austerity-200Austerity and Welfare

Programme leaders: Hannah Lambie-Mumford and Liam Stanley

This programme encompasses research on austerity and welfare since the crisis, focusing primarily on the UK. We are used now to hearing that we live in an age of austerity. But how, exactly, are we living within our means? Are we really ‘all in this together’? How is austerity actually being governed? Does the welfare state have a future – and if not, what will replace it? Is austerity transforming the boundaries between public, private, and household provision of welfare? SPERI researchers have been tackling these key puzzles in many different ways. With regard to austerity, our research has argued that austerity is predicated on a contrived crisis of debt and will therefore be unable to tackle the underlying issue of growth; that this contrived crisis has been successfully presented as a common sense response to a fiscal deficit; that the pain associated with austerity measures, broadly conceived, have been unevenly distributed across the UK; and that people and institutions are evolving in their responses to hardship. With regard to welfare, research has questioned whether the welfare state can survive in the current political and economic climate; how the meaning of welfare has shifted over time in a way that justifies certain policy responses; whether the responsibilities of the welfare state are being eroded and replaced by non-state institutions; and whether the welfare state is still the best route to ensure the well-being of the population. We are beginning as well to explore ways of continuing to defend the moral basis of the welfare state.

Recent and forthcoming publications:

Ongoing projects:

  • Hannah Lambie-Mumford’s research focuses on food poverty and insecurity, the rise of emergency food provision and the human right to food.
  • Liam Stanley is currently conducting research into how austerity has been governed in the UK, focusing on the phasing and timing of spending cuts and on the wider cultural meaning of austerity.
  • Liam Stanley and Todd Hartman are currently leading on a British Academy/Leverhulme-funded project that uses experimental surveys to explore the willingness of taxpayers to ‘pay for the poor’ in an age of austerity.
  • Craig Berry is researching the financialisation of UK pensions provision since 1997, focusing on how crisis narratives have justified an individualisation of UK pension, and considering the feasibility of alternative approaches to provision.