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Konstantinos G. Kougias

Chronic deficiencies of the Greek welfare state and the introduction of austerity measures as part of the international financial bailout agreements have created an explosive cocktail of poverty and social exclusion that severely tested the resilience of the frail social safety net and the demands of equity. The score on the indicators of social quality has worsened considerably as the Greek welfare system was overhauled. This article examines the four conditional factors of social quality from the viewpoint of socio-economic policies and everyday experiences in Greece during the crisis.

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Afterword

Reversing the world—What austerity does to time and place

Theodoros Rakopoulos

Instead of taking for granted that austerity is unidirectionally associated with Europe, the anthropology of austerity should be paying attention to the situatedness of its effects. The levering potential that a comparative analysis of austerity allows is precious, for it opens new critical perspectives on our understanding of temporal and geographical consciousness. An antipode of perspective invites a more historical analysis of a phenomenon that unsettles the conceived understandings of Europe’s position.

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Anna Cento Bull

This chapter examines the consequences of the financial scandal that engulfed the Northern League's inner circle—the so-called Magic Circle—made up of the party's leader Umberto Bossi, his family, and their most trusted friends. At the political level, the scandal brought to the fore a fight for the party's leadership, pitting Bossi against Roberto Maroni, the former minister of the interior, which ended with a clear victory for Maroni. At the electoral level, the party suffered a heavy defeat in the May 2012 local administrative elections, despite its opposition to the austerity measures introduced by the new Monti government. This chapter analyzes the significance of Maroni's victory in terms of the League's political style and policies. It also addresses the question of whether this party can once again reinvent itself and regain the support of the electorate in the North.

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Lorenzo Mosca

This chapter looks at the most important actors engaged in social and political conflict in Italy during 2012, linking conflicts to policy arenas and the change in policy style of the government. The study is based mostly on a qualitative analysis of the most important national newspapers. The actors examined are the mobilization of students, the trade union movement, the “No TAV” movement (against high-speed trains in northwestern Italy), and the Five Star Movement, all active against the anti-austerity measures of the technical government. Social reaction against so-called neo-liberal policies in Italy has been belated and fragmented when compared with other European countries. In the final section we discuss the explanations for the particular characteristics of the Italian protest movements during 2012.

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Singing with Dignity

Adding Social Quality to Organization Studies on Aging

Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil

Scholars of organization studies are right to be concerned with the limited contributions the field has made to public policy despite the societal relevance of the insights it contains. The combination of bulkiness and of insulated pockets of specialization could help explain the relative isolation from policy making that tends to require a combination of speed and multifaceted application. The social quality (SQ) approach is simultaneously an analytical tool and a political project to secure dignity of precarious individuals. The multilevel framework adopted by SQ can effectively channel the wide range of contributions from organization studies in the service of public good. Using an ethnography of music lessons followed by older adults in a cultural institution facing imminent closure because of austerity measures, the article connects SQ work to contributions from organization theory, which can shed light on organizing principles critical to well-being of older persons.

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Theodore Powers and Theodoros Rakopoulos

This introduction posits that austerity is an instantiation of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) and thus must be revisited in two ways, involving its historical and geographical rendering. First, anthropological accounts should think of austerity in the long term, providing encompassing genealogies of the concept rather than seeing it as breach to historical continuity. Second, the discipline should employ the comparative approach to bring together analyses of SAPs in the Global South and austerity measures in the Global North, providing a more comprehensive analysis of this phenomenon. We are interested in what austerity does to people’s temporal consciousness, and what such people do toward a policy process that impacts their lives. We find, in this comparative pursuit, instead of Foucauldian internalization, dissent and dissatisfaction.

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Social Movements and Social Policies

Political Challenges under Austerity in the UK

Gregory White

The economic crisis of 2007/2008 presented a challenge to the welfare state in the UK, and, more widely, across Europe. It also presented a challenge to many citizens, who were on the receiving end of the austerity agenda, and subsequent tightening of welfare spending. If nothing else, the financial crisis demonstrated the hegemony of economic theories prominent in neoliberal capitalism. As many academics and commentators have identified, however, the current period of instability is indicative of a systemic crisis. In addition to this analysis, the crisis also exposed the intricate and opaque links between western governments and the financial sector. During and after the crisis an eruption of activity in civil society galvanized many that had been directly affected by either the crisis itself—through loss of employment—or by the subsequent austerity measures imposed. This article aims to examine the current crisis affecting the welfare state in the UK, and social policy more broadly, and, begins to suggest how social movements are seeking to challenge the dominant discourses surrounding austerity politics. The article suggests some reasons as to why traditional forms of resistance and organization—such as the mobilizations of the trade union movement—have largely been unsuccessful in challenging such narratives. The article concludes by considering the shift from trade unionism in the UK to post-crisis social movements, and where an anti-austerity movement more broadly might develop further in pursuit of defending the principles of social welfare, and, ultimately, the welfare state.