Farrugia, David, Smyth, John and Harrison, Tim (2015) Moral distinctions and structural inequality: homeless youth salvaging the self. Sociological Review. ISSN 0038-0261

This paper explores the construction and contestation of moral distinctions as adimension of contemporary structural inequality through a focus on the subjectiv-ities constructed by young people who have experienced homelessness. Empiricalmaterial from two research projects shows that in young people’s narratives ofhomelessness, material insecurity intertwines with the moral economies at work inneoliberal capitalist societies to construct homelessness as a state of moral disgrace,in which an ungovernable experience is experienced as a moral failure. When youngpeople gain access to secure housing, the increasing stability and security of theirlives is narrated in terms of a moral adherence to personal responsibility and disci-plined conduct. Overall the paper describes an economy of worth organized arounddistinctions between order and chaos, self-governance and unruliness, morality anddisgrace, which structures the experience of homelessness. As young people’s posi-tion in relation to these moral ideals reflects the material conditions of their lives,their experiences demonstrate the way that moral hierarchies contribute to the ex-istence and experience of structural inequalities in neoliberal capitalist societies.

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