Challenging the age of austerity: Disruptive agency after the global economic crisis

Abstract

This article explores the different forms of disruptive subjectivity that have developed in the context of the post-2008 global and European crises. The article traces developments both before and after 2008, with a specific focus on events in Spain and the UK. These country contexts are chosen due to their considerable differences in terms of the impact that the crisis had; yet we witness notable similarities with regard to the instances of refusal and resistance observed, especially in terms of the motives held and forms adopted, albeit with differences in scale. The paper presents the results of qualitative research, including 65 in-depth interviews, to highlight the way in which disaffection, the search for voice, and the threat of withdrawal from relations of exploitation have each become problematic as means of dissent following 2008. As a result, we have seen a merging of these more conventional forms of dissent with a number of more radical prefigurative practices that had been developing prior to 2008. As a result, the stagnation of neoliberal capitalism from 2008 onwards has witnessed the development of a new form of pragmatically prefigurative disruptive subjectivity, responsible for some of the more important and interesting political developments in contemporary advanced industrial democracies.

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Acknowledgments

The research for this paper was supported by financial support awarded by the University of Birmingham School of Government and Society Research Fund and the project AJOVE12 funded by the Catalan government on ‘Social Inequality and Political Participation during the crisis’. Earlier versions of the paper were presented at Understanding the Post-Crisis Landscape: Assessing Change in Economic Management, Welfare, Work and Democracy seminar, ESRC Seminar Series, University of Birmingham (December 2014); European Studies Research Group, University of Birmingham (January 2015); International Studies Association annual conference (New Orleans, 2015); and Political Economy Research Group, University of Birmingham (June 2016). We are grateful for comments received on earlier drafts, especially those of Stephen Bates, Michael Biggs, Nicholas Kiersey, Laura Horn, Louisa Parks, Magnus Ryner, Matthew Watson and Angela Wigger. We also acknowledge the assistance of Albert Jiménez in compiling the list of Spanish protest events, and the detailed and very helpful comments of the anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to David J. Bailey.

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Bailey, D.J., Clua-Losada, M., Huke, N. et al. Challenging the age of austerity: Disruptive agency after the global economic crisis. Comp Eur Polit 16, 9–31 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41295-016-0072-8

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Keywords

  • refusal
  • resistance
  • global economic crisis
  • austerity
  • UK
  • Spain