Austerity futures: debt, temporality and (hopeful) pessimism as an austerity mood


This article examines the relationships between austerity, debt and mood through a focus on temporality and the future. Its starting point is a poll, conducted in Britain in 2011, which showed an increase of pessimism about the future and led to suggestions that ‘a new pessimism’ had become the ‘national mood’. Exploring this survey and other related examples, I ask whether and how pessimism about the future might be considered a mood characteristic of austerity in the UK, consider some of the implications of the future being imagined not as better but as diminished and, drawing on Berlant’s concept of cruel optimism, propose a notion of hopeful pessimism. I explore the politics of pessimism about the future, focusing especially on the affects and emotions that some women and young people might feel. In these senses, I aim to turn around the focus of this special issue to inquire not so much about the future of austerity as about the kinds of futures that are imagined in the new age of austerity, and the affective experiences of such imaginations.

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New Formations 87: Austerity