social closurethe process by which groups seek to increase the advantages of their situation by monopolizing resources and restricting recruitment and access to their group. Examples of this are found in all privileged groups, e.g. marital ‘eligibility’ in European aristocracies; the system of apprenticeship for skilled manual trades; systems of accreditation and formal membership of professional associations for doctors and lawyers.
The term was first used by WEBER, and, in recent sociology, is particularly associated with the work of Frank Parkin (1979). Following Weber in the critique of Marxism, Parkin argues that property is only one basis for power, and only one form of social closure. The characteristics associated with different STATUS GROUPS, e.g. ethnicity, gender, skill level, religion, etc., can all be bases for closure strategies.
Parkin describes two types of closure strategy or process: exclusion and usurpation. Exclusion refers to practices which separate the group from ‘outsiders’. The examples above, of aristocracy, professions and skilled artisans, are cases in point. Usurpation is a strategy adopted by low status or less privileged groups to gain advantages or resources which others are monopolizing; CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTS illustrate this, or, in the Indian CASTE system, the process of sanskritization.
The two strategies should not always be regarded as alternatives, or as mutually exclusive. Protestant workers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, for example, formed the Loyalist Association of Workers essentially to retain their privileges, i.e. they adopted an exclusion strategy with regard to Catholics. At the same time they continued normal processes of collective bargaining, involving occasional conflicts with employers, i.e. they attempted to increase their share of companies’ profits (the usurpation of employers’ and shareholders’ privilege). Parkin calls this type of joint strategy a process of dual closure. It is particularly associated with intermediate groups in the class or status systems.