Austerity and the Public Role of Drama: Performing Lives-in-Common

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Austerity and the Public Role of Drama: Performing Lives-in-Common asks what, if any, public role Drama might play under Project Austerity – a contemporary moment of intensification of liberal political economy. It addresses a pressing need for a critical performance studies to account for overlapping material and symbolic worlds, experiences and perspectives, within evolving ethical frameworks. Drama is a public art form, and any erosion of the idea and practice of a democratic public alters the context in which it exists. Accordingly, this book investigates the erosion of public life in liberal democracies, and critiques the attention economy of Deficit Culture, by which Austerity degrades life-in-common in favour of narcissistic performances of life-in-public. The author argues for a social order committed to human flourishing and deliberative democracy, as a counterweight to the political economy of Austerity. He demonstrates, using examples from England, Ireland, Italy, and the USA, that Drama and the Academy pursue shared humane concerns; the one, a critical art form, the other, a social enabler of critical thought and progressive ideas. The story of reduction in public spending, and its impact on people across developed countries is familiar, but evidence suggests that Austerity’s enabling moralising discourse – Deficit Culture – is itself under pressure from new, mediated, forms of public protest. How might theatre-makers appropriate these forms toward a new strategy of mediating live performance, in order to imagine and rehearse ethical collective living in the twenty-first century? A need for dialogue with emergent forms of collective consciousness, new democratic practices and institutions, shapes a “Critical Performance Manifesto”, which invites universities and cultural workers to join other social actors in imagining and enabling ethical lives-in-common.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Pivot
Number of pages176
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-03260-9
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-03259-3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2019


  • Liberal democracy; liberal political economy; neo-liberalisation; Austerity; Deficit Culture; public world; liberal spectrum; social dramaturgy; social pedagogy; public life; common good; identitarianism; life-in-common Democracy; crisis; life-in-public; corporate power; civic action; marginal capital; Ireland; human flourishing; complicit scholarship; Performance and Civic Futures; folly; performance and social change; Global Financial Crisis (GFC); corporate neoliberalism; Ireland; public memory; Jim Nolan; 1916 commemorations; ethical encounter; One Hour Theatre Company (OHTC); theatre’s social role; public deliberation; conceptualising collectives; bombastic narcissism; mediation; BBC; demystification; new politics; academic deficit; epistemicide; Critical Performance Manifesto; author-mediation; critical authorship; liveness; public protest; public deliberation

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