Austerity Bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK

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9781447315605: Austerity Bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK
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Since taking power in 2010, the Coalition Government in the United Kingdom has pushed through a drastic program of cuts to public spending, all in the name of austerity. The effects on large segments of the population, dependent on programs whose funding was slashed, have been devastating and will continue to be felt for generations.

This timely book by journalist Mary O’Hara chronicles the real-world effects of austerity, removing it from the bland, technocratic language of politics and showing just what austerity means to ordinary lives. Drawing on hundreds of hours of first-person interviews with a wide range of people and, in the paperback edition, featuring an updated afterword by the author, the book explores the grim reality of living amid the biggest reduction of the welfare state in the postwar era and offers a compelling corrective to narratives of shared sacrifice.

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About the Author:

Mary O’Hara is an award-winning journalist who writes about health, poverty, and social justice for the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman, and other publications.

Review:

"The sense of desperation is palpable, as is the helplessness of job centre advisers under pressure to increase sanctions, and the anger and despair of community and public-sector workers. Both the immediate injustice and the waste of human potential leap from the pages of this book." (Kitty Stewart, London School of Economics Times Higher Education)

“The subject matter of O’Hara’s first book is not merely bleeding-heart-liberal-soapbox stuff; she is the embodiment of how a welfare system in the UK can lift people out of poverty. She comes from a proud working-class family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, earning a scholarship to Cambridge, and, later, a Fulbright scholarship. Political moods and wonk-ish social policy are her lifeblood. This is her beat, and she owns it with facts and figures, not blustering talk. Austerity Bites, not surprisingly then, is a work of scholarship and extensive reporting. O’Hara conveys the lives of everyday people throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland―through their own words―who have been adversely affected by the tough austerity measures. She spent years on the ground in various parts of the UK talking to working people, taking their temperature on the recent cuts to social and welfare programs . . . and championing their everyday lives (and opinions) over the din of politicians and pundit-class puffery.” (J. C. Gabel The Baffler)

“Best book of 2014 . . . . In a determined effort to win public acquiescence, if not active support, for austerity, both the government and its media apologists have tried to hide the human impact of slash-and-burn economics. Mary O’Hara’s superb Austerity Bites strips bare the reality of what Osbornomics means for human beings and, crucially, she gives a platform to voices that are otherwise unheard and deliberately ignored.” (Owen Jones, author of "The Establishment (and How They Get Away with It)" Guardian (UK))

Austerity Bites is a book brimming with anger at the multiple injustices in the United Kingdom and how the current austerity programme is underpinning and exacerbating these inequalities.” (Disability & Society)

“One of the best critiques I have ever read of how ‘WongaLand,’ the profiteering by money lenders and pawn shops, has caused massive financial burdens and hardships for the poorest families whilst making massive profits for the businesses.” (Lisa Mckenzie, London School of Economics and Political Science, author of “Getting By” Sociology)

“A fine record of how it feels to be among those who have been selected to pay the highest price for a crisis they had no part in producing. . . . O’Hara casts an unblinking look upon the desolation wrought by the rehabilitation of a system which is no longer afraid to demonstrate its basic values; which have little to do either with the fine words we offer up to the world about liberty, democracy, and choice, or with the ideals of justice and fair play which we still, quaintly, claim as our most distinctive characteristics.” (Jeremy Seabrook, independent researcher Sociology)

“Should be required reading for every MP, peer, councillor, civil servant and commentator. The fury and sense of powerlessness that so many people feel at government policy beam out of every page.” (Melissa Benn Guardian (UK))

“[One of the Books of 2015]. . . . O’Hara’s desperately sad and angering book Austerity Bites reminds us what horrendous impacts governmental policy has on actual people, in this collection of personal stories from across the country. It reminded me why I do what I do.” (Megan Dunn, president, National Union of Students Times Higher Education)

“Traveling around the country interviewing people allowed O’Hara to harness firsthand accounts of the fallout of cuts in the United Kingdom. Austerity Bites brings together many poignant stories of people affected by the first impact of the coalition government’s choice to impose social austerity on Britain.” (Danny Dorling University of Oxford)

“O’Hara’s mission is to give voice to those experiencing hardship or injustice who are rarely heard. She travelled the United Kingdom for a year to bear witness to the effects of Austerity Britain, and we should all pay attention to the result.” (Janine Gibson Editor-in-Chief, Guardian US)

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