Category: Society

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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Bullshit Jobs and Blue Collar Frayed: A Review

Bullshit Jobs and Blue Collar Frayed: A Review

In 2013 an essay entitled ‘On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs’ appeared in the radical magazine Strike! Its author was the anthropologist and political activist David Graeber, who sought an answer to a simple question: How is it that developed economies in thrall to ideals of efficiency and high productivity generate so many jobs that even the people who do […]

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The War on the Young and Australia Reimagined: A Review

The War on the Young and Australia Reimagined: A Review

Both John Sutherland and Hugh Mackay were born in 1938. According to my instruments, that makes them old men, and it is as old men – or, if you prefer, ‘elders’ – that they have taken up the urgent task of diagnosing contemporary society’s ills and prescribing an appropriate course of treatment. Sutherland does so in rank-breaking style, suggesting in […]

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Peak Bullshit?

Peak Bullshit?

Earlier this year, as the US journalist Michael Wolff was angrily defending his chart-busting exposé Fire and Fury against allegations that it was thinly sourced and inaccurate – allegations, it should be pointed out, that flowed principally from its apricot-coloured subject – a passage purporting to be an extract from the book was published and widely shared on Twitter. Originating […]

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Politics for Beautiful People

Politics for Beautiful People

There’s disagreement about who first described politics as “show business for ugly people”: some commentators attribute the zinger to Jay Leno, others to political consultant Paul Begala. But there is broad agreement that whoever it was identified a genuine phenomenon. Politics in the era of mass communication has indeed become more “mediated” – as focused on personalities as it is […]

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Three new books on the future of work

Three new books on the future of work

David Fagan, Wake Up: The Nine Hashtags of Digital Disruption UQP; $24.95; 224pp Jim Chalmers and Mike Quigley, Changing Jobs: The Fair Go in the New Machine Age Redback; $22.99; 199pp Richard Denniss, Curing Affluenza: How to Buy Less Stuff and Save the World Black Inc.; $27.99; 275pp The times they are a-changin’ – fast. So fast, indeed, that it […]

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L’Affaire Weinstein: A Progressive “Watershed”

L’Affaire Weinstein: A Progressive “Watershed”

The Harvey Weinstein affair cannot be brushed aside as the culture of the casting couch. It is not one more story from the Hollywood fiction factory. It must not be allowed to be another tawdry milestone. It must be the watershed. Reading these lines in The Guardian one week after the New York Times published the first explosive allegations about […]

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STEM Sells (Buyer Beware)

STEM Sells (Buyer Beware)

STEM. It sounds sciencey, doesn’t it? A stem is a type of cell, after all, as well as one of the two structural axes of a vascular plant, or tracheophyte. There are also “stem groups” in evolutionary biology, and Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy, and Spatiotemporal Epidemiological Modellers. Probably there’s a group of physicists somewhere who play Jean-Michel Jarres covers and […]

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Three Books on Democracy

Three Books on Democracy

A review of: A. C. Grayling, Democracy and Its Crisis (Oneworld Books) Richard Walsh, Reboot: A Democracy Makeover to Empower Australia’s Voters (MUP) Steve Richards, The Rise of the Outsiders: How Mainstream Politics Lost Its Way (Atlantic Books)   In his 1984 book The Fall of Rome German historian Alexander Demandt lists all the reasons ever proffered for the decline […]

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