, where inclusion depends on formal rules or preconditions. Access to private schools follows explicit rules and depends on financial capacities; access to university depends on a certificate or diploma, eventually from certain schools only; membership in a highly prestigious club depends on economic and social capital and the respective social networks; and finally, in the case of migration, people will have to be eligible for citizenship and pass the thorny path of naturalization. However, it is not just the enormous plurality of forms that makes social closure crucial for sociology. Rather, the process of closure of social relations—of groups, organizations, institutions, and even national societies—is the fundamental process of both “communal” (Vergemeinschaftung) and “associative” relationships (Vergesellschaftung), and neither would be possible without social closure. In this broad and fundamental sense, social closure is not restricted to processes in national societies. It even allows for understanding crucial processes of the way the social world is organized at the regional or global level.

Classical Sociology

Processes of social closure are of fundamental significance in the work of the founding fathers of sociology, either in analyzing modern societies or in comparing them with premodern societies. Any sociological debate on social closure descends from Max Weber’s basic sociological term, “open and closed social relations” (see Weber 1978). Reinterpreting Tönnies’s important distinction between “communal” relationships (Vergemeinschaftung) and “associative” relationships (Vergesellschaftung) Weber 1978 shows that social closure lies at the heart of both of them (see Tönnies 1963). Simmel 1964 refers to closure in different contexts, especially in discussing social conflict and processes of individualization, and not least in his debate on the sociology of secrecy and secret societies (see Simmel 1906, cited under Closure Effects in Total Institutions and Secret Societies). Further, Karl Marx’s historical analyses of modes of production (Marx 1968) and class theory (Marx 1887) are implicitly based on social closure, insofar as specific criteria are essential for people’s belonging to one class or another. Even Émile Durkheim’s comparison between premodern and modern societies (Durkheim 1997) depends on differences of (degrees of) closeness.

  • Durkheim, Émile. 1997. The division of labour in society. Translated by W. D. Halls. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan.

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    English translation of De la Division du travail social: Étude sur l’organisation des societies supérieures, first published in 1902. Comparing the structure of premodern and modern societies, Durkheim argues that the structure of premodern societies was made up of closed segments, while modernity is much more open via the division of labor.

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  • Marx, Karl. 1887. Capital: A critical analysis of capitalist production. London: Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey.

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    English translation of Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, Vol. 1, first published in 1867. Marx discusses the economic structure of capitalism, arguing that processes of polarization generate two social classes that are completely detached from one another. No member of the proletariat would be allowed access to the bourgeoisie.

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  • Marx, Karl. 1968. The German ideology. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

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    English translation of Die Deutsche Ideologie, first published in 1845–1846. In Marx’s historical analysis of modes of production, belonging to a social class depends on private ownership of the means of production. This is the criterion that decides whether individuals belong to either bourgeoisie or proletariat in modern society.

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  • Simmel, Georg. 1964. Conflict and the web of group-affiliations. Edited by Kurt H. Wolff and Reinhard Bendix. New York: Free Press.

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    English translation of “Der Streit” and “Die Kreuzung sozialer Kreise,” first published in 1908. Simmel refers to closure in discussing forms of both conflict and processes of individualization in modern societies. He explicitly refers to social closure insofar as people choose their social circles deliberately but remain excluded from others.

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  • Tönnies, Ferdinand. 1963. Community and society. Translated and edited by Charles P. Loomis, et al. New York: Harper & Row.

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    English translation of Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, first published in 1887. In his main contribution to sociology, Tönnies distinguishes two different forms of association in modern society. Implicitly, he refers to closure processes and different degrees of openness in community and society.

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  • Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. Edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    English translation of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundriß der verstehenden Soziologie, first published in 1921–1922. Weber introduces the basic concept of “open and closed social relations.” He points to different degrees, criteria, and motivations for closure, exemplifying processes of monopolization with respect to both market relations and ethnic communities.

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Analytical Dimensions

The fundamental significance of social closure, as well as its crucial aspects, comes to mind as soon as we take a closer look at its preconditions and effects. First, social closure establishes boundaries of different kinds between those who are in and those who are out; second, closure processes produce a specific identity of those who are in; third, closure consequently triggers the creation of a certain community. However, these dimensions can be distinguished only analytically; empirically, they are always interconnected.

Boundaries

Processes of social closure generate boundaries, thereby including a collectivity and drawing a clear line between those who are in and those who are out. In the context of ethnologic studies, Barth 1969 developed a constructivist perspective on the creation of boundaries between different tribes. This perspective is elaborated in Abbott 1995. Further, following Pierre Bourdieu’s conception of symbolic struggles of distinction between social classes (Bourdieu 1979), Lamont and Fournier 1992 stresses and generalizes the significance of symbolic boundaries for processes of social closure, and also presents a multitude of areas of boundary drawing. Lamont and Molnár 2002 gives an overview of the significance of boundaries for creating differences between collectivities, which has become an important debate in sociology. Tilly 2004 offers an explanation of the processes that generate and modify social boundaries.

  • Abbott, Andrew. 1995. Things of boundaries. Social Research 62.4: 857–882.

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    The article argues for a constructivist perspective on boundaries. Abbott argues that boundaries do not separate preexisting entities but are created by human action that links boundaries into social units, thus separating them from one another and closing these social units.

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  • Barth, Frederik. 1969. Introduction. In Ethnic groups and boundaries: The social organization of cultural differences. By Frederik Barth, 9–38. Boston: Little, Brown.

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    Barth can be seen as a founding father of a constructivist view of boundary drawing. Contrary to essentialist conceptions, in his introduction he develops the idea that boundaries are not just given but created by social actors.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1979. Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

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    English translation of La Distinction: Critique social du jugement, first published in 1979. In this seminal study, Bourdieu presents an analysis of the kinds of social struggles between social classes that concentrate on symbolic boundaries with respect to social and cultural practices of the members of the classes.

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  • Lamont, Michèle, and Marcel Fournier, eds. 1992. Cultivating differences: Symbolic boundaries and the making of inequality. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    This volume presents analyses of different areas of social life. It covers important contributions and argues for understanding the significance of symbolic boundaries for a thorough understanding of social inequality.

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  • Lamont, Michèle, and Virág Molnár. 2002. The study of boundaries in the social sciences. Annual Review of Sociology 28: 167–195.

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    The review article discusses the plurality of aspects that are intrinsically linked with the generation of boundaries. It shows that closure plays a crucial role in this basic social process.

