Category: History

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.

Read more ›
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]?’

Read more ›
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.’

Read more ›
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?’

Read more ›
Review of Rogue Forces, by Mark Willacy

Review of Rogue Forces, by Mark Willacy

The publication of Mark Willacy’s Rogue Forces coincided almost exactly with the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The coincidence was a happy one, no less so for occurring in unhappy circumstances.

Read more ›
Identity Crisis: Radical Gender Theory and the Left

Identity Crisis: Radical Gender Theory and the Left

In his latest series of documentaries Can’t Get You Out of My Head (reviewed by Guy Rundle in Arena Quarterly No. 6), sociologist and filmmaker Adam Curtis focuses on a number of individuals who sit at the uneasy intersection of modern individualism, an increasingly technologised vision of the human mind and human behaviour, and a liberatory politics denuded of grand historical narratives.

Read more ›
The Rome Zoo, by Pascal Janovjak

The Rome Zoo, by Pascal Janovjak

In his extraordinary novel The Rome Zoo, French author Pascal Janovjak uses the eponymous institution to observe one species in particular: not the imperious lions or the mischievous chimps or the pygmy hippopotami, all of which are there in the background, but the human beings that would remove those animals from their natural habitats and put them in cages.

Read more ›
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.

Read more ›
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) …

Read more ›
Review of The High Road (Quarterly Essay), by Laura Tingle

Review of The High Road (Quarterly Essay), by Laura Tingle

Laura Tingle’s Quarterly Essays are about politics in the narrow sense. Unconcerned with Big Ideas – ideas of human flourishing, or of the status of the great political traditions – they take politics as ‘the art of the possible’ and judge its practitioners on their mastery of it. A key word in the essays is ‘pragmatism’, which entails working with the grain of events and placing ‘ideology’ to one side in the name of compromise and steady reform.

Read more ›