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

a new political culture « Previous | |Next »
October 8, 2006

From what I can gather conservatives used Quadrant's 50th anniversary dinner to claim victory in Australia's culture wars. The long march of the left (hard and soft) through our institutions in civil society has been rolled back. Gee, I thought that the conservatives considered themselves to be an embattled minority.

Geoff Pryor

What has been manufactured by the conservatives is a "Howard hating" elite which controls our schools, our universities and the ABC, and the strategy has been to generate fear and loathing of these soft Left despicables among the "aspirational" classes in suburbia. Questioning $200,000 degrees and cuts in funding to universities are dismissed as elites! Now that is demonisation. Some conservatives even say that the Left has formed an instinctive alliance with radical Islamism against conservative traditions and values! I guess that is one way to construct another conservative moral panic.

UpDate:9 Oct
As Robert Manne observes in an op-ed in The Age says that a new kind of political culture, even a new kind of Australia, has begun to emerge.

During the past 10 years Australia has undergone a profound conservative-populist transformation. The Howard Government has abandoned the quest for Aboriginal reconciliation. It has ended discussion of the meaning of multiculturalism. It has closed our borders, by the use of military force, to all those seeking refuge by boat. It has adopted a foreign policy of a more uncritically pro-American kind than was seen even in the era of Menzies. And, by its refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, it has turned its back on the international fight against global warming.

Manne says that the most important failure of Labor since 1996, has been its incapacity to construct an attractive, alternative vision of the future of Australia that is capable of undercutting the neo-liberal, neo-conservative, patriotic story. It fails to a target the two incompatible strands in Howard's story: the unrestrained economic individualism, the other social conservatism. Citizens are told simultaneously to devote their lives, on the one hand, to material acquisition and to work, and on the other, to the preservation of family, community and church.Manne says:
For citizens, in the chaos of contemporary society, the incommensurability of these values eventually becomes clear, not, of course, in theory but in the impossible pace and pleasurelessness of daily life. In the acquisitive, individualist, consumerist society of neo-liberal theory, time is short, human relations are short-changed, families fracture, the needs of children are ignored, identity is shaped by consumption, losers are treated with contempt, and levels of insecurity, drug dependency, even mental illness, increase.

That a Beazley ALP cannot construct a story for the electoral middle out of that contradiction indicates the current poverty of the ALP.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:17 PM | | Comments (0)