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  • Tilly, Charles. 2004. Social boundary mechanisms. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34.2: 211–236.

    DOI: 10.1177/0048393103262551Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article develops an explanatory approach. From a relational perspective, Tilly discusses social mechanisms that explain the formation and transformation of social boundaries on the one hand, and their activation and suppression on the other hand.

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Identities

The creation of identity usually depends on constructions of “we” and “they.” Different sociological traditions have analyzed these processes. In the realm of the sociology of knowledge, Merton 1972 discusses some of the most severe problems of dualistic conceptions for race relations, while Scotson and Elias 1994 interprets identity constructions in the context of the sociology of social conflict. Cultural sociology has contributed by analyzing the public discourse in American society, thereby pointing to a clear distinction between citizens and noncitizens (see Alexander and Smith 1993). In the area of relational sociology, Tilly 2005 shows that boundaries between all kinds of collectivities in fact exclude others by distinctly separating “us” and “them.”

  • Alexander, Jeffrey C., and Philip Smith. 1993. The discourse of American civil society: A new proposal for cultural studies. Theory and Society 22.2: 151–207.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00993497Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article argues that the discourse of American civil society is organized dualistically. While the in-group is attributed a number of positive aspects (the identity of citizens), noncitizens or immigrants are attributed the contrary qualities or characteristics.

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  • Merton, Robert K. 1972. Insiders and outsiders: A chapter in the sociology of knowledge. American Journal of Sociology 78.1: 9–47.

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    The article critically analyzes the conviction that members of one’s own social group are thought to have a privileged access to knowledge about themselves that no one else can share. With respect to race relations, Merton heavily criticizes this “Insider Doctrine.”

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  • Scotson, John L., and Norbert Elias. 1994. The established and the outsiders: A sociological enquiry into community problems. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    The book discusses the exclusion of newcomers in an English town by those already living there. The closure criterion here is the simple fact that the former were perceived to threaten the long established system of both the distribution of goods and resources and of consolidated power relations.

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  • Tilly, Charles. 2005. Identities, boundaries and social ties. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

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    The book refers to many processes that are crucial for identity constructions. The analytic approach is pathbreaking insofar as it refers to the methodological principle of storytelling that lies at the heart of the construction of identities: the principle of “we” and “they.”

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Community

Processes of social closure are crucial for the construction of a community. Following Weber’s basic concept of open and closed social relationships (see Weber 1978, cited under Classical Sociology), Neuwirth 1969 shows how processes of social closure trigger the emergence of specific communities in the black ghetto. Beyond the building of such small communities, mechanisms for creating them on larger scale are similar, as mechanisms of social closure always play a crucial role—as seen in Anderson 1983, an analysis of the creation of a nation. Each and every kind of community building requires both strategies and certain degrees of closure, from civil society (Somers 2008) to national societies (Walzer 1983) and up to the membership of states in international or supranational organizations. With respect to ethnicity and ethnic boundaries, Brubaker 2004 and Wimmer 2008 (following Barth 1969, cited under Boundaries) have made important contributions to an understanding of the construction and deconstruction of ethnic boundaries and problems of social closure. With respect to the construction of social groups, Hardin 1995 stresses the significance of exclusionary codes.

  • Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso.

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    One of the main arguments of the book is that the nation is an imagined community, since regardless of internal structure of classes or of inequality of exploitation (i.e., closed social relations), it is conceived as an entity of equals and comrades.

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  • Brubaker, Rogers. 2004. Ethnicity without groups. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    The book offers a constructivist approach to the creation of boundaries in order to constitute groups in a nonessentialist way. Thus, it develops a constructivist understanding of social closure in the process of generating communities.

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  • Hardin, Russell. 1995. One for all: The logic of group conflict. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    The book stresses the significance of exclusionary codes in coming to terms with the dynamics of group conflict. Contrary to universalistic norms, exclusionary norms require a certain degree of group separation. Norms of exclusion therefore also operate as norms of inclusion, separating both groups from one another.

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  • Neuwirth, Gertrude. 1969. A Weberian outline of a theory of community: Its application to the “Dark Ghetto.” British Journal of Sociology 20.2: 148–163.

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    Neuwirth’s article was the first to take up Weber’s conception of closure for investigating into processes of both community formation and community closure in the “Dark Ghetto.”

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  • Somers, Margaret R. 2008. Genealogies of citizenship: Markets, statelessness, and the right to have rights. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    The book criticizes the impact of market fundamentalism and discusses the consequences of this dominant ideology for the institution of citizenship. The idea of the “right to have rights” allows for analyzing how liberal ideology deprives American citizens of many of their citizenship rights, thus generating processes of exclusion.

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  • Walzer, Michael. 1983. Spheres of justice: A defense of pluralism and equality. New York: Basic Books.

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    From the perspective of a theory of distributive justice, the author defines membership and belonging to a human community as crucial for the distribution of goods among its members contrary to those who remain excluded, especially from a national society and certain markets.

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  • Wimmer, Andreas. 2008. The making and unmaking of ethnic boundaries: A multilevel process theory. American Journal of Sociology 113.4: 970–1022.

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    Discusses how ethnic boundaries are generated by classification struggles between actors. Wimmer advances a theoretical approach that, among other problems, discusses the crucial significance of the relation between social closure and “groupness.”

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The “Theory” of Social Closure

From the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, sociology witnessed a growing interest in the idea of social closure. Conceived of as a corrective of a number of shortcomings in then-dominant Marxist theory, the “theory of social closure” was one theoretical strand developed out of the broad Weberian concept (see Weber 1978, cited under Classical Sociology). This theory restricts closure analysis to processes of power, inequality, and conflict. Frank Parkin’s seminal contributions (Parkin 1974 and Parkin 1979) interpreted closure as political contention, noting that exclusion from resources may generate counterstrategies on the side of the excluded in order to reorganize the structure of distribution. Collins 1979 elaborated on this concept by stressing the role of both credentials and the professions in the operation of social closure in modern societies. On these grounds, Murphy 1984 and Murphy 1988 outlined what today is known as the “theory” of social closure (see also Mackert 2004). However, this “theory” has not been developed as theory proper, but instead remains a conceptual approach that has inspired a wide area of research in sociology.

  • Collins, Randall. 1979. The credential society: An historical sociology of education and stratification. New York: Academic Press.

