Austerity as ‘state practice’: Poverty, imagination, and ‘the future’ in Scottish policy-making

Nina Holm Vohnsen, Lasse Bech Knudsen

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskning


This paper builds on research into the planning of a Universal Basic Income pilot in Fife, Scotland. Drawing on interviews with civil servants conducted between 2017-2019 and one month of ethnographic fieldwork in Fife Council in the summer of 2018, our paper offers an analysis of austerity not as a political condition affecting marginalized citizens, but rather as a set of policy ideas to be countered and overcome at the level of local government. In the UK, much recent literature on poverty and the effects of social and employment policies have critically focused on the ways in which groups of people resist (or not) the products of neoliberal ideology. Within anthropology, this has produced a body of work often examining citizens’ responses to welfare reforms, including how people on benefits manage being categorized as in a non-reciprocal relationship with the state, or how voters have channelled feelings of being abandoned by British politicians into a vote to leave the European Union. Such studies have provided valuable insights into the problems that can emerge as a result of current welfare reforms. However, the resulting understanding of ‘the State,’ including state practices such as policy-making and policy-planning, is rather limited. In other words, the studies constitute an anthropology of ‘state effects’ rather than of ‘state practices.’ We argue that studying the latter contributes to more nuanced understandings of the diverse notions and hypotheses that goes into navigating austerity, responding to it, and planning alternative futures by way of policy.
Publikationsdato31 okt. 2019
StatusIkke-udgivet - 31 okt. 2019
BegivenhedGenealogies and Positionalities of Thinking the State: Inaugural meeting EASA Anthropologies of the State network - Leiden University, the Netherlands, Leiden, Holland
Varighed: 30 okt. 20191 nov. 2019


KonferenceGenealogies and Positionalities of Thinking the State
LokationLeiden University, the Netherlands


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