Whilst welfare and employment are not at the centre of Etzioni’s arguments, in the hands of New Labour, and following the Clinton governments, the communitarian argument has been used as an ideological means for attaching a much-strengthened obligation to work to unemployment-related benefits. This stance fits neatly with New Labour’s conception of combating ‘social exclusion’ as a guiding principle in its social policies. Social exclusion offers a wider concept than poverty in addressing the needs of the poor or marginalised, dealing as it does with the need for inclusion and participation rather than
simply increased income. Yet it has been interpreted by New Labour almost solely as participation in paid employment. Paid employment is seen as the solution to a range of social problems, from poverty to youth crime. New Labour emphasises the moral and social benefits of participation in work, as well as its income gains. As Levitas (1996) has argued, this definition of social exclusion obscures divisions and inequalities between those not deemed as excluded. Furthermore, when allied with the attachment of responsibilities to rights, it provides the essential social and political justification for policies whose key economic goal is to further international competitiveness.