Monday, 3 September 2018

The Three Tribes of Austerity

If the 50 years following 1918 witnessed the slow and erratic ascendance of social democracy (punctuated and accelerated by WWII) then the 50 years since have witnessed its equally slow and erratic dismantling. It was eventually Keynes ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ rather than Kapital which provided the theoretical understanding of that ascendancy, and in my opinion James K Galbraith’s ‘The Predator State’ is the nearest we have yet to an analysis of its demise.

In his recent article ‘The Three Tribes of Austerity' (on the Project Syndicate website) Yanis Varoufakis has suggested an enhancement of Galbraith’s thesis, one that renders the picture with somewhat higher resolution, by sorting the predators into three different species. Varoufakis of course had enlisted the advice of Galbraith during his doomed spell of trying to defend the Greek economy from EU predation, and a whiff of doom is still detectable in his article.


  1. Varoufakis, wise man though he is, omits one detail from his characterisation of the British austerian tribe. This tribe believes in shrinking the size of the state, and cutting public spending as a end in itself. Even if this ends up - as it did - damaging the economy.
    Of course, this has profound social implications, and austerity is probably ultimately responsible for Brexit. Correlation not being causation, this is difficult to prove, but there are some evidence for this argument:

  2. Although he doesn't mention the UK Tories explicitly, I think they'd fit into both his first and third categories.


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