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    The book discusses the ways that the stratified American education system contributes to the production and reproduction of social stratification, thereby establishing a system of closure that operates on the basis of credentials.

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  • Mackert, Jürgen, ed. 2004. Die Theorie sozialer Schließung: Tradition, Analysen, Perspektiven. Wiesbaden, Germany: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

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    The contributions in this edited volume offer an overview on closure theory’s state of development and its theoretical tradition; the authors present analyses in different fields of analysis as well as conceptual considerations for developing the theoretical approach.

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  • Murphy, Raymond. 1984. The structure of closure: A critique and development of the theories of Weber, Collins, and Parkin. British Journal of Sociology 35.4: 547–567.

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    The article argues in favor of a differentiation of dominant, deviated, and contingent structures of closure in societies that operate in ways that can reinforce and strengthen each other, while different forms and rules of closure may generate different kinds of closure.

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  • Murphy, Raymond. 1988. Social closure: The theory of monopolization and exclusion. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    Murphy’s outline of a “theory” of social closure is rather a theoretical approach. It is inspired by both Marxist structuralism and Weber’s theory of rationalization, and argues that closure will not vanish in modern societies but be transformed by further processes of rationalization, thereby generating more individualistic criteria of closure.

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  • Parkin, Frank. 1974. Strategies of social closure in class formation. In The social analysis of class structure. Edited by Frank Parkin, 1–18. London: Tavistock.

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    The article lays out basic concepts of a neo-Weberian kind of closure theory. Parkin introduces the basic concepts of exclusion, usurpation and dual closure that can allow for analyzing social closure as a conflict between excluding groups and those who fight for inclusion.

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  • Parkin, Frank. 1979. Marxism and class theory: A bourgeois critique. London: Tavistock.

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    Parkin argues that Marxism is no longer an adequate approach for sociology to analyze the complex social relations in modern societies that cannot be reduced to interclass relations. The idea of social closure is introduced to come to terms with intraclass relations like those between ethnic groups or communal groups.

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Neo-Weberian Analyses and Recent “Turns” in Theory

Closure theory has inspired a wide range of both theoretical and empirical research. Grusky and Sørensen 1998 discusses the role closure plays in the context of class analysis, while Coleman 1988 and Burt 2005 analyze closure with respect to the concept of social capital and networks. North, et al. 2009 discusses the significance of social closure with respect to forms of social orders. However, following Parkin’s idea that closure should be conceptualized politically as processes of exclusion and usurpation (see Parkin 1974, cited under the “Theory” of Social Closure), Mackert 1999 develops this “political turn” and analyzes the struggle for citizenship on the ground of closure theory. Achermann and Gass 2003 analyzes this conflict from a cultural perspective, thus arguing for a “cultural turn” in closure theory. In a theoretical and empirical study of the conflicts in the banlieus of French cities, Hartmann 2011 argues for a “boundary turn” in closure theory and analyzes the different strategies of the stigmatized excluded.

  • Achermann, Christin, and Stefanie Gass. 2003. Staatsbürgerschaft und soziale Schliessung: Eine rechtsethnologische Sicht auf die Einbürgerungspraxis der Stadt Basel. Zurich, Switzerland: Seismo.

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    This empirical study of the integration of migrants in Switzerland argues in favor of stressing and analyzing empirically the role of cultural practices and features for being included or excluded from national societies.

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  • Burt, Ronald S. 2005. Brokerage and closure: An introduction to social capital. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    The book elaborates the idea of social capital and introduces the concepts of brokerage and social closure in order to explain the ways organizations and networks generate social capital.

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  • Coleman, James. 1988. Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology 94:95–120.

    DOI: 10.1086/228943Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article analyzes the significance of forms of social capital with respect to high school dropouts. It argues that social closure facilitates two of three forms of social capital that are crucial for remaining in high school: obligations and expectations on the one hand, and social norms on the other hand.

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  • Grusky, David B., and Jesper B. Sørensen. 1998. Can class analysis be salvaged? American Journal of Sociology 103.5: 1187–1234.

    DOI: 10.1086/231351Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article suggests analyzing social classes on the level of occupations. This step of disaggregation allows for investigating processes of exploitation and social closure as crucial for class analysis. Further, the authors argue in favor of theoretical development of closure analysis.

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  • Hartmann, Eddie. 2011. Strategien des Gegenhandelns: Zur Soziodynamik symbolischer Kämpfe um Zugehörigkeit. Konstanz, Germany: Universitätsverlag Konstanz.

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    Provides a pathbreaking analysis that stresses the construction of boundaries between the social groups involved in conflicts in the banlieus of French cities. Hartmann explains the closure effects that are triggered by processes of misrecognition and stigmatization and discusses the consequences of the politics of the French state.

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  • Mackert, Jürgen. 1999. Kampf um Zugehörigkeit: Nationale Staatsbürgerschaft als Modus sozialer Schließung. Opladen, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag.

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    The book presents a theoretical analysis of citizenship as a mode of social closure. It analyzes German law that excludes migrants from “full citizenship” and conceptualizes the struggles for inclusion and exclusion as “struggles for belonging.”

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  • North, Douglass C., John Joseph Wallis, and Barry R. Weingast. 2009. Violence and social order: A conceptual framework for interpreting recorded human history. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511575839Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The book argues that the different ways in which types of states are able to limit and control violence depends on the question of whether they include citizens in the core societal institutions or exclude them from different kinds of participation.

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Exclusion

The profound transformation of capitalist societies since the 1970s has given rise to new and unexpected social problems in Western capitalist countries. Instead of talking about inequality or poverty in the European Union, “social exclusion” became the new term in the discussion of severe problems of EU member states. Byrne 1999 links the debate to that of inequality, while Littlewood 1999 critically discusses the manifold usage of the term. Silver 1994 distinguishes three paradigms that use the term “exclusion” differently. Similarly, Kronauer 1997 points to national traditions of the term. Paugam 1996 and Castel 2007 discuss the French idea of exclusion, while Hills, et al. 2002 investigates problems of exclusion in the British context.

  • Byrne, David. 1999. Social exclusion. Buckingham, UK: Open Univ. Press.

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    The book critically discusses the usage of the term “exclusion.” It argues in favor of the dynamics of exclusion and calls for understanding exclusion as a process that is triggered by a politics of inequality and a transition to more flexible work.

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  • Castel, Robert. 2007. La discrimination negative: Citoyens ou indigènes? Paris: Seuil.

