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Title: Poor journalism : framing poverty and welfare in the British press during the 'age of neoliberalism', 1985-2015
Author: Harkins, Steven
ISNI:       0000 0004 6421 8746
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis examines 4070 articles in the British press written between 1985 and 2015. This longitudinal approach captures a timeframe which has been described by scholars as the ‘age of neoliberalism’. In order to understand how the neoliberal paradigm emerged, the thesis outlines a history of ideas about poverty in the UK national press which have developed across key periods characterised by individualism, collectivism, and a return to individualism. Individualism has been linked to neoliberal ideology, placing the individual consumer in the free market at the centre of political, social and economic decision making. This free market ideology undermines the case for the welfare state and is often used to criticise individuals experiencing poverty as failed capitalists or consumers rather than as victims of an unjust system. This thesis examines the extent to which this neoliberal ideology has been reflected in news coverage of poverty and welfare by examining news, politics and ideology. It finds that the press have engaged in a process of institutionalised social exclusion of welfare recipients who they construct as an ‘undeserving other’ who threatens ‘mainstream’ values. In doing so, the press have largely ignored inequality and the risk that poverty presents to many people by constructing it as an issue which only affects ‘others’ with behavioural problems. This behavioural diagnosis of poverty was consolidated in the early days of the commercial press and was used to blame impoverished people for their own poverty. This thesis analyses how the British press have reinforced neoliberal ideology by repackaging a set of claims about poverty and welfare which are rooted in the historical concepts of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor.
Supervisor: Steel, John ; Lugo-Ocando, Jairo ; Harcup, Tony Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available