The ‘Great Recession’ in the Baltic States – A Public Lecture by Professor Charles Woolfson

In association with the Centre for Sustainable Organisations and Work, the Global Cities Research Institute is proud to present a free public lecture with noted international scholar, Professor Charles Woolfson, on Thursday, 3 July 2014 (3.30  pm – 5.00 pm).

Professor Woolfson will deliver a lecture entitled, The ‘Great Recession’ in the Baltic States: The Myth of ‘Successful’ Austerity and Some Wider Lessons. 

Together with Associate Professor Jeffrey Sommers (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Professor Woolfson is co-editor of the critically acclaimed book, The Contradictions of Austerity: The Socio-Economic Costs of the Neoliberal Baltic Model (2014, Routledge, London and New York).


The ‘Great Recession’ in the Baltic States: The Myth of ‘Successful’ Austerity and Some Wider Lessons

During the years of ‘the great recession’, the Baltic ‘Tiger’ economies of the mid-2000s experienced the most severe downturn not only in Europe, but globally. Now with economic recovery in sight, this paper examines the myth of the new Baltic ‘success’ story – that the imposition of radical austerity measures together with so-called ‘internal devaluation’ can be achieved with popular consent, and in a socially and economically ‘costless’ manner. Baltic-style austerity has now become a template for the European Commission and the international financial community more widely. This presentation will argue that, contra the myth of ‘success’, austerity has had significant social and economic costs which undermine the longer-run sustainability of societies which follow this path. Among these costs are large increases in poverty, growing social, political and industrial ‘disenfranchisement’, labour market segmentation, as well as unprecedented and continuing emigration of a new austeriat. The paper offers a cautionary message to austerity governments seeking to restore economic growth at the expense of labour in the aftermath of the financial crisis. 


About Professor Woolfson

Charles Woolfson is Professor of labour studies, Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO), Linköping University, Sweden. Between 1999 and 2009 he was resident in the Baltic states, and was for three years (2004-2007) a European Commission ‘Marie Curie Chair’ at the University of Latvia. Previously, Woolfson was professor of labour studies in the School of Law at the University of Glasgow, Scotland and an associate member of Centre for Research on Racism, Ethnicity and Nationalism, University of Glasgow. 

His main interests are the impact of labour migration on labour standards, working environment issues, trade unionism in post-communist EU Member States, and racism and xenophobia in Eastern Europe. Woolfson is also professorial visiting fellow, Industrial Relations Research Centre, Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales and has been an honorary visiting professor in International Employment Relations at the Sir John Cass Business School, City University London.


Lecture Details

Thursday, 3 July 2014, 3.30 pm – 5.00 pm  

RMIT City Campus 

Emily McPherson Building – Multipurpose Room

RMIT Building 13, Level 3, Room 7

Corner Russell and Victoria streets, Melbourne


Free event. All welcome. To RSVP please email:  


Acclaim for ‘The Contradictions of Austerity’

‘This book promises to become the defining study on the impact of austerity in the Baltics, otherwise known as the ‘Baltic miracle.’ The Baltic miracle has been heralded by partisans of neoliberal austerity as demonstrating the success of their economic therapy, despite the pain for the affected populations.  As these carefully argued and well-documented studies reveal, if this “miracle” counts as success, one would hate to imagine what failure might be.  As the editors rightly argue, the import of these incisive inquiries is also “a stark warning” to the European Union, and the world, as the neoliberal assault steadily demolishes the social model that was Europe’s great contribution to modern civilization.’ Noam Chomsky

‘The crisis of 2008 put Europe’s Periphery in a state of civil war between those who had not caused the crisis, and were asked to pay for it, and the few who had caused it but insisted on remaining in power. The Baltic countries were the first battleground on which the powers-that-be fought for their survival wielding the lethal weapon of austerity. They “made a desert”, “called it peace”, and then exported it to Ireland and Europe’s South hidden behind claims of “success” in the Baltics. Never before has spectacular economic policy failure been so effectively re-packaged as “success” and pressed into service so as to enfeeble, humiliate and usurp a whole Continent. By deconstructing the “official version” of austerity’s effects on the Baltics, this book contributes greatly to those who care for Europe and for the truth.’ Yanis Varoufakis 



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