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    The book concentrates on the problem of ethnic minorities in France being treated as second-class citizens. It deals with the revolt of young people in the banlieus of the French cities, and therefore with one of the crucial aspects of the French debate of exclusion.

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  • Hills, John, Julian LeGrand, and David Piachaud, eds. 2002. Understanding social exclusion. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    The book presents results of work carried out at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics. It combines longitudinal studies of social exclusion on the ground of secondary analyses and community studies. The contributions show the dynamics of an accumulation of different kinds of discrimination.

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  • Kronauer, Martin. 1997. Exklusion: Die Gefährdung des Sozialen im hochentwickelten Kapitalismus. Frankfurt and New York: Campus.

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    The book stresses the multidimensional aspect of the term exclusion and identifies two of its basic contexts: the debate on the “culture of poverty,” and the controversies about the so-called underclass.

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  • Littlewood, Paul, ed. 1999. Social exclusion in Europe: Problems and paradigms. Aldershot, UK, and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate.

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    The contributions in this edited volume discuss higher rates of unemployment and poverty, as well as the growing unequal distribution of life chances with respect to health, education, income, and retirement pensions as processes of social exclusion.

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  • Paugam, Serge, ed. 1996. L’exclusion: L’état des saviors. Paris: La Découverte.

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    The contributions in this edited volume discuss the manifold aspects of exclusion in the context of the French tradition of the term. Exclusion is conceptualized as a paradigm that allows for investigating the dysfunctions of both modern capitalism and modern society.

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  • Silver, Hilary. 1994. Social exclusion and social solidarity: Three paradigms. International Labour Review 133.5–6: 531–578.

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    In her lucid article, Silver differentiates three paradigms of social exclusion. The Weberian tradition of social closure is labeled “monopoly paradigm,” while the other two are defined as “solidarity paradigm” and “specialization paradigm.” Each of these perspectives leads to specific questions and analyses of exclusion.

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Fields of Closure Analyses

The idea of social closure has spread into many different areas of both sociological theoretical reasoning and empirical analysis. Since social closure is a highly differentiated process that might generate many different degrees of openness or closure, it is of fundamental significance for understanding the organization of the social world and the way it is internally structured and divided. Thus, it is obvious that social closure plays a crucial role in sociological analyses of both “communal” (Vergemeinschaftung) and “associative” relationships (Vergesellschaftung). The following chapters refer to the most important areas of interest.

Systems of Education, Occupations, and the Professions

Systems of education, occupations, and the professions may be understood as systems of social closure. In modern societies, school systems generate differences and inequality between individuals. Following Parkin 1974 (cited under the “Theory” of Social Closure), Collins 1990 analyzes occupational closure. Sørensen 1983 discusses the link between closure and inequality, while Weeden 2002 refers to processes of closure with respect to income. Systems of education were once thought to be a driving force of generating inclusion and more equality in “meritocratic societies” (Young 1958), but in contrast to Michael Young’s ironical sketch, Bourdieu and Passeron 1977 argues exactly the reverse. Crouch 2003 analyzes the exclusionary effects of transforming the British school system into private services, while Brown 2002 investigates effects of social closure given competition for credentials on a global scale.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre, and Jean-Claude Passeron. 1977. Reproduction in education, society and culture. London: SAGE.

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    English translation of Les héritiers: Les étudiants et la culture, first published in 1964. This book unmasks the liberal ideology of an “equality of chances” in Western societies. The authors show the continuing significance of descent in modern society, and how inequality in society is reproduced by systems of education.

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  • Brown, Philip. 2002. The globalisation of positional competition? Sociology 34.4: 633–655.

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    Discusses the impact of economic globalization on the competition between national credential systems. Brown negates widespread assumptions of the emergence of a global honor system.

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  • Collins, Randall. 1990. Market closure and the conflict theory of the professions. In Professions in theory and history: Rethinking the study of the professions. Edited by Michael Burrage and Rolf Torstendahl, 24–43. London and Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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    Following the Weberian idea of market closure, the article discusses the effects of occupational closure with respect to the existence of occupational status honor and contemporary status problems of the professions.

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  • Crouch, Colin. 2003. Commercialisation or citizenship: Education policy and the future of public services. London: Fabian Society.

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    Analyzes the effects of a thorough liberalization and privatization of the British school system, thus transforming citizens into clients, with the obvious effect of leaving the underprivileged behind, thereby depriving them of their status as citizens and destroying the public service.

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  • Sørensen, Aage B. 1983. Processes of allocation to open and closed positions in the social structure. Zeitschrift für Soziologie 12.3: 203–224.

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    The article argues that the concepts of inequality, inequality of opportunity, and opportunity depend on processes of allocation. However, allocation operates in fundamentally different ways given the existence of either open or closed social systems.

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  • Weeden, Kim A. 2002. Why do some occupations pay more than others? Social closure and earnings inequality in the United States. American Journal of Sociology 108.1: 55–101.

    DOI: 10.1086/344121Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In order to understand contemporary causes of both positional inequality and income inequality, Weeden elaborates on Weberian closure theory and distinguishes convincingly between strategies of closure and different underlying mechanisms of closure.

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  • Young, Michael. 1958. The rise of the meritocracy, 1870–2033: An essay on education and inequality. Harmondwsorth, UK, and New York: Penguin.

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    Given that meritocracy is one of modern society’s ideological ideals, Young’s book offers an ironical description of a future society, in that the elite acquires its position on the ground of intelligence and effort only. Thus, its merit is no longer an effect of ascription; it is a new aristocracy.

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The Elite

The reproduction and closure of elites in modern society has come to be an important sociological area of interest in the face of modern society’s ideal of equality and democracy. Mills 1956 fundamentally criticized these approaches. In recent times, new analyses have taken up the issue. Following both Mills 1956 and Murphy 1988 (the latter cited under the “Theory” of Social Closure), Karabel 2005 analyzes elite closure and reproduction via the system of elite education in the United States. Similarly, Hartmann 2002 discusses the elite as “closed societies” noting the significance of descent for gaining elite positions in the economy, while Bourdieu 1996 analyzes the reproduction of the state elite via the education system in France as a process of closure and exclusion. In another, highly interesting view, Myers-Scotton 1993 stresses semantic codes of closure in processes of the reproduction of the power elite.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1996. State nobility: Elite schools in the field of power. Translated by Lauretta C. Clough. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    English translation of La Noblesse d’Etat: Grandes écoles et l’esprit de corps, first published in 1989. The reproduction of the French field of power is analyzed by looking at both the organization of the French system of higher education and the way it operates. Access depends on people’s economic and cultural capital.

