This book is about the meanings of austerity. In it, I argue for an understanding of austerity as a site of discursive struggle between different visions of the future. This site of struggle extends beyond party politics and debates about economic policy into environmental, anti-consumerist, and feminist politics, into the terrain of media, consumer, and popular culture, and into people’s everyday lives. Focusing predominantly on the UK context, I explore the ways in which the historical era of ‘austerity Britain’ (1939–54) has been used as a representational resource and point of comparison and analogy in the discourse of austerity that emerged in the wake of the 2007–8 global financial crisis. And I show how ‘1eft’-political (green, red and feminist) orientations to austerity discourse, and to diverse uses of the past in the present, are tied up with longstanding assumptions about the relationship between history, culture and politics. In this introduction, I set out some of the reference points and critical contexts for this argument, drawing attention to certain tensions and antagonisms within austerity discourse.
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