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Disability, Austerity and Cruel Optimism in Big Society: Resistance and “The Disability Commons”

Runswick-Cole, KA and Goodley, D (2015) Disability, Austerity and Cruel Optimism in Big Society: Resistance and “The Disability Commons”. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 4. ISSN 1929-9192

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Abstract

This paper draws on Berlant’s (2011) concept of “‘cruel optimism”’ as it manifests itself in the lives of disabled people with learning disabilities living in England in a time of Big Society. We argue that Big Society offers a cluster of promises to disabled people with learning disabilities: citizenship, empowerment, community, social action and a route out of (or protection from) poverty. However, we suggest that these promises have been repeatedly offered and repeatedly denied and remain tantalizingly out of reach. While drawing attention to the injustices disabled people with learning disabilities face in Big Society, we also attend to the ways in which they are working the spaces of neoliberalism in order to resist “‘their designation as disposable bodies”’ (Tyler 2013: 224).

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