Owen Worth: Resistance in the Age of Austerity.

Author:Layfield, David
Position:Book review
 
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Owen Worth Resistance in the Age of Austerity, Zed Books, London, 2013; 170 pp: 9781780323350, [pounds sterling]14.99 (pbk)

We have seen many books, articles and documentaries on 'the crisis' of 2008 and its aftermath. Never before, it seems, has a recession inspired such a wealth of journalistic and academic investigation, ranging from the optimistic--Freed Zakaria (2009)--to the pessimistic: Harry Shutt (2009) or Jack Rasmus (2010). These writers have sought to identify the causes of the crisis and suggest remedies, or at least offer arguments for why recovery may never come. Few have attempted to think through the kind of resistance government economic policies have provoked, and even fewer have tried to think through why a crisis that has been used as a pretext for simultaneously cutting jobs and wages, and cutting welfare benefits and entitlements, has not provoked a transnational anti-systemic movement. These are the big questions Owen Worth investigates in this current work.

Resistance in the Age of Austerity examines the Occupy movement, the Tea Party, the rise of popular nationalism and the rise of religious fundamentalism through a Gramscian lens. Can any of these become a post-modern prince; that is, a movement capable of challenging the common sense of neoliberalism?

The book opens with a short sketch of the post-Cold War economic order. The chapter includes an outline of neoliberalism as theory and practice, the globalisation of neoliberalism, and a discussion of neoliberalism as a hegemonic project. This final section of the opening chapter places emphasis on the idea that the neoliberal project has provoked much resistance around the world. As Worth comments, 'by the time the financial crisis occurred, neoliberalism was being contested on grounds of inequality, for being undemocratic, for subverting national identities and sovereignty, as a weapon of US led imperialism, and for appearing to be the enemy of a particular religious belief' (p. 28). Post-crisis, these various criticisms have been unable to form themselves into a coherent alternative, and this has allowed the neoliberal project to continue.

The next chapter continues the theoretical groundwork with a very interesting discussion of forms of resistance, ranging from counter-hegemony to religious fundamentalism. Counter-hegemony represents the Gramscian 'war of movement' or 'war of position'. War of movement is taken to mean a frontal assault on the state, and war of...

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