Article

Social Closure

Juergen Mackert

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online August 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0084
Social Closure

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  • Sociology
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“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.

Article.  9453 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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