Date of Award

6-28-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Harvey Holtz, Ph.D

Second Advisor

Thomas VanDyke, Ph.D

Third Advisor

Melanie Hildebrandt, Ph.D

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation was to explore and understand how the dominant ideological effect of capitalism has influenced the development of one local ten-year plan to end homelessness in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Ten-year plans to end homelessness were instituted through a national initiative launched by the Bush Administration in 2003. The Allegheny County Homeless Alliance Advisory Board (HAAB) was studied because they were the appointed group held responsible for the implementation of the local plan. The literature review established a context for homelessness and capitalism, exploring how the two concepts are connected. Analysis occurred on multiple levels to reveal power-based constraints in both a local, extralocal, and theoretical context. The study was conducted utilizing an extended case method approach, exploring sociological aspects of capitalist phenomenon utilizing Marxist tradition. Data was gathered during open ended interviews with HAAB members, participant observation of meetings, field notes, and within document analysis of three years of quarterly meetings. The study revealed an association between submerged and tightly interwoven internal and external systems of control as exerted by the local governmental body responsible for implementing the group's plan. Secondary outcomes indicated that there were increased levels of awareness and communication among the diverse membership of the HAAB. Furthermore, the data illustrated that internal networks and relationships had spawned transformative actions outside of the institutionalized governmental structure of the group. The theoretical findings in this dissertation indicate that Marxism can be reconstructed and extended to better explain the dehumanizing effects of capitalism. The research suggests that praxical transformation of embedded capitalist-driven social relationships can be initiated through a cyclical process of reflection, evaluation, education, and critical discourse. Furthermore, empowering and educating group participants to carry out plan implementation through democratically-informed consensus building processes may be more effective than bureaucratic-led, state-run, government-driven approaches to ending homelessness. Expanded research focusing on how capitalism influences interpersonal relationships and corresponding institutional structures is needed to better reveal unjust power-based relationships that defeat the purpose of plans to eradicate homelessness and poverty.

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