In contrast to much of the political economy literature, this article explores acts of refusal that obstruct attempts to impose austerity upon advanced industrial democracies. It thereby complements a literature that has thus far focused far more upon the (apparently unobstructed) imposition of austerity. In doing so, it looks to two typically ‘low resistance’ countries – Japan and the UK - selected as crucial least-likely cases. It finds that austerity is rarely uncontested. Using fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) it highlights the ‘causal recipes’ sufficient both for anti-austerity activity to have a significant impact upon proposals for austerity, and for the smooth (unobstructed) imposition of austerity. The politics of austerity is shown to be better understood as an iterative interaction between proposals for austerity and the acts of refusal that they encounter. These obstacles to austerity appear more straightforward to activate effectively in Japan’s coordinated model of capitalism; whilst the UK’s liberal market economy tends to generate more innovative forms of dissent which (if they are sufficiently militant) provide an alternative route towards the obstruction of austerity.
- political economy