De Forsømte: Skitse til en socialvidenskabelig analyse om relationerne mellem produktionen af forsømte boligområder, de sociale kampe om det boligsociale integrationsarbejde og den boligsociale integration

Translated title of the contribution: The dilapidated: Outline of a sociological analysis in terms of field of the relations between the production of dilapidated urban areas, the social struggles over the content, organization and execution of the social housing integration work in the dilapidated urban areas and the residents of social inclusion.

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis


Over the last 30-40 years, the development of two closely linked trends has set crucial footprints on our society. The first trend is the disconnection between economic growth and equality. On this backdrop most Western societies have since the late seventies and early eighties witnessed the coming of a multi-face inequality and the crystallization of social inequality – Denmark is no exception in this context. Meanwhile, these multi-faceted inequalities have been connected with new forms of marginalization, which has resulted in an ethnic- as well as a spatial segregation of many western cities. Not only in Copenhagen and 'the big towns', but all over the country from Sønderborg to Aalborg from Esbjerg to Svendborg from Næstved to Helsingør. This segregation is often perceived and highlighted as one of the primary causes of a number of negative self-reinforcing processes, which at the extreme is resulting in social unrest and the disconnection of entire neighbourhoods, very often this is referred to or summarized as de facto signs of ghettorization. The second trend is the emergence and spread of a xenophobic ideology related to the 'permanent' unemployment among large sections of especially the declassified working classes in general, and the ethnic minorities in particular, and especially the ethnic minorities transition from temporary labour to a permanent sections of the population (Castles 1984:190 ff, Wacquant 2008a:163).

This advanced marginalization (Wacquant 1996, 2008a), is an unambiguous category, neither in a concrete empirical sense nor in a wider European comparative perspective. But the advanced marginalization can be characterized by several structural conditions and relation, which may have different empirical expressions depending on the specific context; but which nevertheless relate to the same societal transformations. The post-Fordist reorganization of the production from industrial to service-based production is characterized by the emergence and propagation of a new category of limited low-qualified jobs and low paid jobs. Another expression is, as mentioned, the accumulation of overlapping or multi-face problems for many households in the bottom of the social hierarchy, which often is concentrated in specific neighbourhoods. An accumulation that has contributed to an eroding of the solidarity, culture and social life in these areas, and it often takes the forms of the weakening of social networks, but also in terms of increased confrontations, and in the form of weakened interpersonal relations and norms. A third feature of the advanced marginalization is the difficulties the public interventions and programs have had to rectify these problems, not to mention these arrangements inability to address the causes of the problems and their persistence. That is to say in its Danish variation, the advanced marginalization apparently is, despite increased public awareness and enterprise, nevertheless characterized by a continuous concentration of people from the bottom of society in specific parts of the non-profit housing sector. What is more, most of these neighbourhoods have been known first as ‘high rent estates’ then ‘exposed’ or ‘multiproblem areas’ since the mid or late seventies. Phrased short, one can ask the question: ‘how is it that Denmark since the seventies, despite continuous economic growth, has experienced specific areas where the main characteristic have been the accumulation of socially disadvantaged?’ That is what has been the central motivation for this thesis. The importance of this issue is underlined by the fact that housing sector is one of the main mechanisms for the allocation of public goods and privileges. In other words, access to the housing market, and especially the privileged parts of this market, has an enormous impact on the individual economically, socially and symbolically.

In this respect it is important to underline that the focus of this thesis is not the production of space, but the reproduction of social differences through a series of complex relationships between symbolic, social and physical space. The ambition of the thesis is to outline a model of social scientific explanation that can make tangible the reproduction of differences by investigating relationships between, how the dilapidated neighbourhoods are perceived in public and within social sciences, how different social groups' position in the social sphere is inscribed in the physical space and how this relates to the perception of the dilapidated neighbourhoods, and how the specific work of ‘social housing inclusion work’ is organized and conducted within, what I have chosen to call with inspiration from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu the ‘field of the social housing inclusion work’. The thesis basis is the practical-theoretical tradition that has its roots around the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Specifically, the thesis is based on the specific construction of a scientific object, and three historical concrete parts which is reflected directly in the composition of the thesis.

Part I. The construction of a scientific research object

Part I is a historizing content analysis, where I try to illustrate the relationship between how different academic positions perceive and conduct scientific work related to the concept of neighbourhood effects. Through this historizing content analysis I try to outline in a concrete way the scientific point of view of this thesis in relation to a number of other academic positions, as wells as I try to use the same  analysis to outline the ‘blind spots’ of the research conducted around the notion of neighbourhood effects in order to manage these ‘critiques’. And thus that is the outline of the following three empirical windows that is how the in combination with other can contribute to an analysis in terms of fields of a reformulated notion neighbourhood effects. The empirical foundation of the historizing content analysis was the classification of 109 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Part II. Three historic concrete empirical windows

The first empirical window: Neglected neighbourhoods and the field of the social housing inclusion work

Based on Bourdieus discussions on 'site effects' (Bourdieu 1999:123) the first empirical window argues, that in addition to the two spaces constructed in Bourdieus book  ‘Distinction’ (1984) a third space can be added - the physical space. This physical space is homological to the symbolic space and social space in the same manner as those spaces are homological with one another. The first empirical window is a specific analysis of the relationship between the symbolic space, social space and physical space based on a multiple correspondence analysis of 35 dilapidated neighbourhoods.

