A Thousand Cuts: Social protection in the age of austerity

Key information

5:00 pm
SOAS KLT & Online
Khalili Lecture Theatre
Event type
Event highlights

About this event

Alexandros Kentikelenis and Thomas Stubbs will be presenting their systematic assessments of how austerity has impacted people's lives and livelihoods around the world, including new findings on the impact of International Monetary Fund programs on social protection.

The dominant policy response to economic crises over the past four decades has been the introduction of austerity—a mix of budget cuts and reforms to downsize the role of the state. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been the world's lender of last resort and leading advocate of austerity, and has been consistently chastised by policymakers and civil society for the consequences of its economic policy reforms on social protection. Critics of the IMF have identified structural adjustment programs as a key cause of global increases in poverty, widespread disease, and unemployment. In the face of such criticisms, the IMF has advanced a narrative of wholesale reform to its practices.

In A Thousand Cuts, Alexandros Kentikelenis and Thomas Stubbs provide a systematic and comprehensive analysis of IMF policies around the world. Based on novel data from the IMF archives, they have generated a replicable database of all IMF-mandated reforms from 1980-2019 to examine their effects on social policies and outcomes. They reveal that although the precise content of IMF-mandated austerity has changed over time, the organization continues to place a high burden of reform on countries in crisis. These reforms then decrease the availability of important social services and contribute to rises in income inequality and decline in population health. They argue that in spite of reform rhetoric, the IMF's practices—and the outcomes they produce—have changed very little over the past three decades.

About the speakers

Alexandros Kentikelenis is an Associate Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at Bocconi University in Milan. His research focuses on decision-making within global governance and the social consequences of economic policies. 

Thomas Stubbs is a Reader in Global Political Economy at Royal Holloway, University of London. He also holds an associate position at the Centre for Business Research at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on the activities of international financial institutions and their relationship with economic policy and outcomes throughout the Global South. He is also the curator of the IMF Monitor website, a data hub used by academics, civil societies, and policymakers to track the activities of the International Monetary Fund.

This event is part of the SOAS Development Studies and Development for Transformation Centre (DevTraC) Seminar Series.

Contact us 

Image by Koshu Kunii via Unsplash