This article analyses `social exclusion' as conceptual and grammatical metaphor, discussing the concept's ideological impact on British policy-making. It complements work in political theory by employing a cognitive critical view of discourse and metaphor. The study draws on five different genres and analyses them quantitatively and qualitatively, looking at lemmas and their grammatical functions, clusters and collocations, and metaphoric expressions. In the data, society is conceptualized as a bounded space with a normative centre and a problematic periphery, with movement towards the centre as the aim of policy-making. Conceptual and grammatical metaphor interact because society is metaphorized as a bounded space, while the collocation `social exclusion' represents an abstract agentless nominalization and is re-concretized through a conceptual metaphor that casts it as a malleable object. This interplay of different forms of metaphor frames the discourse of social exclusion and orients political thought and action towards the reproduction, rather than transformation, of inequality.