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Money and meaning: how working-age social security recipients understand and use their money

Summers, Katherine Elizabeth (2018) Money and meaning: how working-age social security recipients understand and use their money. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.q03ep529qfi8

Abstract

This thesis explores how working-age social security money in the UK is understood and used from the perspective of its recipients, using an approach that emphasises the ‘social meaning’ of money. The thesis is motivated by two initial observations. On the one hand, politicians and policymakers have demonstrated an awareness that social security money has the capacity to carry and communicate social meaning. Yet, on the other hand, the mostly individualistic, asocial, perspectives of neoclassical and (more recently) behavioural economics, have continued to dominate the way in which social security policy has been framed. Against this background, the main argument of the thesis is that both academics and policymakers have so far underestimated the social aspects of social security money on a micro level, within the lives of its recipients. A novel alternative perspective is proposed, drawing on insights from new economic sociology, that theorises social security money as constituted by social context, social relations, and social meanings. This theoretical perspective is explored empirically using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 43 working-age social security recipients living in East London. The interviews are analysed using a form of thematic analysis. The empirical findings are presented in three main sections that address the participants’ experiences of claiming, organising, and spending social security money. Based on these empirical findings, the thesis argues that four key concepts can help to clarify how working-age social security money is understood and used from the perspective of its recipients. These are: supplication and earned entitlement; control and responsibility; dependence and independence; and administratively-defined need. The thesis concludes by showing the implications of these key concepts for how policymakers approach the design of social security payments specifically, and how they might better understand recipients’ experiences of social security policy more generally.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Katherine Elizabeth Summers
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Hills, John and Dean, Hartley
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3794

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