The second empirical window: Occupants social differentiations in the neglected neighbourhoods
Based on Bourdieus model of the principal principles of social differentiation in social space (the volume of capital and the combinations of capital). The second empirical window seeks to illustrate, how the residents of four dilapidated neighbourhoods are socially differentiated by the same principles. The empirical material used is a survey with 1253 residents from four dilapidated neighbourhoods in the winter of 2006/2007. Based on the discussions of the first empirical window and the French-American sociologist Loïc Wacquants comparative analysis of the differences of the advanced marginalization in the American black ghettos and the former working-class districts in France urban periphery (Wacquant 2008a) it discussed how there is no evidence to sustain the widespread tendency to describe the dilapidated neighbourhoods in Denmark, as ghettos or parallel societies. This enables an analysis that takes into account the causes of the social fragmentation of the dilapidated neighbourhoods which can be described as the product of the historical development of a dual housing market.

The third empirical window: The contending positions within the field of the social housing inclusion work

                   By reference to Wacquant (2008a) and Bourdieu ( 1999), it is necessary to view the specific public interventions and programs as part of the field. This is to underline that it is not the case that state has withdrawed from the dilapidated neighbourhoods as the American dystopia prescribes (Wacquant 2008a). First of all there have since the seventies ‘Troika loans’, SUM-programme in the eighties and later the larger environmental improvement projects been carried out more and more projects and an ever increasing public interest and investment in the dilapidated neighbourhoods (Though it is important to keep in mind that despite the increases in the investments these have never reached the level of the negative capital (in the wide sense of the term) flows out of the dilapidated neighbourhood relating principally to the specific construction of the dual housing market). In the same period there has been a shift in the way the housing social integration work is perceived, the ways it is organized and with these changed perceptions and organizations the conditions for carrying out social housing inclusion work. Thus, the prevailing ideology in the regulation of executive governmental activities helped to produce an increasingly retail-oriented differentiation of management procedures, as an example through intensification of monitoring and evaluation of residents and an increased focus on the individualization of the social housing inclusion work. These changes and reorganizations were promoted by street level bureaucrats as well despite the fact that field workers' own influence on their work is reduced. In this way it is also possible to clarify the relationship between public interventions and programs and the reproduction of the social differences (inequality).

Part III. The dilapidated

                   The crux of the matter is not whether neighbourhood effects have a theoretical or empirical priority proportional to the conditions of everyday life in the dilapidated neighbourhoods, but rather how the conditions of everyday life and with it neighbourhood effects are the product of contradictory and conflicting political processes. In other words, neighbourhood effects have to be understood as the outcome, enrolled directly in physical space, social space and symbolic space, by concrete historical struggles between contending positions about the definitions, distributions and acquisitions of various public goods and services.

It is this understanding that lies behind my choice of title for the thesis – the dilapidated. First of all is the notion of the dilapidated is a break with the commonsense notions that flourish. Secondly the notion emphasizes, that it is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. The dilapidated neighbourhoods are not ‘exposed’: The church in Maarup is exposed – to wind and sea. The dilapidated neighbourhoods are not ‘maladjusted’, which means there are no unfortunate coincidences that may be corrected by a simple turn of a wheel in the bureaucratic machinery, and the dilapidated neighbourhoods are not ghettos – a most anti-ghettos as Wacquant points out (2008a), but this says more about some constitutive factors. To indicate that the dilapidated neighbourhoods as the notion of dilapidated emphasizes a realistic optic on a number of very specific problems and it stresses that dilapidation is related to neglect and hence to human activity (in the sense that the dilapidated neighbourhoods are a physical, social and symbolic expression of various contending positions), which means there are political priorities a play and thus that the historical conditions could have been different, and consequently that they are also possible to change. In this respect and in relation to concepts such as exposed or maladjusted there are something fundamental positive by the fact that the neighbourhood and residents are dilapidated.

Translated title of the contributionThe dilapidated: Outline of a sociological analysis in terms of field of the relations between the production of dilapidated urban areas, the social struggles over the content, organization and execution of the social housing integration work in the dilapidated urban areas and the residents of social inclusion.
Original languageDanish
Place of PublicationRoskilde
PublisherRoskilde Universitet
Number of pages328
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Bourdieu
  • Analysis of field
  • Field theory
  • Dilapidated urban areas
  • Habitus
  • Correspondanceanalysis
  • Housing
  • Integration
  • Social housing
  • Dilapidated
  • Neighbourhood effect
  • advanced marginality
  • Ghetto
  • Class
  • Wacquant
  • Social work

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