Ethnographies of austerity

Austerity is not about numbers, economic data or amorphous macro-scale policies; Austerity is about people. Middle and working-class people, they are the ones who bear the brunt of oppressive neoliberalism and carry the depressing burdens of austerity in their everyday life: increasing unemployment, decreasing wages, capturing debt, suicides, and the overall deterioration of the social welfare, healthcare and education systems.
Ethnography is a thorough endeavour to understand the cultural meanings and activities of people, and to illustrate the grassroots realities of everyday life. Ethnography is an inlet which facilitates us to delve into domestic and particular social topologies. Ethnography is writing about people.
The two following books virtuosically fulfill this intellectual and humanistic task, presenting engaging and important ethnographies of living with and in austerity.

Getting By Estates class and culture in austerity BritainIn Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain, Lisa Mckenzie (LSE) transports us into complex realities of council estate life. For more than 20 years Mckenzie has lived on the St Ann’s estate (Nottingham, England), that has been stigmatised as a place where gangs, guns, drugs, single mothers, and those unwilling or unable to make something of their lives reside. Her insider status enables us to hear the stories of its residents, often wary of outsiders. We find strong, resourceful, ambitious people who are ‘getting by’, often with humour, in conditions of heightened poverty and inequalities. Through ethnographic vignettes, Mckenzie brightly shows us how the resilient and creative local community stands up in face of brutal and dark austerity. This well-written book is a vivid, authentic and subtle account of class, gender and race in austerity Britain. (Open access to a foreword by Danny Dorling and an afterword by Owen Jones).

Navigating Austerity Currents of Debt along a South Asian RiverWhat happens to society, and the environment, when austerity dominates political and economic life? – was also the question that troubled Laura Bear (LSE). To get to the heart of it, in Navigating Austerity: Currents of Debt along a South Asian River, she tells the stories of boatmen, shipyard workers, port clerks and river pilots on the Hooghly River, a tributary of the Ganges that flows into the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. Through their accounts, the author traces the hidden currents of state debt crises and their often devastating effects.
Taking us on a voyage along the river, in this original book Bear proficiently reveals how bureaucrats, entrepreneurs and workers navigate austerity policies. Their attempts to reverse the decline of ruined public infrastructures, environments and urban spaces lead her to argue for a radical rethinking of economics according to a social calculus. This is a critical measure derived from the ethical concerns of people affected by national policies. The book shows how the most basic creation of value and capital in the global economy depends on a complex and local mobilization of labor, resources, cultural meanings and political force.
But Bear brings more than fascinating ethnographic specificities, by suggesting new practices of state financing and ways to democratize fiscal policy to restore long-term social obligations. Navigating Austerity greatly contributes to policy studies as well as to the understanding of today’s injustices on the ground in the shadow of state debt and contemporary neoliberal capitalism.

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  1. Social and Solidarity Economy Publication now on free open source…see below

    Isidor Wallimann, Ph.D.
    Visiting Research Professor
    Maxwell School, Syracuse University
    Syracuse, NY 13244-1020
    1. Social and Solidarity Economy for Sustainable Development: The Social Economy Basel example
    2. The Great Sustainability Challenge
    3. The Coming Age of Scarcity : Preventing Mass Death and Genocide in the Twenty-first Century
    4. Das Zeitalter der Knappheit – Ressourcen, Konflikte, Lebenschancen
    5. Sozialpolitik Anders Denken. Das Verursacherprinzip – von der Umweltpolitischen zur sozialpolitischen Anwendung
    6. Sozialpolitik nach Verursacherprinzip : Beispiele der Anwendung aus Arbeit, Gesundheit, Sucht, Schule und Wohnen
    7. Soziale Arbeit und Ökonomie : Politische Ökonomie, Arbeitsmärkte, Sozialpolitik, Soziale Ökonomie
    8. Armut : der Mensch lebt nicht vom Brot allein : Wege zur soziokulturellen Existenzsicherung
    9. Weg von der Armut durch soziokulturelle Integration : Bei Sozialhilfeabhängigkeit, Alter und Behinderung
    10. Selbstverwaltung: Entwicklungen und Perspektiven, Soziale Bewegungen, Krisen und Soziale Oekonomic
    11. Entmündigung und Emanzipation durch die Soziale Arbeit: Individuelle und strukturelle Aspekte
    12. Estrangement: Marx’s Conception of Human Nature and the Division of Labor
    13. Genocide and the Modern Age: Etiology and Case Studies of Mass Death
    14. Genocide In Our Time : An Annotated Bibliography With Analytical Introductions
    15. Towards the Holocaust: the social and economic collapse of the Weimar Republic
    16. Radical Perspectives on the Rise of Fascism in Germany, 1919-1945

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