Structural violence is typically built into the very nature of social, cultural, political and economic institutions. On the other hand, social exclusion is understood as the condition (barriers and process) that impede social inclusion (Department for International Development (DFID) 2005). There is correlation between structural violence and social exclusion in the way they produce negative effects in society. For instance, structural violence is embedded in institutions and some of these institutions exclude certain classes of people’s social, political and economic participation. This paper discusses the correlation between structural violence and social exclusion.

Violence is commonly understood to be physical and causing bodily injury and/or the infliction of pain. However, there are other forms of violence, ones that are more indirect and subtle. Galtung (1969), made a clear distinction between Structural Violence, Cultural Violence and Direct Violence. Structural violence exists when some groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc are assumed to have, and in fact do have, more access to goods, resources, and opportunities than other groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc, and this unequal advantage is built into the very social, political and economic systems that govern societies, states and the world. These tendencies may be overt such as Apartheid or more subtle such as traditions or tendency to award some groups privileges over another. Constitutional privileges of job reservations and financial supports in the name of the welfare of the “tribes or backwards” and non-uniform land law, which bans one group to own landed property in their own land while other groups are free to own landed property wherever they want are also examples of structural violence.

Galtung (1969) first defines violence as ‘avoidable’ impairment of fundamental human needs which lowers the actual degree to which someone is able to meet their needs below that which would otherwise be possible.’ The author offers an example; in the eighteenth century, if a personal died from tuberculosis it would not be considered as violence since it might have been quite unavoidable, but if he dies from it today, despite all the medical resources in the world then violence is present according to our definition.

Khan (1978) adds that structural violence can take four forms: classical, or direct, violence; poverty – deprivation of basic material needs; repression – deprivation of human rights; and alienation – deprivation of higher needs. Theories of structural violence explore how political, economic and cultural structures result in the occurrence of avoidable violence, most commonly seen as the deprivation of basic human needs. Structural theorists attempt to link personal suffering with political, social and cultural choices.

According to DFID (2005) social exclusion describes a process by which certain groups are systematically disadvantaged because they are discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, caste, descent, gender, age, disability, HIV status, migrant status or where they live. Discrimination occurs in public institutions, such as the legal system or education and health services, as well as social institutions like the household. Social exclusion may mean the lack of voice, lack of recognition, or lack of capacity for active participation. It may also mean exclusion from decent work, assets, land, opportunities, access to social services and/or political representation. Beall and Piron (2004, p.6) assert that various definitions broadly agree that social exclusion consists of “exclusion from social, political and economic institutions resulting from a complex and dynamic set of processes and relationships that prevent individuals or groups from accessing resources, participating in society and asserting their rights”.

People are excluded by institutions (structural violence) and behavior that reflect, enforce and reproduce prevailing social attitudes and values, particularly those of powerful groups in society. Sometime this is open and deliberate, such as when state institution deliberately discriminate in their laws, policies or programme (Hilker and Fraser, 2009).

Galtung (1969) asserts when people suffer from preventable diseases or when they are denied a decent education; even without physical harm a kind of violence is committed. According Theadora (2010) another aspect of exclusion is disadvantage on the basis not of who you are but where you live, known as ‘spatial’ exclusion. People who live in remote and isolate areas may be prevented from fully participating in national economic and social life. Structural violence theorists characterize the world system as vastly unequal, exemplified by a growing disparity between those who are rich and getting richer and those who are poor and getting poorer (Stewart, 2005).

Without access to employment or livelihood opportunities, most young people cannot afford a house or a dowry, cannot marry and their transition to adulthood is effectively blocked. Menial jobs with little prospect for advancement may also be a cause of youth frustration, embarrassment and social separation. There are many studies that suggest that youth un- and under-employment can cause conflict or lead to youth involvement in criminal activities – such as the drugs trade, armed groups and other illegal trade that offer livelihood opportunities. Where youths feel existing power structures marginalise them, violence can provide an opportunity to have a voice, lead and make an impact (Hilker and Fraser, 2009). For DFID, (2005) social exclusion matters because it denies some people the same rights and opportunities afforded to others in their society.


There is a correlation between structural violence and social exclusion. Structural violence is embedded in the social, economic, political and cultural structures that in turn exclude certain classes of people from participating in the affairs the country. Sometimes this is open and deliberate, such as when state institutions deliberately discriminate in their laws, policies and programmes. More often, institutions perpetuate exclusion unofficially.


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