Non-Programmatic Politics and the Impact of Austerity

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:48
Oral Presentation
Isabel KUSCHE, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Denmark
The paper presents results from a multiple-case study about political consequences of the turn to austerity after the financial crisis in Ireland, Greece and Spain. The project starts with the assumption that in times of fiscal crisis, governments must turn to something else than programmatic politics when attempting to secure a level of popular support sufficient to remain in power, and even the opposition will face unusual constraints with regard to what it can credibly promise. The countries that were selected as cases have a well-known history of using non-programmatic appeals, such as clientelism or a focus on constituency service, in political competition. The question is how these appeals have been altered by the turn to austerity. On the one hand, one could expect them to be weakened due to a lack of resources and a wish to break with practices that contributed to the severity of the crisis. On the other hand, a contrary effect could also be expected, since politicians are aware of the discontent of voters and increasing numbers of voters face severe economic difficulties that render particularistic support of any kind more valuable to them. Based on the analysis of quantitative surveys, documents, newspaper articles and qualitative interviews, the paper maps the impact of austerity on well-known non-programmatic strategies and the emergence of alternative populist appeals in the three countries.