Term of Art: Marginalization

“Marginalization:  A process by which a group or individual is denied access to important positions and symbols of economic, religious, or political power within any society. A marginal group may actually constitute a numerical majority—as in the case of blacks in South Africa—and should perhaps be distinguished from a minority group, which may be small in numbers, but has access to political or economic power.

Marginalization became a major topic of sociological research in the 1960s, largely in response to the realization that while certain developing countries demonstrated rapid economic growth, members of these societies were receiving increasingly unequal shares of the rewards of success. The process by which this occurred became a major source of study, particularly for those influenced by dependency, Marxist, and world-systems theories, who argued that the phenomenon was related to the world capitalist order and not just confined to particular societies.

Anthropologists, in particular, have tended to study marginal groups. This stems in part from the idea that, by looking at what happens on the margins of a society, one can see how that society defines itself and is defined in terms of other societies, and what constitute its key cultural features.”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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