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  • Hartmann, Michael. 2002. Der Mythos von den Leistungseliten: Spitzenkarrieren und soziale Herkunft in Wirtschaft, Politik, Justiz und Wissenschaft. Frankfurt am Main and New York: Campus.

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    This analysis shows the significance of descent for processes of elite recruitment in the economy, in politics, in the legal system, and in science. Hartmann’s book confirms that the closure of the elite is simply a reality in Germany.

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  • Karabel, Jerome. 2005. The chosen: The hidden history of admission and exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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    The book presents a political sociology in analyzing processes of institutional power that lead to a reproduction of the elite in American society. It shows the effects of the interests of powerful groups on admission policies in the three Ivy League universities.

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  • Mills, C. Wright 1956. The power elite. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This classic study analyzes the American power elite, which consists of the economic, political, and military elite. Mills implicitly and explicitly discusses aspects of closure in the process of reproduction, including marriage within the elite, the existence of closed circles, and closure by membership in prestigious clubs.

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  • Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993. Elite closure as a powerful language strategy: The African case. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 103.1: 149–164.

    DOI: 10.1515/ijsl.1993.103.149Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author argues that the closure of elites should be seen as a kind of social mobilization. Empirically interested in Africa, she develops the general argument that elite closure necessarily depends on certain sociolinguistic universals.

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Poverty and Exclusion

Poverty is a multifaceted social problem. Since the 1990s the respective debate has concentrated on terms and concepts of closure and exclusion (Jordan 1996). There are many different effects triggered by economic and political strategies. Bourdieu, et al. 1999 contributes to a sociological understanding of the structural effects of exclusion for the poor. In terms of citizenship, Procacci 2001 shows the consequences of social exclusion for the poor in regard to their formal equality as citizens. As poverty also refers to processes of spatial exclusion, Mingione 1996 and Häussermann, et al. 2004 discuss poverty as an urban phenomenon. From the perspective of political economy, Somers and Block 2005 outlines the closure effects of market fundamentalism for poor people, while Panatazis, et al. 2010 presents an encompassing study of deprivation in Great Britain.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre, et al. 1999. The weight of the world: Social suffering in contemporary society. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    English translation of La Misère du Monde, first published in 1993. Bourdieu and his coauthors develop an ethnographic approach towards the effects of poverty and exclusion in France. To the degree that the interviewees offer insight into their life-worlds, readers are witnesses to a multitude of exclusionary effects of social closure.

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  • Häussermann, Hartmut, Martin Kronauer, and Walter Siebel, eds. 2004. An den Rändern der Städte: Armut und Ausgrenzung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

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    The contributions discuss spatial aspects of poverty and the exclusion of poor people that trigger the emergence of ghettos or an underclass. The articles compare these phenomena of rising inequality with the late 19th century, looking for similarities with and differences from that period of extreme social closure and exclusion.

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  • Jordan, Bill. 1996. A theory of poverty and exclusion. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    In the face of growing rates of poor people in most western societies the author suggests a theory that links the phenomena of poverty and exclusion in terms of collective action in exclusive groups.

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  • Mingione, Enzo, ed. 1996. Urban poverty and the underclass: A reader. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470712900Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The contributions in this volume discuss different phenomena and explanations of urban poverty and the phenomenon of the underclass in a comparative perspective, pointing to processes of social closure.

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  • Pantazis, Christina, David Gordon, and Ruth Levitas, eds. 2010. Poverty and social exclusion in Britain: The millennium survey. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

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    This survey unveils the degree of exclusion of British people from core provisions in developed societies with respect to crucial dimensions of poverty such as housing, regular feeding of children, adequate clothing, and financial insecurity.

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  • Procacci, Giovanna 2001. Poor citizens: Social citizenship versus individualization of welfare. In Citizenship, markets, and the state. Edited by Colin Crouch, Klaus Eder, and Damian Tambini, 49–69. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    Procacci argues that the French welfare state has been reorganized according to concepts of individualization that attribute responsibility for risks neither to the state nor the community, but to citizens. This kind of politics does not support inclusion but reduces the scope of citizens’ social rights, thus leading to exclusion.

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  • Somers, Margaret R., and Fred Block. 2005. From poverty to perversity: Ideas, markets, and institutions over 200 years of welfare debate. American Sociological Review 70.2: 260–287.

    DOI: 10.1177/000312240507000204Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the rise of market fundamentalism as a powerful ideology that triggers the transformation of welfare states into market-driven ones, and analyzes both the exclusionary effects of the transformation and its severe consequences for poor people.

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Citizenship and Migration

The status of citizenship is at the core of debates about immigration and the integration of immigrants. While citizenship includes members of a society, it excludes noncitizens from rights and duties. Brubaker 1992 discusses these effects of social closure, while Brubaker 1989 and Bauböck 1994 analyze different effects of excluding noncitizens in comparative perspective. Hammar 1990 shows that migration has blurred the strict distinction between citizens and noncitizens, while Soysal 1994 and Joppke 1999 examine the consequences migration has for the model of the nation-state and its politics of closure. Schmidtke and Ozcurumez 2008 discusses the crucial problem of how to handle the influx of migrants, while the problems of migrating, unsettled groups in a modern social order are analyzed in Mac Laughlin 1999.

  • Bauböck, Rainer, ed. 1994. From aliens to citizens: Redefining the status of immigrants in Europe. Aldershot, UK, and Brookfield, VT: Avebury.

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    The articles in this volume analyze the different statuses of migrants in their host countries. These differences show that citizenship as an instrument of social closure does not necessarily imply a dualist conception of being in or out.

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  • Brubaker, Rogers. 1992. Citizenship and nationhood in France and Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Contrary to the widespread sociological conviction that citizenship is an instrument of inclusion, Brubaker argues that citizenship also operates as a powerful instrument of social closure. By defining nationality and national belonging in terms of rights and culture, citizenship excludes those who are not members of a given society.

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  • Brubaker, Rogers, ed. 1989. Immigration and the politics of citizenship in Europe and North America. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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    The contributions to this edited volume concentrate on the problem that one can not only observe different conceptions of national citizenship, but also very different politics of inclusion or exclusion. These different national models are analyzed in comparative perspective.

