Brainstorming for Thesis


I am writing a thesis on what causes homelessness. Here is my big picture of things, politically speaking. It’s meant to a brainstorm so I can come up with a hypothesis for the thesis. Please leave comments and critiques if you wish.

North America and Europe are as of now neoliberal capitalist societies. (Some Marxists call this late stage capitalism.) This is similar to the older, industrial capitalism that came before, but it also has profound differences. The first big difference is how neoliberal capitalism is gradually replacing old-school industrial jobs with new, white-collar, service jobs, and a new “creative class” is emerging to take those jobs. The second big difference is how North America and Europe uses those new jobs to increasingly merge the economies of other nations into a global economy.

This is a “nicer” form of capitalism but is more insidious. In good, old-fashioned, old-school, industrial capitalism, working class people were exploited in dirty factories. Now the dirty factories are shipped overseas, and exploited, desperate people are far away from us where we can’t see them. The working class people now don’t have jobs. Most are already poor, but now they sink deeper into poverty. At the same time neoliberal capitalists gentrify the inner city where all the dirty factories used to be so they can open more white-collar, service jobs. The new, gentrified city is expensive to live in, so working class people must leave, becoming even poorer and more invisible.

At the same time, North America and Europe are becoming more stratified in wealth. This is a more typical critique of capitalism you hear. A small “aristocracy” of huge capitalists become richer and richer while the middle and lower classes sink into deeper poverty. In the process smaller capitalists get swallowed up, making the “aristocracy” at the top increasingly smaller and with a greater monopoly over everything. This machine has been around since industrial capitalism and keeps pressing forward well into neoliberal capitalism. Most, if not all, centrist and right wing political parties in America and Europe devote themselves to keeping this machine intact. The left wing is scattered, with little unison among left-wingers who cling to a small, narrow domain of interests rather than uniting for a common cause.

What does any of this have to do with homeless? The answer is all these capitalist things that are happening exacerbate factors that make people homeless. More people sink into deeper poverty and become more invisible to society. Homelessness is the extreme end of poverty. There are homeless people who temporarily lose their homes since they can’t find jobs or can’t afford to live in a gentrified area, for example. There are homeless people who come from poor, abusive, and mentally-ill families, and that sets them up to be dysfunctional. (In women’s case, a lot of women flee abuse.) All of these factors are exacerbated by how capitalism works by increasing poverty and cutting away vital services, as I described above.

As for intersectionality: it is common knowledge that being a racial minority or being a woman will worsen your quality of life and your wealth because of systemic racism and patriarchy. (Some feminists call these discriminatory practices, power imbalances, and prejudices white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.) When someone is a woman, black, and queer etc. their disadvantages pile up and make things much worse. This is especially true in terms of wealth. (White women earn about 75% that white men do, notwithstanding normalizing the statistics. Black and hispanic women earn even less than white men. People who are GLBTQ find employment harder than straight people.)

What does any of this have to do with homeless? Being a minority in some way is generally a disadvantage and increases your chances at poverty, especially if you are a minority in more than one way. Of course this isn’t black and white. Homeless people are mostly be black and male but extreme poverty on the whole is made up of more women than men. And generally capitalism in America and Europe has a vested interest in keeping things like systemic racism and patriarchy intact, as it gives more power and security to the top capitalists, who tend to be white and male. And as I argued above, poverty exacerbates chances and factors leading to homelessness.


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