What Is Austerity? Why Anti-Austerity Movements Matter

by R.L. Stephens II on July 7, 2011

Austerity is an economic policy that limits spending and eliminates public services with the purpose of reducing national budget deficits.  In the United States, the plans to reduce or eliminate social security, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, education funding, and other programs are examples of austerity policy in the United States.  When the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank gave Latin American countries loans, austerity measures were stipulated, this forced austerity is known as structural adjustment.   Therefore austerity in developing countries is often attached to neoliberalism.

Woman at 2000 Water War Protest in Cochabamba, Bolivia

In Bolivia, neoliberalism and its austere social model, were overthrown by the “Water War” that began in 2000.  The “Water War” was a rebellion against privatizing the public water company.  Privatization of the water system was an austerity measure because the public water company burdened the national debt and was an expensive service, so in an effort to reduce the deficit, the program was sacrificed.

The Bolivian Water War movement would launch Evo Morales into the presidency in 2005.  Now, the nation recently passed a law granting the earth equal rights to humans.  The vice-president declared “A new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”  So there has certainly been some success in resisting the austerity model.  People have been struggling against austerity policy for a number of years, and we are seeing the battle again in places like Greece and Spain.

However, it has been a number of years since we have had a moment where much of the world was united in the revolutionary spirit.  I believe we must look back to the year 1968, as the last moment of transcontinental unrest and movement.  This Turbulence article highlights the importance of that year.  I think this is our 1968.

I write about the current anti-austerity movement because I can feel its power.  I see people coming together in a wave of energy and with the belief that our collective actions can transform our shared reality.  Because I have seen the ravages of austerity policy for myself, knowing that there are people struggling against government cuts gives me comfort and empowers me.  Additionally, seeing people explore alternatives to the idea of capitalism as the basis for our social organization emboldens me.   I feel that I am not the only one looking for a way out of this insanity, and I am willing to die for a new path.

I currently study law, one of the most conservative fields in this country and one of capitalist exploitation’s core tools.  Not even considering the activism I have done myself and hope to inspire in others, by just writing these ideas down on the internet, I risk never having a career as a practicing attorney.  I believe that I cannot ask a person to be an activist, and risk their job, if I am not willing to sacrifice my own.

So, for me, my articles about austerity are not only a personal catharsis, but they are also my attempt to reach out to you, the reader, and show you that you are not alone.  We are part of an era of unprecedented connection, with so much potential for action and transformation.  We just need a pulse.  Orchestrated Pulse

4 Responses to “What Is Austerity? Why Anti-Austerity Movements Matter”

  1. […] evolving concept where I am discussing austerity policy and the movements against it.  In the post What Is Austerity, I state that austerity is an economic policy that limits spending and eliminates public services […]

  2. […] stories since 2008.  The aggregation of these stories has been used to justify both the austerity (What Is Austerity?) and bailout programs, which leads to the conclusion that the crisis can be fixed.  Fox News in […]

  3. […] such as the Family Treatment Court demonstrates two things.  First, we can see, yet again, that austerity disproportionately burdens the services that target the effects of poverty and disabilitie….  Second, we see that our system doesn’t believe in the human and fiscal benefits of […]

  4. […] access to actionable information, or knowledge that empowers people, and applying it to the austerity issue in the United States.  Russell Brand argues that corporations are able to take narratives like […]