The resonance of moderate feminism and the gendered relations of austerity

Shelley Budgeon

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During the tenure of the UK Conservative-led coalition government (2010-15) austerity policy was rolled out in response to the global financial crisis of 2007-08. Principles of Cultural Political Economy (Jessop 2004) are applied in a discourse analysis of mainstream newspaper representations of austerity that appeared throughout this period. Three key questions are posed: 1) How is gender drawn upon to render austerity intelligible? 2) How do these discursive constructions contribute to the reproduction of particular ideas regarding contemporary gender relations? 3) What do the gendered austerity discourses analysed here reveal about the institutionalisation of particular forms of feminism, most notably liberal feminism which some feminists argue has become the dominant approach to gender oppression? A critical gender discourse which emphasised equality alongside constructions of gender that reproduce problematic assumptions was found. Made meaningful in this way, austerity, as a strategy for restoring pre-crash social arrangements, also restored particular aspects of gender relations. This is theorised as the product of the successful institutionalisation of a hegemonic, moderate liberal feminism prior to the financial crash. The findings contribute to debates within feminist scholarship about the dynamics of gender inclusion and extend our understanding of the associated implications for feminist critique.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1138-1155
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Issue number8
Early online date20 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • gender and austerity
  • gender equality
  • gender mainstreaming
  • liberal feminism
  • neoliberal feminism


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