Nascent geographies of austerity: understanding the implications of a (re)new(ed) Welfare-to-Work discourse

2016-06-22T15:39:48Z (GMT) by David Rigby
Following the 2008/9 global financial crisis and ensuing economic uncertainty, the roll out of austerity politics has seen significant welfare retrenchment and a recalibration of the state-citizen relationship which can arguably be characterised by a process of punitive Neoliberalism. Nevertheless, the impacts of austerity politics are proving to be geographically uneven: spatially, there is significant evidence that the northern and western parts of Britain, particularly towns and cities therein, are especially prone to the punitive impacts of neoliberal austerity politics, while socially, some parts of society (e.g. the young, the disabled) find themselves exposed to the worst effects of austerity. Conducted under the period of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat UK Coalition Government (2010-2015) this thesis starts by considering the degree to which punitive austerity policies are economically necessary or driven by political ideology. Alongside this it determines whether austerity politics is a (re)new(ed) approach to welfare provision and the state-citizen relationship. The empirical parts of the thesis examine the tactics and strategies utilised by those conducting (the state), implementing (welfare providers and employers), and recipients (people and employees) of welfare-to-work policies, before considering what adaptations, innovations, co-operation, resistance and coping strategies are being employed by these stakeholders in response to austerity politics. In the final part, I argue that whilst many of the neoliberalised policies devised by the Coalition Government have been a renewal and reinvention of those already in place, this is part of a broader trend which is marked by the emergence of a more punitive Neoliberalism associated with a work-first welfare regime.