Barriers to Social Change: Neoliberalism and the Justification of the Status-Quo among Low-Income African Americans
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Neoliberalism has been the dominant political-economic model in the United States since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 (Harvey, 2005). Few studies have shown how the political-economic model of neoliberalism influences behavior at the individual level (Brown, 2003; Esposito and Finley, 2014; Gershon, 2011; Klein, 2012; Leve, 2011; Martin, 2000). This study uses qualitative methods in order to understand how individuals internalize, rationalize, and explain a hierarchical social order and inequities in society. Further, it seeks to understand the connections between system justification theory and the influence of neoliberalism on individual-level behavior. In-depth interviews of 8 low-income African Americans living in the Kansas City metro area were analyzed in this study. Interview questions assessed how individuals perceive social inequities in society as being systemic or as problems of the individual. The results indicate that individualistic explanations for social problems are often paired with myths, stereotypes, and system justifying ideologies, but these are more likely to be absent in more systemic level responses. Further, respondents tended to mainly blame the individual or themselves for their economic circumstances, expressed individualistic solutions for systemic-level problems, and a form of neoliberal agency was displayed by the respondents.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Review of literature -- Methodology -- Results -- Discussion -- Appendix A. Code book -- Appendix B. Memos -- Appendix C. Interview guide