Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 225–240 | Cite as

Brexit positions: neoliberalism, austerity and immigration—the (im)possibilities? of political revolution

  • Kathy PowellEmail author


The UK referendum on European Union membership exposed profound social and political divisions, rooted in the establishment of a neoliberal consensus that eclipsed the left and arguments against inequality, and intensified over several years of post-crisis austerity’s assault on the working poor, the disadvantaged and the immigrants. The narrow vote to leave confounded expectations on both sides of the referendum campaign, provoking a political crisis that has empowered a far right unlikely to address grievances, incited intense hostility between triumphant ‘leavers’ and dismayed ‘remainers’, and produced profound uncertainty about the future. This paper argues that while ‘Brexit’ has been characterized as a ‘people’s revolt’ against capitalist globalization, the decision to leave the EU has been aligned by a discourse of nativist nationalism and attempts to re-entrench an authoritarian Conservative hegemony; these attempts are, however, floundering which poses both opportunities and challenges for a resurgent parliamentary left and for radical grassroots politics going forward.


Austerity Immigration EU referendum Conservative hegemony Labour resurgence 


Compliance with ethical standards

This study complies with the Journal’s ethical standards.

This study received no funding.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Political Science and SociologyNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayRepublic of Ireland

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