Austerity Futures: Debt, Temporality and (Hopeful) Pessimism as an Austerity Mood

Coleman, Rebecca. 2016. Austerity Futures: Debt, Temporality and (Hopeful) Pessimism as an Austerity Mood. New Formations, 87, pp. 83-101. ISSN 0950-2378 [Article]

Austerity Futures Accepted Sept 2015.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (302kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This article examines the relationships between austerity, debt and mood through a focus on temporality and the future. Its starting point is a poll, conducted in Britain in 2011, which showed an increase of pessimism about the future and led to suggestions that ‘a new pessimism’ had become the ‘national mood’. Exploring this survey and other related examples, I ask whether and how pessimism about the future might be considered a mood characteristic of austerity in the UK, consider some of the implications of the future being imagined not as better but as diminished and, drawing on Berlant’s concept of cruel optimism, propose a notion of hopeful pessimism. I explore the politics of pessimism about the future, focusing especially on the affects and emotions that some women and young people might feel. In these senses, I aim to turn around the focus of this special issue to inquire not so much about the future of austerity as about the kinds of futures that are imagined in the new age of austerity, and the affective experiences of such imaginations.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

This paper developed from an ESRC Research Seminar Series on Austerity Futures: Imagining and Materialising the Future in an ‘Age of Austerity’ (grant number ES/J021512/2).


temporality; future; austerity; pessimism; hope; mood; affect; cultural politics; gender; young people

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



1 May 2016Published
21 October 2015Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Nov 2015 11:36

Last Modified:

15 Mar 2021 09:21

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)