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Social Movements and Social Policies: Political Challenges Under Austerity In The UK

White, Gregory (2016) Social Movements and Social Policies: Political Challenges Under Austerity In The UK. The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest, 3 (2). pp. 17-32. ISSN 2330-1392. (KAR id:59730)


The economic crisis of 2007/2008 presented a challenge to the welfare state in the UK, and, more

widely, across Europe. It also presented a challenge to many citizens, who were on the receiving

end of the austerity agenda, and subsequent tightening of welfare spending. If nothing else,

the financial crisis demonstrated the hegemony of economic theories prominent in neoliberal

capitalism. As many academics and commentators have identified, however, the current period

of instability is indicative of a systemic crisis. In addition to this analysis, the crisis also exposed

the intricate and opaque links between western governments and the financial sector. During

and after the crisis an eruption of activity in civil society galvanised many that had been directly

affected by either the crisis itself – through loss of employment – or by the subsequent austerity

measures imposed. This paper aims to examine the current crisis affecting the welfare state in the

UK, and social policy more broadly, and, begins to suggest how social movements are seeking to

challenge the dominant discourses surrounding austerity politics. The paper will suggest some

reasons as to why traditional forms of resistance and organisation – such as the mobilisations

of the trade union movement – have largely been unsuccessful in challenging such narratives.

The paper will conclude by considering the shift from trade unionism in the UK to post-crisis

social movements, and where an anti-austerity movement more broadly might develop further in

pursuit of defending the principles of social welfare, and, ultimately, the welfare state.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Social movements; austerity; economic crisis; protest; social policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Depositing User: Gregory White
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2017 14:27 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2022 06:31 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

White, Gregory.

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