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

populism divided « Previous | |Next »
February 23, 2004

I think that this account of the recent shift in national politics by Robert Manne is roughly right.

Manne says that over the past fortnight the atmosphere of Australian party politics has experienced significant change. One chapter was closed; a new one opened up.

The chapter that has closed is John Howard's unchallengeable ascendancy through the use of the populist sword. This sword was a conservative, populist cultural rollback campaign - concerning multiculturalism, Mabo, the republic, reconciliation and, finally, refugees. As a conservative populist, Howard focuses on the threat of national disintegration, social cohesion and on questions of ethnicity or race. He used the sword by making direct contact with the people through almost daily appearances on mass-audience commercial radio. He avoided the the Canberra Press gallery. Howard saw off both One Nation and the ALP

Things change. The chapter that has been opened up is Mark Latham's capacity to answer the challenge of Howard's new populist age. Latham he is capable of making vivid, direct connection with the public through his plain speaking and effective use of the radio. Latham is also capable of identifying the kind of populist issue that can destabilise his political opponents.

As Manne points out this is a Laborist kind of populism; a social democratic populism, with its traditional hostility to abuses of privilege and undeserved wealth, on banks, the big end of town and parliamentary rorts.

Thus we have a conflict between these two kinds of populism. What has happened to neo-liberalism of the technocratic economists with their obsession with management and control to create a deregulated market society?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:04 PM | | Comments (0)
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