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  • Hammar, Tomas. 1990. Democracy and the nation state: Aliens, denizens and citizens in a world of international migration. Aldershot, UK, and Brookfield, VT: Avebury.

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    Hammar argues that, as a consequence of different degrees of closure, modern states are granting different statuses to immigrants without naturalizing them. He introduces the term “denizen” as a status beside that of citizen and alien.

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  • Joppke, Christian. 1999. Immigration and the nation-state: The United States, Germany and Great Britain. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    The book analyzes the consequences of processes of migration into national societies, given different conceptions of the nation-state. Writing from a comparative perspective, Joppke points to the problems of migration in the face of different national conceptions of belonging and state traditions, and stresses the effects of closure.

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  • Mac Laughlin, Jim. 1999. Nation-building, social closure and anti-Traveller racism in Ireland. Sociology 33.1: 129–151.

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    The article discusses the conflict between the social order of a settled modern society and a social group that practices a nomadic lifestyle. The consequences are social closure and exclusion from the political and cultural structures of Irish society.

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  • Schmidtke, Oliver, and Saime Ozcurumez, eds. 2008. Of states, rights, and social closure: Governing migration and citizenship. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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    The contributions to this edited volume investigate different regimes of governing migration. Thus, it concentrates on processes of social closure with regard to immigration. The suggestions range from normative considerations about the limits of national citizenship to ideas of a postnational constellation of governing migration in Europe.

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  • Soysal, Yasemin N. 1994. The limits of citizenship: Migrants and postnational membership in Europe. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    In the face of both immigration and an emerging regime of human rights, Soysal claims that the boundary between citizens and noncitizens has become blurred. Thus, she argues in favor of a new emerging model of membership that grants rights to persons on the basis of personhood.

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The City and Spatial Aspects of Closure

The spatial aspects of social closure come to the surface as soon as the city is understood as a prism of an enormous variety of interests, ideas, and investment. Globalization and deindustrialization have been the critical factors in the profound restructuring of the city since the late 1970s. As a consequence, the reorganization of urban space in terms of economy, housing, and infrastructure generates processes of social closure. However, there are different processes that cause specific effects and transformations in the city. One might differentiate three processes of segregation: gentrification, ghettoization, and the emergence of an underclass.

Gentrification

Coined in Glass 1964, the term gentrification refers to the influx of wealthier groups of the population into poorer areas of the inner city, where they rent or buy property. Meanwhile, the phenomenon has become a global one (Atkinson and Bridge 2005) that triggers both intended and unintended consequences. It always brings about displacement and exclusion of the poorer part of the population. Depending on the structure of the welfare state and regulations of the housing market, processes of gentrification may be seen differently. Smith 1996 argues that gentrification is a pure effect of the market, while Hamnett 1991 offers a more encompassing explanation of the problem. Social struggles are crucial in the debate on gentrification, as the housing situation is fundamentally transformed and reorganized. However, besides exclusion, gentrification has another effect, as it leads to a type of segregation of the city, thereby creating relatively homogeneous areas. Zukin 1987 points to culture and capital as the crucial factors of this process, whereas Friedrichs and Kecskes 1996 and Lees, et al. 2008 present debates about the theory and empirical processes of gentrification.

  • Atkinson, Rowland, and Gary Bridge, eds. 2005. Gentrification in a global context: The new urban colonialism. New York and London: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203392089Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The articles in this volume discuss the effects of gentrification on a global scale. They analyze the links between gentrification and more general processes of globalization—the crucial debates in the social sciences being financial globalization, postcolonialism and “whiteness,” or class-based social processes.

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  • Friedrichs, Jürgen, and Robert Kecskes, eds. 1996. Gentrification: Theorie und Forschungsergebnisse. Opladen, Germany: Leske + Budrich Verlad.

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    The articles here discuss multiple approaches to gentrification and present the results of empirical investigations into processes of gentrification in German cities, thereby highlighting the effects of social closure.

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  • Glass, Ruth. 1964. London: Aspects of change. Center for Urban Studies. London: MacGibbon and Kee.

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    Glass describes the movement of wealthy groups of English society from the suburbs back into low-income areas of the city of London, where working-class people or the poor were living. Gentrification does not only mean that these areas do change profoundly, it also refers to processes of spatial segregation.

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  • Hamnett, Chris. 1991. The blind men and the elephant: The explanation of gentrification. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 16.2: 173–189.

    DOI: 10.2307/622612Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article suggests drawing into consideration two interconnected aspects in order to come to terms with processes of gentrification and the closure of inner city areas: (1) political and economic processes of a restructuring of the city, and (2) patterns of consumption and reproduction on the side of the gentrifiers.

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  • Lees, Loretta, Tom Slater, and Elvin Wyly. 2008. Gentrification. New York: Routledge.

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    Summarizes both theoretical approaches to gentrification, from the beginning to recent debates, as well as the various forms it may take. Authors try to evaluate the positive and negative effects, and they discuss the possible future of gentrification.

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  • Smith, Neil. 1996. The new urban frontier: Gentrification and the revanchist city. London: Routledge.

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    The book analyzes gentrification and the displacement of poorer people from inner-city areas as both a consequence of fundamental changes in the political economy of Western countries and as an outcome of a liberal public policy and the forces of the private housing market.

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  • Zukin, Sharon. 1987. Gentrification: Culture and capital in the urban core. Annual Review of Sociology 13: 129–147.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.so.13.080187.001021Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses crucial aspects of the problem of gentrification, among them processes of displacement. In order to understand the whole phenomenon, Zukin argues for a synthesis of the two paradigmatic perspectives on gentrification, or the interconnectedness of culture and capital.

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Ghettoization, Gated Communities, and the Emergence of the Underclass

As a consequence of the economic crises in the 1970s, the reorganization of the post-Fordist city has triggered numerous processes of severe segregation in the city (Davis 1990), with ghettoization being one crucial effect. While Wilson 1996, Wacquant 1996, and Wacquant 2006 point to emerging ghettos of the poor, Marcuse 1997 shows that the rich build their own ghettos, in the form of “gated communities.” Besides ghettoization, the emergence of a so-called underclass is a further effect of segregation. Massey and Denton 1993 points to the emergence of an underclass in the United States, while Schmitter-Heisler 1991 and Fassin 1996 discuss the phenomenon in a comparative international perspective.

  • Davis, Mike. 1990. City of quartz: Excavating the future in Los Angeles. New York and London: Verso.

