COMBATING SOCIAL EXCLUSION WITH “ACTIVATING” POLICIES:
LESSONS FROM RECENT GERMAN POLICY REFORMS
By Margit Mayer
The right to the city: the entitled and the excluded - The Urban Reinventors, Special issue, November 2009
The passage of the so-called Hartz Laws 2003-2005, which fundamentally restructured Germany's social and employment policies, as well as the launching in the late 1990s of programs targeting social exclusion on a territorial basis have introduced the concept of social exclusion, which heretofore had not been widely used either in political or academic discourse in Germany. However, as in other European Union countries, where anti-poverty policies have been framed in terms of social in- and exclusion for some time (such as Great Britain and France), there is hardly a consensus about the nature of social exclusion, who is affected, or how to resolve it. While the term is vague in reflecting the complexities of the problems associatiated with urban decline, it is clear in two aspects: exclusion pertains primarily to the labor market, and a crucial role is assigned to participation and to third-sector organizations or nonprofits, with an aim to foster the ‘activation’ of various disadvantaged groups in low-income and marginalized communities.
Margit Mayer is a professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at FU Berlin and a board member of the Graduate Research Program Berlin-New York. Mayer has published on diverse topics, such as welfare reform in Germany and the United States, local urban policy, and the German Green Party. Her books include “Die Entstehung des Nationalstaats in Nordamerika” (1979), “Politik in europäischen Städten: Fallstudien zur Bedeutung lokaler Politik“ (1993, co-edited with H. Heinelt), and “From Welfare to Work. Nonprofits and the Workfare State in Berlin and Los Angeles” (2004, co-edited with B. Grell, V. Eick, and J. Sambale).