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

generation shmeneration « Previous | |Next »
October 19, 2007

Yuppies were an undifferentiated mass of twenty something urbanites who, during the lavish '80s colonised the previously salt of the earth working class postcodes clustered around major city centres. They bought up cottages and terrace houses which they restored complete with geranium filled window boxes and plaster ducks flying up hallway walls.

Harley Davidsons and particular breeds of dog were among their fashion accessories of choice and their mobile phones were not much smaller than their cast iron, claw footed bath tubs. These white collar, urbane young professionals were the original latte set. They're in their forties now and re-defined as being on the cusp of the baby boomer and gen x categories which are, apparently, as readily identifiable as Harley Davidsons and Vespers.

Yuppies were the first beneficiaries of our then new global economy and the technology that came with it. When they loaded their 5.25 inch MS DOS startup discs into the floppy drive, the gen Y babies on their laps were being introduced to the latest version of life as we know it. Now in their 20s, gen Y are as familiar with life under federal Labor as they are with the aesthetics of the bakelite telephone. That is to say, not at all.

Of course, not everyone was a yuppie back then any more than gen Y are uniformly predictable. Except politically where 73% of them support Labor.

Gen Y member Garth Williams puts this down to a combination of Rudd's future focus and the disproportionate effect of WorkChoices on young people. Climate change and housing affordability also get a mention, as do Facebook and MySpace where vast networks of youngsters are thought to be "whipping up support for various election issues".

At the other end of the age spectrum, David Barnett is gracious enough to concede that it's gen Y's turn, but he doesn't like their politics. Of his own age group, "We will vote for a return of the coalition government, despite the atrocities that John Howard and his ministers have perpetrated down through the years." The young just don't understand what they're getting themselves into.

Sally Breen and Alasdair Duncan beg to differ. Life as they know it is just not life as David Barnett has known it. 'Social' doesn't mean what it used to and there's a whole other moral structure at work. Gen Y don't care for the level of greed and pillage they see in older generations and they resent being left to clean up the mess.

If the comments are any indication, one of the things they really hate is being classified as an undifferentiated mass. Can't blame them really. Back in the day, we yuppies didn't like it either.

| Posted by Lyn at 8:50 AM | | Comments (21)


Hmmm. A decade out. They moved into the inner city working class cottages in the 1970s in Adelaide. Some talk about their motorbikes--the women--but never plastic ducks. It was more like Fred Williams or Brett Whitley

They were the Dunstan Whitlam crowd.They are now in their fifties and they did their post graduate degrees in the US. They now live in inner city apartments and are deeply worried about climate change.

Jeez, Adelaide must have been way ahead of Sydney. By the time we started renovating Glebe and Newtown you were either a Sloane with a Princess Di hairdo or a Michael Hutchence wannabe.

they were in the US in the 80's then bought the house in the inner suburbs, made the career move, relationships broke up, learnt to be single and embraced the pre Raphelites .

hey Lyn I know its off topic but I was wondering as to your opinion as labor voter how you think the Rudd campaign is being run? Do you think that Australia is believing that Rudd is the man for the job? Or do you think his star is fading? Do you attribute this to the message not being believed? or to Howard's message beginning to be more believed than previously?

Personally I am at the point now where I am thinking that unless there is a great upset like a Haneef or Hicks saga to re-turn the people against Howard that Labor will actually go backwards come the election.

How do you see it at this point?


I think Howard got off to a good start and has been enjoying himself, which makes a difference. He's been a lot more confident which makes me think the tax thing, early in the campaign, was one tactic in a larger strategy and he's pleased with what's to come.

He needs to get back his middle, upper-middle people with some humanitarian or maybe environmental gesture, and probably a little scare to make up for the WorkChoices losses.

So far Labor haven't really done much. In fact it's been pretty boring really, considering what's at stake. To be honest I don't think Rudd's success has been so much about Rudd mania as the media would have us believe. So at that rate, it's more about Howard being able to convince people he's not as bad/old/tricky as they thought.

As for the outcome, I wouldn't hazard a guess right now Les. We'll know around about the 12th Nov or thereabouts I'd say.