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    In his classic study on Los Angeles, Davis takes into consideration social, political, economic, and cultural influences and processes that generate a restructuring of the city. He argues that Los Angeles has turned into a highly segregated social space resembling concentric circles and devastated fringes.

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  • Fassin, Didier. 1996. Exclusion, underclass, marginalidad: Figures contemporaines de la pauvreté urbaine en France, aux États-Unis et en Amérique latine. Revue française de sociologie 37.1: 37–75.

    DOI: 10.2307/3321945Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a comparative analysis of exclusion in different national contexts, and provides an overview of different processes of social closure in urban contexts, concentrating on the phenomena of urban poverty.

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  • Marcuse, Peter. 1997. The ghetto of exclusion and the fortified enclave: New patterns in the United States. American Behavioral Scientist 41.3: 311–326.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002764297041003004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the extreme effects of severe segregation as a spatial reorganization of American cities. Compares the emerging ghettos of the inner-city poor with the “fortified enclaves,”or gated communities, of the rich.

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  • Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Discusses the process of segregation in the United States, concentrating on the process of racial segregation and exclusion, and links this debate to the phenomenon of poverty among the black population living excluded in poverty.

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  • Schmitter-Heisler, Barbara. 1991. A comparative perspective on the underclass: Questions of poverty, race, and citizenship. Theory and Society 20.4: 455–483.

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    The article contextualizes the debate on the underclass in different national regimes of citizenship. It analyzes the effects of national politics with respect to the exclusion of parts of the citizenry on the significance of race for processes of closure.

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  • Wacquant, Loïc J. D. 1996. The rise of advanced marginality: Notes on its nature and implications. Acta Sociologica 39.2: 121–140.

    DOI: 10.1177/000169939603900201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Wacquant analyzes spatial dimensions of social closure. On the basis of six crucial aspects, he argues for a new emerging urban regime that he calls “advanced marginality.”

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  • Wacquant, Loïc J. D. 2006. Urban outcasts: A comparative sociology of advanced marginality. Cambridge, UK, and Malden, MA: Polity.

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    From a comparative perspective, Wacquant discusses a plurality of processes of closure and exclusion in urban areas. He links processes of racial and class exclusion, and of ghettoization or the emergence of underclasses, to phenomena of insecurity, violence, and marginalization.

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  • Wilson, William J. 1996. When work disappears: The world of the new urban poor. New York: Vintage.

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    Wilson discusses the consequences of deindustrialization in American cities. Given the enormous loss of working places, he points to the emergence of the so-called inner city ghetto poor and discusses their exclusion from both the economy and society.

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Multiculturalism

The critique of the Western ideal of universalism lies at the heart of the debates on multiculturalism. With respect to social closure, different aspects are to be taken into account. There is a controversy between either granting special rights to cultural groups in democracies (Kymlicka 1995 and Young 1990) or sticking to democratic procedures on grounds of equal citizenship (Offe 1998). Following Parkin 1974 (cited under the “Theory” of Social Closure), Neckel 1995 points to closure struggles for scarce resources between different groups of migrants. Walzer 1983 (cited under Community) shows that membership in a political community (i.e., fully including migrants) is the highest good to be given to noncitizens, while as early as in the 1960s and 1970s, Glazer and Moynihan 1970 reflected upon processes of closure and exclusion in the United States in the face of fierce race relations, new waves of immigration, and the effects of the civil right movement’s demands for inclusion.

  • Glazer, Nathan, and Daniel P. Moynihan. 1970. Beyond the melting pot: The negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    With respect to the groups analyzed, this classic study argues against the idea of a melting pot. Rather, the authors suggest that this kind of assimilation will not happen, and that inclusion and exclusion in the United States operate along the lines of race, religion, and ethnicity.

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  • Kymlicka, Will. 1995. Multicultural citizenship: A liberal theory of minority rights. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    The book argues in favor of different kinds of minority rights, given the severe problems in modern societies. As democratic procedures (on grounds of individualistic citizenship rights) tend to exclude nonnationals or cultural or national minorities, their distinctiveness should be protected by specific rights.

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  • Neckel, Sighard. 1995. Politische Ethnizität: Das Beispiel der Vereinigten Staaten. In Politische Institutionen im Wandel. Edited by Birgitta Nedelmann, 217–236. Opladen, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-322-97068-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author analyzes relations of ethnic groups in the United States as a political process, on the theoretical grounds of closure theory. One of the main arguments is that struggles for the redistribution of resources along ethnic lines can be properly analyzed using Parkin’s concept of “dual closure.”

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  • Offe, Claus. 1998. “Homogeneity” and constitutional democracy: Coping with identity conflicts through group rights. Journal of Political Philosophy 6.2: 113–141.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9760.00049Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author rejects demands for group rights in democratic societies. He argues that democracy is inclusive on the grounds of individual rights that allow members of minority groups for inclusion into the wider society.

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  • Young, Iris M. 1990. Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    The author makes a strong plea for recognizing the distinctiveness of all kinds of groups that suffer from suppression and misrecognition, which excludes them from participating in the wider society. Exclusion can only be avoided by granting special rights to all these groups.

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Feminism and Gender

Feminism has criticized liberal society for excluding women, in a variety of ways, from participating in public life. The basic problem is the exclusion of women from the public sphere (Pateman 1989). Following John Stuart Mill, Vogel 1991 criticizes the modern institution of marriage as a means to exclude women from the public sphere. Further, processes of closure and the exclusion of women are at the core of more specific analyses of single societal institutions. Work as the most important sphere is analyzed in Lister 1995, Cyba 2000, and Wilz 2004. Witz 1990 discusses the exclusionary effects of the system of occupation, while Roscigno, et al. 2007 argues that closure is crucial for understanding discrimination.

  • Cyba, Eva. 2000. Geschlecht und soziale Ungleichheit: Konstellationen der Frauenbenachteiligung. Opladen, Germany: Leske + Budrich Verlag.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-322-97471-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the causes for the multiple discriminations of women in different spheres of modern society. Cyba stresses closure as one crucial mechanism in generating inequality between men and women in the sphere of work.

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  • Lister, Ruth. 1995. Problems in engendering citizenship. Economy and Society 24.1: 1–40.

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    Lister discusses in detail the exclusionary effects of a gender-specific division of labor for women’s lack of participation in economy, state, and political associations.

