The ‘Moral Economy’ of Austerity

January 24, 2013

Austerity is above all an ‘ethical’ program, not an economic one: it is driven by visceral affects, not technocratic reason. The visceral reaction is to the appetites of the poor – to the poor as appetitive, defined as such, as gorging hungry mouths and terrifyingly fertile loins, drowning the refinement of the noble and restrained investment class in animal wants that must be disciplined if they are not to run literal riot, the destruction of property (property in which the wealthy have invested, saving their vital substance to allow it to grow, rather than consuming it in riotous living), this destruction evidence of the sheer wanton uncontrollable hunger of the underclass, their unconstrained urges to consumeconsumeconsume, beyond the bounds of all reason and rectitude, in defiance of the law (rather than, say, in response to violence and death inflicted by agents of that law), this appetite demanding coercive constraint, demanding the harshest treatment possible if it is to be tamed or destroyed. The vision here is of the poor as rampant despoiling life, and the distinction between the uncontrollable and repulsive appetites of the poor, as against the refined, restrained, enriching and civilised appetites of the wealthy, is a defining difference: axiomatic. If the wealthy consume moremoremore, this just means more refinement, which is Good; but even the most meagre scraps, in the hands of the needy, are too much, partaking as they do in animal insatiability. Austerity as class war is a cosmology, or a bestiary, whatever the economic interests that enable and incentivise its reproduction – always close to eugenicism: the unkempt hungry wilderness encroaching on the stately manor with its gentle sloping lawns – this wilderness must be hacked away by the experienced civilised gardeners, cutting down the human weeds for the health of the organic body politic, giving its tall and beautiful flowers room to breath and grow in our shared earth and bask in our shared sun whose enriching rays shine on us all alike, one nation, old and young, rich and poor, no matter who or what we are.

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