24 July 2012Professor Ruth Levitas's article 'The Just's Umbrella: Austerity and the Big Society in Coalition policy and beyond' is published in Critical Social Policy.
The formation of the Coalition government in 2010 has resulted in unprecedented spending cuts presented as necessary austerity, together with the promotion of the 'Big Society' as the panacea for social ills. This article argues that the cuts continue a thirty-year process of redistribution to the rich. Rather than being a necessary response to the economic crisis, they constitute a neo-liberal shock doctrine, forcing through punitive policies which undermine the collective provision against risk that constitutes the 'just's umbrella'. However, arguments for reduced consumption and greater self-organization in civil society have purchase partly because of real needs for sustainable development and human well-being. Reading austerity and the Big Society through a 'hermeneutics of faith' rather than a 'hermeneutics of suspicion' opens up the utopian possibility of thinking holistically about an alternative, equitable, sustainable future radically different from that offered by conventional politics.