• How the sausage is made: A review Frank Bongiorno’s Dreamers and Schemers

    How the sausage is made: A review Frank Bongiorno’s Dreamers and Schemers

    Towards the end of Dreamers and Schemers, his ‘political history of Australia’, Frank Bongiorno tells us that the term ‘democracy sausage’ first entered public discourse in 2012. The date, he suggests, is significant, for while the coinage seemed on one level to speak to the relaxedness and egalitarianism of the Australian electorate, and even to a sense of celebration and fun as regards the institutions of democracy, its introduction coincided with a sharp decline in public trust in politicians and the political process.

  • How to secede without really trying: A review of How to Rule Your Own Country

    How to secede without really trying: A review of How to Rule Your Own Country

    In How to Rule Your Own Country, Harry Hobbs and George Williams consider the phenomenon of micronations, which is to say territorial entities whose members claim independence or sovereignty but which lack diplomatic recognition.

  • Brave New Wild: Why ‘Resurrecting’ the Thylacine is a Dangerous Idea

    Brave New Wild: Why ‘Resurrecting’ the Thylacine is a Dangerous Idea

    In 2021 the National Film and Sound Archive released new footage of the last known thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger.

  • Zero Gravity: Floating Towards Posthumanism

    Zero Gravity: Floating Towards Posthumanism

    ‘They say it got smart, a new order of intelligence’, rasps Kyle Reese in The Terminator, referring to the Skynet computer system that launched a nuclear attack against humanity in the catastrophe known as Judgment Day. The trope is as old as science fiction itself, and shadows the genre with all of the tenacity of an Uzi-toting T-800.

  • As Politics Narrows, Divisions Widen (a Note on the Election and the Left)

    As Politics Narrows, Divisions Widen (a Note on the Election and the Left)

    When Bob Hawke died in 2019, two days before the federal election, many mainstream commentators took the opportunity to remind the prime ministerial hopefuls that in terms of charisma, persuasiveness and popularity they didn’t exactly measure up to the example of the Silver Bodgie.

  • Review of Who’s Black and Why?

    Review of Who’s Black and Why?

    In 1741, the exalted members of the Bordeaux Royal Academy of Sciences met to consider sixteen essays written in response to the following question: ‘What is the physical cause of the Negro’s color, the quality of [the Negro’s] hair, and the degeneration of both [Negro hair and skin]?’

  • Review of The First Astronomers

    Review of The First Astronomers

    ‘When profound ideas are introduced to the world for the first time,’ writes Professor Marcia Langton, in her foreword to The First Astronomers, ‘our world is fundamentally changed and the previous understandings consigned to history. There are those who continue to deny the intelligence and scientific traditions of Indigenous people. The idea that the only true science is that of Western thinking must be consigned to history.’

  • Go Slow and Break Things

    Go Slow and Break Things

    The short decade between the global debt crisis and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency was a time of great excitement on the Left. Like the devil in Baudelaire’s The Generous Gambler, capitalism’s power had been based on its ability to convince the world that it didn’t exist; but in the months and years after the financial meltdown, its tail and trotters were distinctly visible to anyone who cared to look.

  • On Kate Holden’s The Winter Road

    On Kate Holden’s The Winter Road

    ‘The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying “This is mine”, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.’ So wrote the Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his Discourse on Inequality (1754) …

  • Review of On Life’s Lottery, by Glyn Davis

    Review of On Life’s Lottery, by Glyn Davis

    In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison assures us, ‘if you have a go, you will get a go’. In other words, those who make an effort are guaranteed a shot at success. It follows that if you don’t make an effort, you only have yourself to blame when success remains stubbornly out of reach.  

  • Review of Power and Consent, by Rachel Doyle

    Review of Power and Consent, by Rachel Doyle

    Rachel Doyle’s Power & Consent is about as well-timed as a book can be. Published as allegations of rape and a ‘culture of silence’ swirl around Canberra, it is a formidable salvo aimed at a field already strewn with casualties. Indeed, it is almost too well timed …

  • Review of On Charlatans, by Chris Bowen

    Review of On Charlatans, by Chris Bowen

    Though Bowen begins On Charlatans by asking why social democratic parties command less support among the working class, he spends the great majority of the book outlining the ‘fake legitimacy’ the populist parties offer them – a combination of post-truth rhetoric, resentful white identity politics, hyper-partisanship and climate-change denialism.

  • Biotech is about more than ownership. It’s about what human beings are.

    Biotech is about more than ownership. It’s about what human beings are.

    To legalise mitochondrial donation may indeed be the moral thing to do, but the broader trend of which it is part requires thoroughgoing analysis, not only by religious groups but also by a material Left whose best traditions have always placed science within a radical humanist frame, not the other way about.

  • Suture Shock: Humanity goes under the knife

    Suture Shock: Humanity goes under the knife

    As we become ever more remote from ‘meatspace’, it’s worth considering the role the scalpel and the needle may play in that development.

  • Not the debate we need: On mitochondrial donation

    Not the debate we need: On mitochondrial donation

    If a society consisted of human beings who had been partly engineered or edited, would we think about human life in the same way or would we lose a sense of reciprocity with others?

  • Review of Harlem Nights, by Deidre O’Connell

    Review of Harlem Nights, by Deidre O’Connell

    ‘As sure as guns is guns, if we let in coloured labour, they’ll swallow us. They hate us. All the other colours hate the white. And they’re only waiting till we haven’t got the pull over them. They’re only waiting. And then what about poor little Australia?’