This article addresses the prominence of ‘vulnerability’ as a way of making sense of disadvantage and suffering in both social policy and social science. It examines the interplay of vulnerability as a material phenomenon and cultural script by foregrounding the experiences of the most marginal benefit claimants in Australia’s residual social security system. The article questions whether the everyday disruptions and challenges that unsettle yet settle-into life in poverty are intelligible within authorised idioms of vulnerability that govern access to support. By examining what people surviving on benefits are vulnerable to and how they are compelled to demonstrate their status as vulnerable, it contributes a critical account of lived experiences of vulnerability that holds both its discursive and phenomenological dimensions in view.
- social security