Austerity before austerity: grassroots ethics of reproduction in the making of austerity regimes
Patrícia Alves de Matos
(University of Lisbon)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the historical articulation and mutual constitution of austerity as an economic policy regime and austerity as a grassroots ethics of reproduction.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the historical articulation and mutual constitution of austerity as an economic policy regime and austerity as a grassroots ethics of reproduction. I draw from ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2015 and 2016 in Setúbal, a post-industrial Portuguese city, among working-class households confronting the reconfiguration of their means of livelihood reproduction, arising from the implementation of severe austerity policies. I explore how household provisioning pursuits and individual livelihood strategies to confront mass unemployment, labour precarization and welfare retrenchment are shaped by historically embodied gendered dispositions, past experiential knowledges and moralities of hope tied to cultural patterns of obligation, dependency, mutual reciprocity and responsibility along the lines of kinship, generation and gender. I highlight in particular the re-familization of care among working-class households and the growing significance of devalued feminized skills in the private and public spheres. Building upon critical feminist economics and anthropological substantivist approaches to the economy, I emphasize the constitutive role of past legacies of embodied and moral forms of austerity grassroots ethics of reproduction as a way of accessing the divergent temporalities and spatial variability of austerity economic regimes, its contingent national outcomes and (re)emergent forms of inequality and dispossession.
Critical feminism and the politics of austerity: gender regimes and the making of economic orthodoxies