The Alchemy of Austerity

Academic & Research
Monday, March 5, 2012 - 5:30pm
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Monday, March 5, 2012 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Open to the Public

In this seminar I will explore the return of Austerity as a political programme and project. Despite the evidence of previous incarnations of austerity, the belief in its transformative powers persists and its now dominates the European political landscape. In particular, the paradox of ‘expansionary austerity’ is expected to restore economic well-being.

Drawing on current work on austerity in the increasingly dis-United Kingdom, I will explore three dimensions of the alchemy of austerity:

1. the alchemic combination of austerity, nationalism, authoritarianism and populism in attempts to govern the crisis, posing the question of what sort of alchemy is this?

2. the echoes of earlier (1970s and 1980s) formations of ‘authoritarian populism’ in British politics, posing the question of ‘what is different this time’?

3. the puzzle of ‘unpopular populism’, posing the question of how to understand the relationship between dominant politics, consent, dissent and political mobilization. 

Although the seminar draws mainly on the British situation, I think the questions about the alchemy of austerity may have wider relevance.

John Clarke is a Professor of Social Policy at the Open University, UK and a recurrent Visiting Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU. His work has explored political and cultural transformations of nation, state and welfare, with a particular interest in the role of managerialism and consumerism in the remaking of public services. As a postgraduate student, he was part of the group that wrote Policing the Crisis (Hall et al., Macmillan, 1979), which examined the emergence of authoritarian populism and the exceptional state in 1970s Britain. His more recent work includes Changing Welfare, Changing States (Sage, 2004) and Publics, Politics and Power (with Janet Newman, Sage, 2009). He is currently involved in two research and writing collaborations, one on the theme of Disputing Citizenship; the other on Policy as Translation.