Category: Politics

The network versus the hierarchy

The network versus the hierarchy

‘IT IS EASIER to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.’ So wrote the critical theorist Frederic Jameson in New Left Review in 2003, attributing the sentiment to an unnamed ‘someone’ whom posterity, with nothing else to go on, has decided to call Frederic Jameson.

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How democracies perish

How democracies perish

When Bob Hawke died in 2019, shortly before the May election, many commentators sprinkled their obituaries with reflections on how contemporary politicians fell short of the Silver Bodgie’s example. While Hawke, it was said, had managed to combine charisma with a genuine vision, the modern pollie was the helpless plaything of the pollsters and the image-makers, bereft of courage and vision alike.

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Two books in the ‘Grail Tradition’

Two books in the ‘Grail Tradition’

For well over a quarter of a century now the Holy Grail of centre-left politics has been to square the imperatives of enterprise and entrepreneurship with a greater degree of social cohesion, fairness and equality.

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Collapsology

Collapsology

In his most recent novel,The Second Sleep, Robert Harris imagines a future England in which life is lived according to the rhythms and mores of the pre-modern era. Technology is primitive, Christianity taken literally, and, notwithstanding a parrot or two (an effect, perhaps, of global warming), the landscape indistinguishable from that of medieval England.

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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 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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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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