Book Review: Richard Seymour 'Against Austerity' Pluto. 2014.
(Published in Green World the Green Party magazine)
In May this year, 20 year old Martin Hadfield, committed suicide after being rejected for over 40 jobs. He had refused to accepted benefits and felt a failure.
£1.5 million is being slashed from Kew's budget with a loss of 120 jobs. Austerity has led to a host of other environmentally damaging cuts from reduction in funding for bus routes to reduction in various forms of environmental protection.
For Richard Seymour austerity is about restructuring our society rather than cutting deficits. With higher debt in the past, record low interest on government bonds that makes it relatively painless to finance debt, there are plenty of arguments to suggest that we don't need to destroy the welfare state and close old peoples’ homes. To the extent that government debt demands reduction, at all, from cutting Trident to dumping subsidies for nuclear power and increasing tax on corporations, there are other options for fiscal prudence.
Austerity is a way of pushing down wages and instilling an ideology of universal competition. Austerity Britain mimics the game show mentality, when we are unemployed or struggling to feed our families, it is our fault. We haven’t played the game well enough, we have lost, we our failures. The notiong that there are a few winners, the number of British billionaires is sharply rising, is just the flip side. Spending on conservation is a luxury, trees are of purely commercial value, in this vision of our future, so Kew must be cut. Cuts for those with the least, are accompanied by increased wealth for those with most. The lean starve so the fat can accumulate more body mass.
Richard Seymour has produced the most sophisticated guide to the politics of austerity Britain, it is essential reading for all Green party members. There are no simple slogans here but clear analysis of how an economic crisis has been exploited for ideological reasons and an honest, sometimes pessimistic, account of how we can create an alternative for the common good. Buy it, read it, share it with your friends and, above all, use it as a tool for change.