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

Lefty magazines need to lift their game « Previous | |Next »
December 22, 2003

Both John Quiggin and Chris Sheil have been reflecting on the left magazines they subscribe to and read. They mention Australian Options (Adelaide) Dissent, (Canberra) Eureka Street, and Arena (Melbourne).

Nothing from the Emerald City. Is it still all froth and bubble there?

I used to read those little magazines too. I considered them to be a vital part of a critical public sphere; even more so with the death of the liberal university.

And now? I've changed my mind. Some are not worthwhile. Australian Options has not published since Issue no 31 in November 2002.

These lefty little magazines may still be crucial to a criitcal public sphere but I do not read them anymore. They are either not online at all (Dissent); minimally (Arena); or partially (Eureka Street). What is online at Eureka Street is thin pickings indeed. It is little more than a shopfront. It should be following the mainstream media and be online---well, the back issues at least. Why not the back issues?

The literary/political magazines are not much better. Meanjin is not online at all as what is online has not advanced beyond being a homepage. Similarly with Overland Both have fallen way behind the Australian Book Review.

And Arena Magazine? Chris waxes lyrical about the flagship of the postmodern left and Guy Rundle as an essayist. To give them their due, they do understand the effect of the globalisation of the economy on Australia, on its class structure and culture, and the impact this is having on our different modes of life. We are living in a network society in postmodernity.

There is content here in Rundle's editorial to Issue 67. The ALP in NSW (and SA) has become a right-wing, openly authoritarian party tapping into the worst of its historical traditions and this Bataillian observation on culture:

"Shows such as Australian Idol have none of the bumbling amateurishness of earlier talent shows such as New Faces. This makes them more watchable, but it also dedicates them to turning music from a Dionysian spirit of release and celebration to one of disciplined, individualised career obsessiveness, half protestant ethic, half New Age pop psychology. It does not succeed — the realm of excess will always escape attempts to govern it — but it does its work in transforming the personality and behaviour of those who like music, the young."

Then we have some advice to the ALP.It should begin

talking about society again about and weather the increasingly worn-out baiting of the tabloids, to promote a new social vision — one that recognises the joys and advances of a network society, but also reminds people that it is cast on a bedrock of common life. It needs to talk not about ‘social capital’ — often a term used for ‘society’ by people who don’t believe it exists — but about ‘social plant’: the investment in hospitals, schools and services that have been run down as a deliberate attempt by the Coalition to create a privatised society."

That's good philosophically informed commentary.

And that's it. The lefty magazines do not offer much to sustain a critical public culture in a postmodern network society do they?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:32 AM | | Comments (0)