Challenging austerity in Ireland: community and movement responses
Cox, Laurence (2012) Challenging austerity in Ireland: community and movement responses. Concept: the journal of contemporary community education practice theory, 3 (2). ISSN 1359-1983
In the period 2008-10, many observers were surprised at how quickly and completely neoliberal orthodoxies reasserted themselves as the only substantial response to the global financial crisis. After all, the anticapitalist / global justice movement had highlighted the ills of neoliberalism (and put the term into the Anglophone political vocabulary) since the summit protests of 1999 – 2001 if not since the Zapatista uprising of 1994. Surely this crisis would bring others, especially in communities facing the brunt of the economic collapse, to agree with this analysis and look in different directions? Unfortunately, as activists know, there is no substitute for real agitation, organising and education. If many intellectuals were brought to advertise the merits of their particular variant of political economy, the crisis in itself did not extend the reach which social movements had created in the boom years. High-profile figures who publicly considered alternative responses to crisis – Brown, Soros, Stiglitz – were largely squeezed out of the orthodoxy, for which there is no plan B (or only in the most marginal forms, as in the US or Hollande’s approach). Official education, for all its variety and resources, has ultimately become a mechanism for reinforcing TINA (“There Is No Alternative”). The official mantra has been to use the crisis to reinforce fiscal orthodoxy rather than acknowledge its failure, attack the public sector for the effects of financial speculation, squeeze demand and cut essential services to those communities who were only ever touched marginally by the boom. The all-important space that lies between the conscious and strategic solidarity of elites and the struggles of movements and communities to organise did not, outside of Greece and Iceland, manage to articulate new, collective responses until the Indignados, Occupy and other anti-austerity movements of 2011.
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