Mobilising for alternatives to EU austerity: SYRIZA’s narrative of the European financial and economic crisis

Vortrag von Amelie Kutter und Gesine Lenkewitz auf der 7. CADAAD Konferenz CONFERENCE ON CRITICAL APPROACHES TO DISCOURSE ANALYSIS ACROSS DISCIPLINES in Aalborg am 5. Juli 2018

The Eurozone crisis brought about a new form of party political opposition in Europe that is deeply critical of the current institutional setting of the EU and the EU’s approach to crisis management while, at the same time, generally supporting the European project. This paper investigates discourse practices employed by such ‘euroalternativist opposition’ (Fitzgibbon 2013), drawing on the example of statements (press releases, speeches and interviews) on EU crisis management addressed to international audiences by SYRIZA between the years 2009-2014. The main purpose is to find out how representatives of SYRIZA construct plausible policy alternatives discursively. To do so, we adopt the assumption developed in Interpretive Policy Analysis that scenarios for political action are mobilized through narration. By enacting a certain sequence and by ascribing causation and responsibility narratives suggest how a problem is to be defined, where to place the burden of adjustment and whom to empower as a fixer (Stone 1989). Moreover, such policy narratives tend to crystallize in dominant and counter narratives in public debate that are relationally constituted (Roe 1992). Following up on earlier work on crisis discourse (Kutter 2013), the paper investigates what type of counter narrative was mobilized by Syriza. Using computer-aided qualitative content analysis, we look into specific elements of crisis narrations, such as the highlighted phenomenon of crisis, the causes identified, the solutions proposed and actors blamed for failure or enthroned as game changers. We show that SYRIZA develops a counter narrative by shifting the emphasis in these elements of crisis narration. Instead of on sovereign debt, excessive government spending and austerity as a solution, the focus of dominant crisis narratives at that time, they focus on epic recession and social decline, identify austerity as a policy failure and cause and cast the vision of a union of solidarity in terms of redistributive justice and democratic renewal.