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Living and Feeling the Austere

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This paper moves beyond conceptualisations of austerity as fiscal policy towards exploring the multiple ways austerity may be lived and felt in everyday life. Drawing on research with families affected by disability, this paper argues that austerity is felt as a series of atmospheres that envelop and condition times and spaces of the everyday. Austerity is made both affectively and materially present through these atmospheric intensities as they register and radiate between individual bodies and everyday objects. As they shape both day-to-day practices and future imaginaries, atmospheres of austerity generate numerous individualised experiences that result in multiple affective relations towards austerity. As a result, this paper holds together the following relations to austerity: anticipating austerity, adapting to austerity, 'getting on with life' and accepting austerity. These show that austerity is more than an economic policy; it is a phenomenon that is understood through individuals' lived and felt realities that are often experienced through fluctuating, non-coherent and sometimes conflicting affective relations that come to shape how people feel and act in the everyday. It is through a conceptualisation of austerity as lived that we might galvanise people against austerity by encouraging a more nuanced and multi-tonal counter politics that takes into account the multiple affective relations that are expressed through various domains of everyday life.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2016

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  • new formations is an inter-disciplinary journal of culture, politics and theory. It covers a wide range of issues, from the seduction of perversity to questions of nationalism and postcolonialism.

    'essential reading for those who want to understand politics in the light of the most important trends in contemporary theory' Chantal Mouffe.

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