Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

Problems with "bridging the gap": the reversal of structure and agency in addressing social exclusion

Colley, Helen and Hodkinson, Phil (2001) Problems with "bridging the gap": the reversal of structure and agency in addressing social exclusion. Critical social policy, 21 (3). pp. 335-359. ISSN 0261-0183

Download (92kB)

Download (95kB) | Preview


The Social Exclusion Unit's Report Bridging the Gap has had a major influence on the British government's policy towards socially excluded young people. This article argues, however, that the Report contains fundamental contradictions in its analysis of non-participation in learning and the solutions proposed. Despite appearing to re-instate a concern for the social, it locates the causes of non-participation primarily within individuals and their personal deficits. Yet it denies individuality and diversity by representing the socially excluded as stereotyped categories. In a flawed move, the Report presents non-participation not just in correlation to a raft of other social problems, but as cause to their effect. Deep-seated structural inequalities are rendered invisible, as social exclusion is addressed through a strongly individualistic strategy based on personal agency. At the same time, measures to enhance individual agency, notably the new 'ConneXions' service, are formulated within a prescriptive structural framework. Structure and agency are thus reversed in current English policy approaches. While such approaches will doubtless assist some young people, there is a significant risk that they may make things worse for others.

Impact and Reach


Activity Overview

Additional statistics for this dataset are available via IRStats2.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item