Austerity and the local state
Governing and politicising ‘actually existing austerity’ in a post-democratic city
in How the other half lives
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This chapter engages with austerity and inequality as forms of slow structural violence, which unfold through the relationship between governors and the governed on the terrain of the local state and urban social infrastructures. Drawing on research conducted in London between 2015 and 2017, the author discusses the active role of the local state in rolling out austerity urbanism in London and suggests that a depoliticising ‘common sense’ over how austerity should be – and is being – administered is legible based on three inter-locking logics: compassionate competence; demand management; and speculative urban entrepreneurialism. The author also pays close attention to growing tensions between those who seek to ‘responsibly’ govern and build consensus for the slow structural violence of budget cuts and those who ‘dissensually’ refuse to be governed in such a way, who refuse to participate in the spoiling of social infrastructure or the social cleansing of their neighbourhoods. The chapter concludes by suggesting that an important current in London’s emergent urban social movements is that they are pushing beyond calls for a simple end to imposed scarcity and a return to the pre-crisis compromise. Rather, they are articulating anti-austerity with a bottom-up critique of the local state and a deeper desire to democratise urban life.

How the other half lives

Interconnecting socio-spatial inequalities

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