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Hans-Peter Michels


The concept of an ‘underclass’ originates in the United States and is wide-spread in political and social science discourse today. Its power is most visible in discussions about deep cuts to social safety nets. The foundation of this discourse is the assigning of negative character traits and behaviours to poor people. This promotes the claim that they have brought negative consequences upon themselves and furthers the idea that poor people are personally responsible for their poverty. Discussion about an ‘underclass’ must be understood in the larger context of a comprehensive neoliberal ideological transformation, or ‘Newspeak’. Newspeak is implicitly based on the schema of a game in which everyone has the same chances, but which inevitably results in winners and losers.

Open access

Burkhard Bierhoff and Hans-Peter Michels