Social inclusion policy: Producing justice or retribution?

Kym Macfarlane

Abstract


The notion of social inclusion has currently gained extraordinary credence in Australia. Policy incorporating social inclusion abounds across all discipline areas with the federal government for the first time instituting a government portfolio for this area, headed by the Deputy Prime Minister. Such a move indicates the importance of managing aspects of inclusion across all sectors, in a country where diversity abounds. However, this focus on inclusion can prove highly problematic, when it becomes such an integral part of policy formulation and of the assumptions, omissions and contradictions that policy produces. This paper examines how policy discourse produces ways of thinking about inclusion/exclusion. Using three vignettes, the author applies the theories of Michel Foucault to argue that the discursive production of such inclusive policy works to simultaneously exclude by categorising particular types of individuals and families as “proper” participants in society. The author contends that understandings of propriety relating to the inclusion/exclusion binary reinscribe each other, in ways that situate particular citizens outside of possibilities for “success” in social and systemic participation. Such understanding is highlighted by a conceptual examination of the ways in which discursively produced notions of propriety become normalised.

Keywords: bricolage, discourse, authorised knowledge, imperative discourse, regimes of truth


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