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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Is this the case? « Previous | |Next »
May 19, 2003

This text by Kenneth Davidson is one of the more interesting interpretations of Simon Crean's mapping of the ALP's response to the 2003 Costello Budget. It builds on the more immediate responses.

Davidson says:

"It is about time that MPs began to refocus on the main game - nation-building - which involves reinforcing the nation's social cement as well as its skills and its physical infrastructure."

Is this what Crean is foreshadowing? A return to, and reinventing of, nation building through publicly funded infrastructure and ecological renewal?

By social cement (ugh!) I guess Davidson means social cohesion or the communal ties that bind us as a nation. He says:

"Australia is not so lucky that it can manage to retain a cohesive society while deliberately setting out to create a two-tier health and education system under the rubric of seeking excellence, while looting public infrastructure built up over 200 years."

Many liberals, including lefty ones, do not like the word community, or more correctly communitarian but we do live in a nation under the sign of fraternity as well as liberty. Social cohesion is important, especially when the self-organizing market frays the ties that bind. The conservative response is to reshape social cohesion through the national security state through appealing to fear and anxiety.

Is what Davidson saying plausible? That:

"Simon Crean's budget reply last week [is] the first breach in the neoliberal consensus since Paul Keating won the unwinnable 1993 election against John Hewson's Fightback package of "reforms" - which John Howard has been implementing by stealth ever since he promised to create a "relaxed and comfortable" society in the 1996 election."

Is the ALP on the path to finding alternative ways to renew public infrastructure and foster social cohesion to that of the Howard Government? Are we actually moving into to a public policy situation where there will be real and genuine policy differences?

Or is it still going to the old scenario of Tweddleedum and Tweddleedee with marginal differences in packaging----eg like table salt in the supermarket? Same salt different packaging.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:13 PM | | Comments (9)


Wouldn't it be even nicer if we actually had statesmen & women to help provide that 'social cement' rather than the school-brats and short-term great blokes & sheilas that inhabit the halls of our parlimentary system at present?

So could you please explain how increasing taxation and spending increases 'social cement'. And indeed, what is this social cement anyway?

I seriously don't understand what you are talking about.


I rejected Davidon's use of 'social cement'

I redescribed it as social cohesion in a liberal society. or the commmunal ties that bind us as a nation.

Funny that a self-confessed conservative does not understand what social cohesion, community, or nationality refers to.

I suspect that you are really a market liberal wearing a conservative mask.

Cement or cohesion - whichever glue you prefer - the ALP is in serious danger of rediscovering its raison d'etre. It seems to be finally learning there is zero gain to be had in mimicking the conservatives. The more you play on their pitch the quicker they will destroy you. True conservatives will not respect you and your natural constituency will flail about and as likely as not vote for your opponent.

I live in lots of boxes. Where would you like to go today?

It's not so much the word communitarian I dislike as the philosophy. As presented by some theorists (Etzioni for eg) it simply sounds too intrusive for my tastes. Unregulated market forces undermine community in ways that neoliberal conservatives don't generally approve of but rather than regulate markets (or distribute wealth to lower rich/poor gaps or whatever) they prefer to pontificate (and sometimes legislate) about behaviour. Communitarian-ism seems to me an intellectual justification for such interventions within a neoliberal framework.

Maybe there are different kinds of communitarian; eg, Etzioni and Michael Sandel.

You're definitely right about that. I actually spent a bit of time comparing the two and much prefer Sandel. Nonetheless, his stuff certainly arises within liberalism and is not a leftist alternative to it, more a correction (which was at least partly the original criticism I made of the Posner piece Jason posted). A lot of this (which I know I am giving no detail of) was what sent me in the direction of deliberative dmocracy rather than liberal democracy. I found it provided a good focus on "the common good" without so much of the communitarian tendency to get intrusive. (Incidentally, I found Taylor more palatable than either Sandel of Etzioni.)

I concur re Charles Taylor.

I would read Sandel as a republican rather than a liberal.