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‘Austerity’ is now a term and an experience that many people in the UK are more familiar with than before. Where once applied to times gone by, entrenched in social memories of post-war conditions, it has become a commonplace identifier for contemporary UK society and economy. In its most stripped-down form, austerity refers to a specific set of actions and policies by the state: the reduction of spending on public expenditure with the precise aim of reducing governmental budget deficit. However, and importantly, it has a dual meaning. ‘Austerity’ is also a term to describe a condition of severe simplicity and self-restraint. These two meanings of austerity play out in everyday life, cutting across one another as much as they do across and between spaces, times and relationships. This first chapter outlines the changing policy and academic landscape of austerity in the UK, and starts crafting together a feminist theory of everyday life, before describing the ethnography on which the book is based and sketching out the contents of the following chapters.
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