“I < 3 Economic Recession?” by Rosalie D. Clarke
By Rosalie D. Clarke*
Whilst you attempt to get your head around my somewhat puzzling blog title, I shall take the opportunity to make my shameful inclinations known. My feminist sympathies dictate that I approach any given topic by personalising and self-identifying. So, that being said, I approached the topic by first asking: ‘How does economic recession affect me?’
As a ‘middle-class’ female graduate student in the current unstable economic climate the effects have included, most significantly: an increased pressure to succeed or out-perform other graduate competitors in the education and job market; a creeping hopelessness due to scarcity of opportunity; internal struggles/challenges to my identity and self-worth due to unrealistic expectations imposed on, or created by, me; and strains on personal/familial relationships coupled with increased inter-personal tensions/conflicts ‘at-home’. These effects are by no means particular to me, my gender or my socio-economic position in society. Indeed, one common factor found in economic crisis is that the effects are often felt by all ‘walks of life’. You may find yourself harbouring similar shades of discontent, however overtly or secretly held.
So, given the above personal and individually felt effects, it is not therefore hard to imagine or expand these effects to the ‘macro-level’ (to borrow the economist’s phrase) and consider the effects in global terms. When opportunities and chances for employment are scarce, basic resources are strained, and media ‘scape-goating’ serves to highlight the ‘seemingly’ growing disparity between the richest and poorest in society – what are the consequences for the psychology of a nation/society?
I could draw on any number of the negative ‘effects’ or ‘narratives’ which scholars in various fields have alighted upon in the literature, drawn from such difficult circumstances. One which particularly interests me as a research student, being the increase in political violence at times of economic instability, particularly when other non-violent/democratic forms of political expression/representation/communication are removed or blocked by repressive regimes.
Other examples of effects may include: radicalisation (particularly in response to developing multiculturalism); ‘Othering’ and the lurch towards isolationism or nationalism; the crisis of masculinity (linked to poverty and male heads of households finding themselves unable to ‘provide’ for their family), which is often associated with increases in domestic and/or sexual violence. One could even highlight the above-mentioned effect of a perceived or actual disparity in the experience of economic crisis/poverty by different levels of society.
These are all interesting and worthy narratives, indeed some have been a particular interest and focus of mine at different times. However, in thinking about this topic, I decided to venture ‘the road less travelled’ for this blog; I am referring, of course, to the positive narrative in regards to the issue in question. I certainly have not been aware of any positive narratives appearing in either academic literature or the mass media, regarding our current economic crisis at least. One reason for this may be that, what is required for such a ‘sunny’ outlook on such an event is time and hindsight. But perhaps we should try, sooner, viewing such a crisis as a catalyst or antidote to negative/detrimental effects of economic and technological forms of globalisation. But, how might we do this?
I suggest we perhaps should focus on another effect of the recession, that of an increase in social movements and popular protest. Such events bring individuals on to the streets, they create a ‘feeling’ of unity and a sense of shared experience of hardship (for the majority of society at least). The act of protest itself is often experienced by the protester, as a very liberating and uplifting experience, or so I’ve heard – despite the inherent risks to personal safety and potential for abuses of human rights. We could draw examples from recent movements such as ‘UKUncut’ and the ‘Occupy/The Other 99%’ protests.
In an age where our ‘highly evolved’ technological lifestyles, increasingly leave many in Western society feeling disconnected and isolated from basic human interaction. The increasing gulf between the individual and lived/experienced reality, being replaced by simulated reality and interaction online; such events and movements almost seem to have a cleansing/healing quality for the human psyche. Indeed many scholars have posited the ‘cyclical’ nature of such economic catastrophes (it is also perhaps useful to note, unlike other global disasters, economic crisis is largely man-made); perhaps it is a necessary evil, a man-made antidote to a man-made problem?
Perhaps such ‘shocks’, as Naomi Klein would have it, are healing and necessary – at least for over-extended/bloated Western capitalist economies/cultures. Whereas these sorts of ‘shocks’ clearly have disastrous and often life-threatening consequences for smaller/weaker economies, such as those found in some Latin American countries. One could suggest we are ‘reaping what we sow’; that the poor judgement (or calculated neo-liberal framework, depending on your personal political standpoint), Western nations have used via successive ‘democratically elected’ officials, is now coming back to haunt us – hitting us where it hurts, on our own doorsteps and in our own pocket.
So, how do you ‘choose’ to view the psychological effects of economic crisis? Is it a form of psychological trauma and healing of our own making, which we can choose to view positively for our own salvation? Or, an external threat which plagues us, and which we may be powerless to recover from?
You may have another notion altogether. Perhaps then, all we can say for sure is that the psychological consequences of economic recession affect us all, in some way and on some level. However, how we are affected is ultimately determined by our individual or culturally relative norms and decisions on how we choose to perceive economic recession. I have found that it is often the case that, by changing our perception we may find a better solution to our problems. Perhaps it is time to ‘heart the recession’?
*Rosalie D. Clarke is currently a research student in London, she works in the field of International Conflict Resolution (and analysis), with a particular interest in interdisciplinary approaches for resolving certain forms of conflict. She has a BA degree in International Relations and an LLM in International Criminal Justice and Armed Conflict. Rosalie can be found on both LinkedIn and Academia.edu, her CV and portfolio of work including some recent publications can be found there.