Austerity beyond Crisis: Economists and the Institution of Austere Social Spending for At-Risk Children in Israel

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Austerity is frequently associated with crisis-enabled spending cuts. What happens when the crisis is over? This article's original contribution lies in its in-depth exploration of one mechanism that help explain austerity's endurance post-crisis, when state elites face increased popular resistance and pressure to reinstate social spending. This mechanism calls attention to the role of economists in Central Budgeting Offices as agents of technocratization and de-politicization within social policy domains. These economists may institute an austere spending mode by changing social spending's norms and instruments. To demonstrate economists' role in mediating macroeconomic fiscal goals and social policy design over time, the article examines the development of child welfare policy in Israel before, during and in the aftermath of economic crisis. In this case, austerity attained hegemony when economists were able to delegitimize and shelve an 'irresponsible' social spending proposal - and in response to post-crisis demands for compensation - introduce an austere policy instrument to cap social spending during a period of social policy expansion. This analysis suggests that scholars regard relations between austerity and social spending as dialectical.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)168-187
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • at-risk children
  • austerity
  • central budget office
  • economists
  • neoliberalism
  • retrenchment
  • social policy

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration


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