You have to remember that Labor have been campaigning all year at the local level, which doesn't get media coverage and isn't about Rudd/Howard, but Lib/Labor. They've been campaigning heavily in marginals and in Lib minister's seats while the ministers were busy in Canberra. Or wherever.

It won't be so much about getting people in at the last minute, which is what we're seeing in the polls. Only something like 5% haven't made up their minds yet. The campaign is a bit like fighting over the scraps.

At this point I think Howard should lay off the fake tan before it gets too obvious, but other than that, he should be very pleased with himself. Quietly, of course.

Thanks for that Lyn.

I wonder how Nan sees it at this point?

John Howard’s record is against him winning this election. That is not to say he can’t, just to say that to do it he will have to live up to his legend.

Labor hasn't made any mistakes so far, though the embittered Gavan O'Connor meltdown in Geelong about corruption in ALP ranks re the seat of Corio and Richard Marles etc did not help.Rats in the ranks? O'Connor accused the Labor Party of rampant branch stacking, illicit fundraising, money laundering and grubby dealings with property developers.

I'm not going to watch the election debate. The worm needs to be in a union.

The political talk in Adelaide is that Sturt, held by Ageing Minister Christopher Pyne, is now in play. It has two party preferred margin of 6.8%. Labor reckons it has a shot at it.

where do 'the aspirationals' fit into this generational account? I thoughout everybody was talking, and concerned about the aspirationals. Who are they? Have they been replaced by 'working families'?

I see that your and Lyn's view of now is a little different.

The prices for the seat in question in Adel is 1.50 to 2.40. Still a wide gap but that may reflect little money in the pool, perhaps none.

Unlike the Bennalong pool which would have a large stack of money that tends to make it a lot more of a reflection of the situation. Howard 1.36 and McKee 2.90. Perhaps she should stop dancing!
Prices in Qld seats have drifted the coalitions way and now only a couple of seats look close. I think it was oz politics that made some wild predictions about massive seat losses in Qld. Obviously Blogging is allowed in asylums nowadays.


My understanding of aspirationals is that they're not an age cohort but an economic group. They used to be the mortgage belt but now they're pretty much anyone obsessed with consumerism. Up here on the Gold Coast we have just as many aspirational retirees as aspirational working families.

The word reminds me of the Donaher family on Sylvania Waters. It was supposed to mean people trying to get ahead, but to me it's people who want air conditioning so they can leave it on all day while they're at work.


I suspect that the betting agencies might not be as reliable an indicator as in the past, partly because people (including staffers) know their reputation.

On Qld, we can't rely on Qld being predictable given the huge numbers of people who come here from Vic and NSW. We could easily be looking at a less conservative population now. It will be interesting to watch.

Yes numbers are numbers Lyn. Do they equate to votes? Who knows! Being in a position to speak to some that hold the pools of money gives a truer insight into betting odds that is not displayed in numbers. For instance lowering a favorites price induces betting on that thing because punters tend to think well its going to win because everybody else thinks it will. It is a complex area that really requires inside knowledge to profit.

Yes re Qld. Having the potential of a Qld PM and a qld Treasurer could factor too. Good for us but bad for others could be a point of interest at some stage.

On the Debate...I watched the ABC and taped 9 and am yet to see the worm hole. I read it as 50/50 on debate content. But Howard lost because of strange tongue and mouth movements that made him look like he was ready for the retirement village. But he always loses these things. Costello will wash away this.

were the aspirational's Howard's battlers who wanted to be relaxed and comfortable? Were they Mark Latham's Sydney's western suburbs?

I always understood them in consumptions terms: ie., with a liking for McMansions, private schools and plasma tvs. In economic terms they were working class/lower middle class who had become cashed up independent contractors.


When Latham wrote about aspirationals he was still married to Gabrielle Gwyther, sociologist. She did her research in the multiplying gated communities in the new suburbs of outer south-western Sydney, which is where people from Latham's old postcode were moving at the time.

