Localism and austerity: a gender perspective (Soundings 60, Summer 2015)



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Elena Vacchelli

Austerity localism was adopted as a dominant political narrative by the last coalition government in order to restructure the public sector according to a normative, long-standing and politically conservative model of middle-class voluntarism and social responsibility. The new Tory government will complete the work they started by implementing further cuts. This article discusses the impact austerity will have on the already weakened women’s voluntary and community sector, which will be more heavily affected than other areas as changes in funding make it more difficult for smaller organisations to compete for limited resources. Nancy Fraser argues that feminist anti-economism has collapsed into a politics of recognition that privileges identity politics over claims for redistribution and economic justice. Neoliberal rule has also helped depoliticise feminist claims. This article uses Fraser’s theoretical framework to look at the contradictions inscribed in the localism agenda and points to the strategies that are being enacted for the survival of the women’s voluntary and community sector in the UK, using London as a case study.