Based on ethnographic research in Harpurhey, Manchester, in the northwest of England, this article addresses the emergence of a moral economy of personhood amongst some of the poorest people in Britain today. Specifically, the article studies how new conceptions of the viable and worthy person emerge in the practice of borrowing and lending money between neighbours, as a sort of ‘safety net’ in times of financial precarity and social stigma. The humiliation experienced regularly by people who need state support to make ends meet is responded to in the local prioritization of what it means to ‘be fair’ and to express and recognize the worthy self in negotiating the terms of a loan. It is in the process of negotiation that we can see in a new light what is being responded to and fought for in the face of stigma and precarity. Despite experiencing an ever-increasing threat of poverty and destitution, we see worthy selves, fair persons, and the creation of an alternative space of hope in which social and personal worth can be expressed and recognized.
- Fairness, money, welfare, poverty, intersubjectivity