Treating the Symptom Not the Condition: Crisis Definition, Deficit Reduction and the Search for a New British Growth Model


  • Colin Hay


It has taken quite a while for a consolidated crisis discourse to emerge in Britain in response to the seismic events of 2007–09. But one is now clearly evident, widely accepted and deeply implicated in government economic policy. It is a ‘crisis of debt’ discourse to which the response is austerity and deficit reduction; it is paradigm-reinforcing rather than paradigm-threatening. In this article I consider the appropriateness of such a crisis discourse, arguing that an alternative ‘crisis of growth’ discourse is rather more compelling and would point in very different policy directions while generating very different expectations about the effects of deficit reduction. Such a discourse can just about be detected in the growing criticism of the government's austerity programme, but it is yet to lead to the positing of a new growth model. I explore the implications of both crisis discourses for responses to the crisis, concluding with an assessment of the prospects for the return to growth under a new growth model in the years ahead.