The Politics of Global Austerity


Since the 1980s, it has become increasingly common among economists and policymakers to present austerity policies as the only way to bring economies out of recession and maintain economic growth and prosperity. Policies of austerity have been enthusiastically praised as a panacea for economic development and stability or grudgingly accepted as a necessary evil. “Softer” alternatives are dismissed as Utopian, unrealistic, and foolish. What explains austerity’s hegemonic status as a solution to all economic problems? What impact do the austerity principles have on state and popular sovereignty and on economic international and intranational inequality? In this class, we will trace the intellectual history of austerity. We will then examine the role that international organizations such as the IMF and World Bank play in promoting and enforcing the principles of austerity. We will also examine the effect that the age of austerity has had on the welfare state and the “race to the bottom.” Finally, we will look at a global backlash against austerity and ask: what's next?