Category: Literature

On Paul Mason’s Clear Bright Future

On Paul Mason’s Clear Bright Future

In his 2015 book, Postcapitalism, Paul Mason described the way in which information technologies are undermining market forces. Since information can be reproduced for close to ‘zero marginal cost’ its tendency is to collapse traditional price mechanisms and thus the ability of businesses to turn a profit without ‘rent seeking’ (i.e. through creating artificial scarcity).

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Eagleton on Humour

Eagleton on Humour

Not long ago a new category appeared, temporarily, on the Netflix homepage, called something like ‘Politically Incorrect Comedy’. Whether this was meant as a warning or a promise, or a bit of both, is hard to say; but there’s no doubt it spoke to something in the culture: a self-consciousness in debates around women and minorities, related to the political moment.

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Review of Huntley and Fagan

Review of Huntley and Fagan

Despite the efforts of pollsters and analysts to tell us how we’re going to vote, our general elections do retain an element of unpredictability, which is just as well, because the manner in which they’re conducted is as predictable as a Happy Meal.

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A review of Rise of the Right and On Hate

A review of Rise of the Right and On Hate

Contemporary right-wing populists have a number of styles available to them. There’s the trashy demagoguery of a Donald Trump; the lethal bigotry of a Jair Bolsonaro; the braying parochialism of a Nigel Farage; the unfocused resentment of a Pauline Hanson … But one must-have item for populists everywhere is the mantle of ‘the real people’.

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On the perils of social media

On the perils of social media

In 2010 the journalist Ginger Gorman, who was then working for the ABC in Queensland, interviewed Mark Newton and Peter Truong, a gay couple with a five-year-old son, born to a Russian surrogate mother.

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On Fukuyama, Babones and Tingle

On Fukuyama, Babones and Tingle

Francis Fukuyama is annoyed. In the preface to Identity, he accuses his critics of misreading his thesis, first set out in 1989, that Western-style liberal democracy, combined with a market economy, represented the final stage in humanity’s socio-political evolution.

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Digital Apes: On Humanity and AI

Digital Apes: On Humanity and AI

This review was first published in The Weekend Australian. * Shortly before his death in 2015 the fantasy writer Terry Pratchett agreed to be interviewed for a documentary about his life and legacy. ‘When I was a boy all I ever wanted was my own observatory’ says Pratchett in the film’s final scene. ‘I knew even then that all the […]

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When the Facts Change

When the Facts Change

This review of Robert Manne’s On Borrowed Time was first published in Arena. * ‘When the facts change I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’ Robert Manne was speaking with Geraldine Doogue, on Radio National’s Saturday Extra. Responding to a question about his political journey (and under no illusion that he was quoting Keynes, to whom the line […]

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On The Future of Everything and Dead Right

On The Future of Everything and Dead Right

These three books – one a comprehensive attempt to reinvent radical social democracy, one a long essay on society and economics, and one a kind of tasting plate of morsels from its publisher’s backlist – all give voice to a widespread feeling that some major change in how we do things – politically, socially, economically – is both necessary and […]

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A Review of New Dark Age and Outnumbered

A Review of New Dark Age and Outnumbered

This review was first published in The Weekend Australian. * In his brilliant and beautiful book, New Dark Age, the British artist James Bridle invokes Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. First set out in Asimov’s short story ‘Runaround’ (1942), these laws are usually expressed as follows: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a […]

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