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Rattling Europe’s ordoliberal ‘iron cage’: the contestation of austerity in Southern Europe

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Publication details

JournalCritical Social Policy
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Mar 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 30 Mar 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Aug 2018
Issue number3
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)505-526
Early online date30/03/18
Original languageEnglish


This article explains the popular revolt against austerity in Southern Europe
as the outcome of profound politico-economic changes that are shaped
by the transformation of the European Union’s (EU’s) macro-economic
governance. It comprises three parts. The first part demonstrates how
ordoliberalism – the Germanic variant of (neo)liberal economic thinking –
was embedded in the EU’s new macro-economic governance, in processes
that constitutionalise austerity and remove democratic controls over
the economy. The second part examines the impact of austerity-driven
reforms on welfare and employment in the aftermath of the sovereign
debt crisis. These reforms undermined the social reproduction of Southern
Europe’s familistic welfare model by destabilising three key pillars of
social protection: employment security for households’ primary earners;
small property ownership; and pension adequacy. The third part analyses
the emergence of anti-austerity social politics in Southern Europe, both
parliamentary and grassroots, and assesses their effectiveness in light of
the collapse of public trust in both EU and domestic political institutions.
The article concludes with our reflections on the fragility of EU’s integration
process under the hegemony of ordoliberalism.

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2018. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

    Research areas

  • Austerity, European Union, ordoliberalism, Southern European welfare states

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