Crisis Policy-Making and Revanchist Public Health Politics
Keywords:Austerity urbanism, crisis, policy mobilities, public health
In February 2019 the city of Manchester opened a consultation for a proposed new public space protection order to strong community opposition. In response, the PSPO was initially tabled, yet amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic the order was passed by the council, granting sweeping powers to the Greater Manchester Police to effectively criminalize homelessness in the city. The impetus for the order was the sharp rise in rough sleeping, panhandling, and public drug use - all of which has been traced back to changes in economic and drug policy since austerity budgets were imposed in the UK in 2010. This lecture situates revanchist public health politics such as these within the wider context of policy-making under economic crisis. Linking studies of ‘fast’- policy mobility to the materiality of health outcomes across European cities demonstrates how the rise and spread of economic austerity policies as best-practice solutions to the 2008 global financial crisis precipitated a steep downward turn in health outcomes across jurisdictions where such policies were imposed. It introduces the concept of crisis policy making - which refers to the socio-political conditions and processes through which government decision-making happens under the ever-increasing burden of ongoing and multiple crisis states. It lays out four aspects of crisis policy making, speed, opacity, revanchism, and experimentation. This lecture asks how a critical engagement with globally mobile policies in the context of crisis policy-making can uncover political contestations and power geometries governing responses to the resultant overlapping everyday public health, social and economic crises affecting urban inhabitants.
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