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Legitimating austerity: the crisis of welfare capitalism in Southern Europe

Abstract : This thesis proposes an investigation of the legitimation of austerity in Greece, Portugal, and Spain, in the period from 2009 to 2016. The research stems from the questioning of two influential approaches to the political economy of austerity during the Eurozone crises. The first sees austerity as an inevitability. Indebted to the ‘new politics’ literature on the welfare state, this approach understands austerity in southern Europe as an economic imperative. The second approach, informed by the literature on ‘disciplinary neoliberalism’, sees austerity as an external imposition forced upon southern European countries by a combination of market actors and foreign powers. Whereas the former builds on ontological premises that ultimately lead to the naturalisation of political outcomes, the latter fails to capture the complexity of the politics of austerity at the domestic level. In turn, this research offers a reinterpretation of austerity in southern Europe that sees it as a political project construed and contested at the domestic, international, and transnational levels. The investigation is guided by the following question: how was austerity legitimated as a response to the southern European crises of the 2010s? Through the qualitative analysis of a substantial corpus of public declarations, parliamentary debates, and policy documents, combined with descriptive statistics, and semi-structured interviews, the thesis proposes an interpretive tracing of the processes of (de-)legitimation of austerity in the three countries during the period. The thesis explores the construction of the southern European crisis narratives and their embedding in the crisis response, especially in the conditional financial assistance programmes negotiated between the countries and the Troika of European Commission, ECB, and IMF. This is followed by an analysis of how the austerity evolved as the policies were implemented and their outcomes observed, on the one hand, and as the radical critique of the social movement against anti-austerity became increasingly institutionalised. The in-depth analysis of the three cases sheds new light on how these crises were construed and on the discursive foundations for the legitimation of austerity as the only appropriate response to the economic predicaments in southern Europe.
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Submitted on : Saturday, March 26, 2022 - 5:20:08 PM
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Tiago Moreira Ramalho. Legitimating austerity: the crisis of welfare capitalism in Southern Europe. Political science. Institut d'études politiques de Paris - Sciences Po, 2020. English. ⟨NNT : 2020IEPP0010⟩. ⟨tel-03620766⟩



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