Matt Clement blogs on 'Sociology and the Cuts' on the moral panic around balancing the economy and reducing public sector services.
The UK media are currently in the process of inflating public concern by alleging t
he need for large-scale public economies that ‘everybody’ recognises are necessary to avert chronic national indebtedness. A moral panic is being manufactured about the potentially calamitous consequences of neglecting balancing the economic books. This strategy pre-supposes that there is no alternative to the orthodox market model of political economy, meaning debts accumulated shoring up the banking system must be balanced by spending reductions; and attempts to transfer the legitimate moral panic caused by the 2008 implosion of credit into a phantom panic over the ‘unaffordability’ of key public sector services, currently providing a socially necessary level of education, health and social welfare.
This moral panic has been installed as an unassailable ‘reality’ – to which all efforts of contemporary governance must adhere. It should be seen as part of the long-term social processes operating to rein back society’s capacity – generated by rising levels of interdependency and complexity – to allocate an increasing proportion of investment to human, rather than capital, investment through a stress on the limits of reform. In searching for the roots of this phenomenon, I have been able to demonstrate how the UK turn towards austerity measures to ‘discipline’ welfare and social democracy began with the 1976 IMF crisis, which recent evidence has shown to have been more manufactured than real, and has reoccurred periodically throughout subsequent decades of neoliberal regimes…