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  • Pateman, Carol. 1989. The disorder of women: Democracy, feminism and political theory. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    Criticizing liberal philosophers like Mill and Locke, Pateman analyzes the different dimensions of the public-private divide as crucial for women’s threefold exclusion from the public sphere.

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  • Roscigno, Vincent J., Lisette M. Garcia, and Donna Bobbitt-Zeher. 2007. Social closure and processes of race/sex employment discrimination. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 609.1: 16–48.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002716206294898Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors argue that social closure has to be understood as the fundamental social mechanism that explains social discrimination along the lines of race and gender with respect to employment.

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  • Vogel, Ursula. 1991. Is citizenship gender-specific? In The Frontiers of Citizenship. Edited by Michael Moran and Ursula Vogel, 58–85. London: MacMillan.

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    Vogel analyzes the effects of marriage as an institution that subjugates women, keeps them in dependency from their husbands, and excludes them from participating in the economy.

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  • Wilz, Sylvia M. 2004. Für und Wider einen weiten Begriff von Schließung. In Die Theorie sozialer Schließung: Tradition, Analysen, Perspektiven. Edited by Jürgen Mackert, 213–231. Wiesbaden, Germany: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

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    Discusses the usages of the idea of closure as an analytic instrument for analyzing women’s position at work and career processes. Wilz discusses the pros and cons of analyzing the production and reproduction of inequality on the basis of a theory of social closure.

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  • Witz, Anne. 1990. Patriarchy and professions: The gendered politics of occupational closure. Sociology 24.4: 675–690.

    DOI: 10.1177/0038038590024004007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introducing the term “professional projects,” the author discusses the gendered aspect of the term “professions.” She argues that professional projects are projects of closure, and she argues in favor of an analysis of such processes of closure, thereby presenting a model that distinguishes exclusionary, demarcationary, inclusionary, and dual strategies of closure.

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The Stranger

The social figure of the stranger has always confused assumptions of clear-cut boundaries between members and nonmembers of a distinct community. The stranger blurs the simplistic conception of being in or out, and therefore challenges undifferentiated conceptions of either fully open or fully closed social relationships. The classic sociology of the stranger reflects this problem. Starting with Simmel 1921, a seminal essay, the social figure of the stranger has its place in classical sociological approaches. Following Stonequist 1937, Park 1950 develops the concept of the “marginal man,” while Schuetz 1944 contributes to the debate from the perspective of social psychology.

  • Park, Robert Ezra. 1950. The collected works of Robert Ezra Park. Vol. 1, Race and culture. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

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    Park argues that the migrant has to be seen as the typical stranger, who lives between two worlds. Living at the margin of two cultures, neither completely included nor excluded, the stranger resembles a social hybrid that is threatened by a severe crisis.

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  • Schuetz, Alfred. 1944. The stranger: An essay in social psychology. American Journal of Sociology 49.6: 499–507.

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    Schuetz contributed to the sociology of the stranger from the perspective of social-psychology by referring to different patterns of perception and the evaluation of an existing group on the one side, with the stranger on the other.

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  • Simmel, Georg. 1921. The sociological significance of the “stranger.” In Introduction to the science of sociology. Edited by Robert Ezra Park and E. W. Burgess, 322–327. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    English translation of “Exkurs ueber den Fremden,” first published in 1908. Simmel’s formal sociology argues that the stranger simultaneously is in and out, such that nearness and distance go together. In this classic article, Simmel stresses the spatial aspect of the stranger’s situation with respect to processes of social closure.

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  • Stonequist, Everett V. 1937. The marginal man: A study in personality and culture conflict. New York: Scribner.

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    Stonequist refers to a man’s situation in a bicultural or multicultural context. Questions of belonging, inclusion, and exclusion, as well as the closure of groups, in that the marginal man would like to become a member, are at the center of this classic study.

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Closure Effects in Total Institutions and Secret Societies

“Total institutions” and “secret societies” are two particular cases of closed social relationships that are of interest. Institutions like asylums, the military, hospitals, and concentration camps strictly exclude their inmates from wider society (Goffman 1961). Concentrating on the aspect of control, the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s work developed the idea of the “panopticon” (Bentham 1995), which inspired Foucault 1979. While total institutions exclude and disconnect certain groups of people from society officially, the second particular case of closed social relations is the secret society (Simmel 1906), ranging from a political or religious group to a gang of criminals or terrorists. On the ground of the analysis in Simmel 1906, Mackert 2011 analyzes the secret society of torturers. Aubert 1982 developed a somewhat different approach to social areas that are separated from society based on different degrees of closure.

  • Aubert, Vilhelm. 1982. The hidden society. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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    Originally published in 1965 (Totowa, NJ: Bedminster). The book offers highly interesting analyses of closure and isolation in modern society. It focuses on institutions that do not seem to be dominant in society but rather remote. Some of them refer to private niches that allow individuals to dissociate themselves from society, while others resemble total institutions.

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  • Bentham, Jeremy. 1995. The panopticon writings. Edited by Miran Božovič. London, New York: Verso.

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    Originally published in 1787. The book develops the conceptual design of a building Benthem called panopticon, which allows for permanently surveilling inmates, and thereby discussing the consequences for those who are inmates in such buildings.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 1979. Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage.

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    In his classic discussion of the “birth of the prison,” Foucault pays special attention to the encompassing surveillance of those who are shut away from wider society. However, for him, the panopticon seemed to be nothing but the model for society as a whole.

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  • Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

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    In his classic approach of total institutions, Goffman analyzes the structure of an asylum and the life-world of its inmates and personnel. He discusses the effects on the inmates’ personalities and organization of everyday life.

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  • Mackert, Jürgen. 2011. Im Auftrag des Staates: Die geheime Gesellschaft der Folterer. Berliner Journal für Soziologie 21.3: 431–460.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11609-011-0165-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    As the core aspect of modern torture is its secrecy, Mackert argues that closing the secret society of the torturers is the primary condition under which it can exist. The article discusses the severe effects for both torturers and their victims that result from the effects of this strict closure.

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  • Simmel, Georg. 1906. The sociology of secrecy and of secret societies. American Journal of Sociology 11.4: 441–498.

    DOI: 10.1086/211418Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Simmel’s brilliant analysis outlines the basic structure of “secret societies.” Whatever the secret of such a kind of society may be, it cannot exist as a secret society without completely closing the social relation and in a way encapsulating itself.

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LAST MODIFIED: 08/29/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756384-0084

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