They were moving for two reasons - to get away from the working class and crime connotations of the old postcodes in favour of a chocolate box version of family life - and to get away from the large numbers of migrants moving in to the areas drawn by cheaper housing.

Latham appealed to their social and economic aspirations, and Howard appealed to their white neighbourhood aspirations. The meaning of 'aspirational' has changed depending who was doing the talking. Now they're working families.

There's the economic and the consumer aspirational, but 'relaxed and comfortable' is about the cultural aspirational. 'Relaxed and comfortable' was originally about Australians being comfortable with their history and not having to feel responsible for Aborigines.

Okay, I'm going to follow Hayden Manning here and interpret ‘aspirational voter’ as another way of saying ‘middle class voter’; one whose class status rests on the fragile foundation of high levels of personal and household debt. It refers to a period of middle class affluence that was reborn after being shaken recessions in the early 1990s.

This affluence then shaped political values in the outer suburbs. Latham's significance, is that he sought to reorient the Labor Party’s focus away from its traditional social democratic values, advocating policy in the language of the ‘Third Way’, and fashioning Labor Party rhetoric to appeal to individual incentive and ambition. Hence Latham's ‘ladder of opportunity’ metaphor.


Yes, I've been thinking about this and it seems to come down to whether they're politically or sociologically defined. while we're talking about an election the political definition is the obvious one.

I've read Hayden Manning's aspirational voter paper that Gary linked to above. Manning defines aspirational thus:

A host of demographic, social and economic factors are bandied around to define the ‘aspirational voter’. Objectively, they are middle income earners, upwardly mobile, and may be employed in either blue or white collar occupations. More speculative is the view that they are vulnerable to interest rate rises due to high levels of personal debt...Pundits describe the aspirational outlook as entrepreneurial and individualistic. Aspirationals have been variously described as the new ‘conservative right’—anti-egalitarian and anti-union, favouring tax cuts, driving new cars, and sending their kids to private schools

Is this along the lines of what you mean by the political definition of aspirational? Manning goes on to say re the 2004 AEC survey--the Australian Election Study-- that:
I include respondents with household incomes in the middle forty per cent—that is, incomes between $30,000 and $70,000 per year—as the first step to defining the aspirational voter. The second step isolates from these middle income households all respondents who favoured tax cuts over increased government spending on social services.

Is this what you mean?


Yes, it is. A political perspective seeks to understand demographics as voting blocs and, consequently, making decisions aimed at keeping particular demographics happy rather than in the interests of the common good. 'Political' is probably a bad word. Maybe I should have said 'electoral' instead.

'electoral' is the better word here isn't it. Political refers to the friend/enemy distinction.

Just thinking out loud here, but there's a blur between the normative, analytical and empirical distinctions. What do you do when the personal is political? When the cultural is political? When the postcode, the unseen tattoo and the subjective are all political? Is there really any difference between the political and the electoral?

In real life this election campaign is 11 months old. That's past populism and into a whole new realm of political experience for Australia.

There seems to be more at stake here than the usual who wins the campaign proper. If it's true that the Libs will need a decade to get their act together should they lose, then we can dispense with the permanent campaign in the interim and be a bit serious about things. If they manage to be an opposition in any meaningful sense, will we have entered the era of the permanent campaign for good or ill?

Howard appealed to the aspirationals via a Keating backlash and Hansonism. Pure populism in the nasty sense. He lost them partly through WorkChoices and interest rates, but at the less wonkish and possibly more realistic end of things, he lost them because he just wasn't as shiny as Kevin07. As hard as it may be to stomach, pop politics works.

There are as many ways of engaging with politics as there are ways of being political. We could very well be seeing a kind of creative destruction beyond the familiar Liberal/Labor, conservative/progressive pendulum we're accustomed to. Sort of a third way beyond the theoretically current one into a kind of third way-pop combo.

Dick Morris in The New Prince quotes the American poet Robert Frost who said: "Poetry is about the grief. Politics is about the grievance."

Electoral politics is the surface froth and bubble of the underlying shifts in the political landscape.

Grievance is shaped by the friend enemy distinction applies to the personal as well. We are talking about power,gender relations and inequaality etc.