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Placing meritocracy: urban marginality and the ideal of social mobility

Born, Anthony Miro (2023) Placing meritocracy: urban marginality and the ideal of social mobility. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Promoting social mobility in marginalised urban areas has become a powerful normative concern in public, political and academic debates. This thesis places the ideal of social mobility itself at the centre of analysis. Contributing to the literature of social mobility and territorial stigmatisation, this study examines the relationship between urban marginality and the meritocratic ideal from multiple perspectives. To do so, it combines a critical policy analysis with narrative interviews featuring upwardly mobile individuals, family members and long-term residents from and in stigmatised neighbourhoods in Germany. The analysis undertaken in this thesis demonstrates the ambivalence, contradictions and complexities of the social mobility imperative in the context of urban marginality in four moves. Firstly, I argue that politics of social mobility in working-class neighbourhoods can be closely aligned with the implementation of regressive policies and with obscuring and reproducing wider structures of power and domination. Secondly, by focusing on the successful narratives of moving ‘up’, I attend to the prolonged and lasting impact of territorial stigmatisation. Thirdly, I argue that social mobility affects not only the emotional life of the upwardly mobile individuals themselves but also of those who are commonly seen as having been ‘left behind’. Fourthly, I examine how residents of a stigmatised neighbourhood internalise and, at the same time, resist the ideal that contributes to social fragmentation. In light of this interrogation, the thesis calls for reshaping the debate on social justice at the bottom of the urban class structure.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2023 Anthony Miro Born
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Madden, David J. and Friedman, Sam

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