Comparative European Politics

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 745–761 | Cite as

Making sense of austerity: the gendered ideas of European economic policy

  • Muireann O’DwyerEmail author
Winner of the CEP/CES-GPE 2018 Early Career Scholar Prize


This paper focuses on the role of gender in the generation of coherence and legitimacy of austerity, as applied in the European Union. It examines the rhetorical defences of austerity and unpacks the gendered nature of the reforms that austerity programmes required. The absence of gender-sensitive analysis in policy making is an absence that is essential to both the coherence and the legitimacy of austerity. The findings from this discourse analysis are a direct contribution to the project of understanding austerity as an ideological and political phenomenon. This project has, thus far, excluded such considerations. This analysis shows the, often contradictory, roles that gender plays in the discourse of austerity, highlighting the need for research that appreciates the need for such nuances. It also shows how gender plays a role in the key economic arguments for austerity, in particular that of the fiscal multiplier and those surrounding labour market reforms. As austerity in the European Union is normalised and adjusted in coming years, these findings will continue to be relevant until the debates over austerity take gender seriously.


Gender Austerity European Economic Governance Discourse analysis Legitimacy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Politics and International StudiesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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