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

Arena: the administered state « Previous | |Next »
September 28, 2008

John Hinkson's editorial in the June/July issue of Arena briefly explores how the new social order is now administered in the name of a politics beyond Left and Right. Hinkson says:

While the wider world moves towards catastrophe, the world of politics in Australia has imploded towards the small and petty. In the face of momentous possibilities, and in the absence of practical thinking able to interpret and face those possibilities, politics has turned to small talk. The rapidity of the decline is stunning. The Rudd administration has backed away from any claim to being a government prepared to take on the big problems honestly from the point of view of concern for the common good. Indeed, its contribution to the wellbeing of the nation appears to have been exhausted with the removal of the Howard government. Now all issues tend to be reduced to what is administratively possible - what 'good' administration can fix
Hinkson considers the obvious objection--climate change where the Rudd Government has set in place a developmental process focusing on significant goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases and processes of emission control.

He responds thus:

But even in relation to climate change it has developed a policy that amounts to nothing more than an administrative tool. Formed in the campaign to defeat Howard, and influenced by opinion polls that in no way reflect the reality of the on-the-ground costs of responding to climate change, it attends to the global threat as merely an aspect of normal governance.

Hinkson says that the political effort is to normalise climate change: both in terms of policy and in the minds of voters. Whether our way of life might contribute to climate change, and what might count as a serious response at this level of thinking and action is marginalised because administration looks after an assumed way of life. The administrative fix covers up the way our social life is being radically transformed by globalisation:
In particular, the high technologies amplify and transform aspects of life once protected from the market. Today, inflated expectations of the self, even the denial that there is a self, the new role of the university, the assault upon nature, the market in its global form, the possibilities of techno-embodiment, the infinite wants of the consumer, all appear to confirm that the possibilities are limitless. High-tech processes amplify our world and draw us away from any notion that it might be finite.

Hinkson adds that the multi-faceted media that accompany the globalisation of social life radically undermine community-based and generation-based settings. Relatively rich face-to-face local and neighbourhood social relations are thinned out and displaced by technological mediums, putting in their place conditions that underpin both moral panics and interventions. He says that the administrative state, in ignoring these processes of social transformation, also allows the question of how we should live also to be avoided.

But is the Rudd Government that different from Hawke/Keating in this respect? Both seemed to be concerned to keep the economic machine ticking over through the strategy of turning all problems into managerial or administrative problems.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:04 AM | | Comments (4)


If I understand Hinkson properly, he's arguing that the 'beyond Left and Right' business is one thing, and continuing our current ways of life is another. The 'beyond Left and Right' is the administrative process behind technological solutions to problems of unsustainability, so we can go on being unsustainable.

As far as I can see they amount to the same thing. Beyond Left and Right sounds really impressive, but it doesn't amount to anything at all. It's code for 'do nothing'.

Technology has been transforming our social life since progress and modernity were invented. In that sense, nothing's changed. That technology might have limits, or that it isn't always a good idea, still hasn't occured to us.

hasn't the Arena crowd been saying this kind of technology stuff for some time now? Interesting that the internet is missing from the list of technology drivers.

There are some weird and contradictory things going on in Western societies at the moment. On one hand there's an erosion in perceptions of the legitimacy of science and expertise generally, and on the other hand there's a growing devotion to the sorts of technologies perceived to be democratic. So you have climate change scepticism and a shift to alternative medicine at the same time as the success of reality tv and Facebook.

You can't talk of technology generally and make sociological sense.

The Building Australia Fund thread is the paradigm.
The betrayal is significant for its sheer audacity, arrogance, scale and extent.
Bjelke Peterson and Burke would be open-mouthed.
And apart from the arrogance of the right, how about the sheer supine cowardice of the ALP left.