Resistance, Acquiescence and Social Justice in Global ‘Austerity Urbanism’ – Urban Politics and beyond

‘Austerity urbanism’ (Peck, 2012) has spread throughout the world from global South to Global North.The manifestation of this is the restructuring and reduction in the scope of the nation state (Streeck and Schafer, 2013), as well as continuing devolved responsibility for well-being to urban political actors and citizens. These processes are justified by a discourse of a need for austerity with an overextended state impeding the free market, and an immoral underclass not fulfilling their societal responsibilities. We find austerity discourses around ‘justice’, particular in relation to a common good (see Clarke and Newman, 2012; Blyth, 2013; Fuller, 2017). Central governments and national politicians assert austerity but the implementation of austerity passes in large part to urban governance. This is not to suggest that urban areas simply consent to austerity. Urban politics is an arena in which disparate understandings of justice interact, leading to the possibility of acquiescence, circumvention and contestation of austerity (Williams et al, 2014). This session examines the extent and nature of acquiescence and resistance to austerity urbanism across the global, recognising its longitudinal nature in the Global South, by focusing on how justice is socially constructed and deliberatively enacted by actors. Many urban governments are controlled by parties which are at least less enthusiastic about austerity than central governments and whose membership may actively oppose this programme. However, elected representatives have been enmeshed in cutting since the 2008 crash and do not seem willing to engage in active opposition as opposed to complaining about unfairness (which is real) in the allocation of reduced overall funding.

We are looking for a first a set of standard paper sessions which address these issues. Key questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How is justice constructed in the everyday of austerity urbanism?
  • What is the role of justice in resistance to austerity urbanism?
  • Why do actors acquiescence to austerity? Are there particular conceptions of justice that acquire hegemonic status and how do they achieve this?
  • How has resistance to austerity and alternative conceptions of justice developed in the Global South? – What are the lessons from the Global South for cities in the North that are now experiencing austerity?
  • What is the nature of left urban politics in cities where left parties are implementing austerity on a day to day basis?


Crispian Fuller, Cardiff University