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George Osborne’s machonomics

Abstract

Feminist scholars have described the behavioural traits that have flourished within the global economy in terms of a hegemonic ‘I know best’ masculinity. Whilst this literature has typically focused on a small number of business leaders around whom popular myths of wealth creation have developed, the same way of thinking might also be applied to policy-makers. At the very least, this study of George Osborne’s time as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer reveals how consistently he adopted the mantle of an omniscient hegemonic masculine subject in his approach to deficit reduction. It was an attitude to the task at hand I label ‘machonomics’. This concept is designed to mean more than that the outcomes of his austerity programme disproportionately disadvantaged women. It also captures the type of policy-maker that Osborne tried so hard to convince others he was. His self-projection finds a parallel, I argue, in what the macroeconomic theory literature describes as the specifically ‘conservative policy-maker’, someone reputed for trusting his own judgement even in the face of widespread dissent against his anti-social policies. The conservative policy-maker exudes the hegemonic masculinity that Osborne embodied in his refusal to voice opinions in public suggesting that there were viable alternatives to painful public expenditure cuts.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I would like to thank for their perceptive comments on previous versions of this article the Co-Executive Editor of British Politics, Peter Kerr, Emma Foster, the journal’s anonymous referees and the participants in the ‘Politics of Inequality’ panel at the PSA Conference in Glasgow in April 2017. This article was written with financial assistance from an Economic and Social Research Council Professorial Fellowship. The Fellowship - grant number ES/K0 10697/1 - supports the project, ‘Rethinking the Market’ (www.warwick.ac.uk/rethinkingthemarket). I gratefully acknowledge the ESRC’s ongoing support of my research.

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Watson, M. George Osborne’s machonomics. Br Polit 12, 536–554 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41293-017-0059-3

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Keywords

  • George Osborne
  • Austerity
  • Hegemonic masculinity
  • Conservative policy-maker
  • Public expenditure cuts