Austerity measures as Structural Violence – Addressing austerity related Economic, Social and Cultural Rights violations through the application of Transformative Justice Mechanisms

  • Graham, L. (Participant)
  • Amanda Cahill-Ripley (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising event(s)Participating in a conference, workshop, exhibition, performance, inquiry, course etcResearch


Law & Society Association (LSA) Annual Conference (2020) (Washington D.C, USA)

Austerity is a choice of economic policy to which is central the cutting-back, scaling-down, and reducing-costs of the state. This reduction of the state manifests itself in a reduction of public services and this in turn has been directly linked by The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to the violation of Economic and Social Rights.

In order to further highlight, and work towards addressing, the challenge Austerity poses to the realisation of Economic and Social Rights, this paper will place Austerity within the spheres of the sustaining peace agenda and transformative justice.

This will be achieved through categorising austerity as a form of structural violence (or synonymously social injustice) due to its role in contributing to, and in some instances directly causing, the violation of Economic and Social Rights. Applying this categorisation, this paper will place ‘austerity as structural violence’ within the sphere of the sustaining peace agenda in order to justify the placing of austerity within transformative justice. This justification rests upon the contention that austerity as structural violence must be addressed within society to ensure a peaceful and inclusive society as envisioned in the sustaining peace agenda and the SDGs. This contention is used to demonstrate that there exists a need to combat the structural violence of austerity which can be justified within, and by, the sustaining peace agenda.

It will be argued that the process of combatting, and moving beyond the structural violence of austerity, is transformative in nature and would entail transformative justice for change within society. This is because such a process entails emerging from a structural system of violence, ergo conflict, whilst at the same time addressing the large-scale human rights violations which have occurred under Austerity. Building on this, Transformative Justice Mechanisms will be explored as a tool for combatting austerity as social violence. An example of such a mechanism that draws upon the experiences of transitional justice is poverty truth commissions (etc). Other mechanisms to be considered are legal provisions, a Bill of Rights which include ESCRs in the U.K., policy changes and political change.

The added value of framing austerity in this setting is several fold; it will further recognise and reaffirm that austerity is a deliberate choice; it will allow accountability to be determined for the effects of austerity; it will reframe austerity in such a way that its negative effects are more negatively perceived and, as such, refocus efforts away from addressing the symptoms of austerity, through poverty alleviation, towards addressing the causes of those symptoms: The structural violence of austerity. It is hoped that such an approach will ensure that austerity and its effects, will never again be imposed.
PeriodJun 2019
Event typeConference
LocationWashington D.C., United KingdomShow on map