“Keywords for the Age of Austerity” is a series on the vocabulary of inequality. Certain words, as Raymond Williams wrote in his 1976 classic Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, bind together ways of seeing culture and society. These shared meanings change over time, shaping and reflecting the society in which they are made. Some of the words I will consider here are old, seemingly innocent terms that have acquired a particular fashion or developed a particular new meaning in recent years; others are recent coinages. All of them relate to affinity for hierarchy and a celebration of the virtues of competition, “the marketplace,” and the virtual technologies of our time. This series will explore the historical meanings embedded in these words as well as the new meanings that our age has given them.
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