Orchestrating Austerity: Impacts & Resistance

By Duarte, Filipe | Canadian Review of Social Policy, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Orchestrating Austerity: Impacts & Resistance


Duarte, Filipe, Canadian Review of Social Policy


Orchestrating Austerity: Impacts & Resistance

Donna Baines & Stephen McBride (Eds.), Halifax & Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2014.

Donna Baines and Stephen McBride's edited book on austerity addresses one of the most important issues of the current political economy in western societies: austerity, the policy of cutting state budgets to promote growth, has been the preferred policy in all OECD countries, since the 2008 financial crisis.

In this sense, the debate about austerity is continues to be highly relevant in all western countries. Orchestrating Austerity: Impacts and Resistance is the result of a workshop organized by the "Austerity Research Group" at McMaster University in Canada. It succeeds in positioning itself as a substantial contribution from different Canadian fields of expertise to discuss, in both practical and intellectual terms, not only the global context of austerity, but also by applying an interesting and perceptive analysis of Canada's neoliberal politics in its various forms and intensities.

Arguably, this edited book offers several scholarly written pieces on austerity with a good overview of the literature and critiques. It is highly recommended for those interested in a critical understanding of the political economy of austerity, from a Canadian perspective. The book is structured into four parts, offering significant experiences of resistance, with a total of fourteen chapters from scholars, labour organizers and activists from all Canada.

Baines and McBride set out the aims and objectives of the book with an introductory overview of austerity, both historical and theoretically. They question whether there is something new about austerity, or if it can be just considered as a new wave of previously existing forms of neoliberalism (pp. 1-19).

Part one addresses "the context of austerity". The chapters under this section explore the shift to austerity, its applicability and incidence not only in Europe but also in Canada. Some chapters are more convincing than others. For example, MacBride's chapter "In Austerity We Trust" (pp. 10-20) is a scholarly written piece, in which he offers a good overview of the literature on austerity, notably a critique of Blyth's approach, one of the world's leading scholars on austerity. McBride pitches his arguments perfectly, despite his title sounding suspiciously like "pop economics". I also found some contradictions with Mark Blyth's book "Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea". For example, McBride says that "there is nothing new in practice or in theory about austerity" (pp. 13; 15). However, Mark Blyth has convincingly demonstrated that austerity is a powerful idea rooted in political ideology with its own empirical foundations as well theoretical basis.

Part two of this edited book seeks to explore some of the "Contradictions" of austerity in terms of gender equality, unionism, social democracy and class struggle. The chapters under this section help to understand some of the feminist critiques of neoliberalism, by rethinking and deconstructing the discourse of austerity. These chapters also conflate perspectives from the labour movement and social unionism to re-invent solidarity in times of austerity. This interesting discussion within this section helps to outline the provocative thesis of this edited book. …

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