Neo-liberalism was imposed on Australia as a top down, ideologically driven, re-engineering of every aspect of Australian society. In the wake of the present global financial crisis two things are important. First that economic rationalism, neo-liberalism, economic ‘reform’, has never enjoyed popular support. Second that although the free-marketeers still hold all the levers, neo-liberalism has now lost its legitimacy.
This presents an opportunity.
A politics of climate change has the potential to bust the neo-liberal envelope and to open the public space to a revitalised politics of secure national development and prosperity in which all may share. A new climate change politics can awaken and mobilise the latent strengths of our own heritage. We are a secular nation with weak moral vocabularies, weak civil societies, and weak communities. We are not good at grass roots action. We are not much moved by rights-talk or by political doctrines and ideologies and primal notions of human rights. We are pragmatic nuts ‘n bolts fix-it Benthamites with a strong tradition of mobilising the machinery of state to steer and regulate the market in the service of positive, nation-building, economic development in which all may share. In its own way this is our own modest, powerful, practical, achievable utopia that can fire our national imagination. Think about the power of the imagery that was once evoked by mass immigration to this vast continent; think of the iconic images of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, and the Flying Doctor Service.
A new politics on climate change should be crafted to exploit its inherent advantage as a circuit breaking discourse. The neo-liberal ideology (the most successful and powerful ideology in post WW2 history) has four properties, four signposts: abstraction; time; differentiation; and functionalism.
Let me use the plight of the Murray Darling as illustration:.
Who are the principal political guardians of the neo-liberal orthodoxy? Where are the pressure points to which this new politics should be aimed? That is another discussion but let’s think about the Treasury, the Business Council and the Media.
Some of the arguments in this paper are elaborated in a forthcoming article,‘The struggles of public intellectuals in Australia … What do they tell us about contemporary Australia and the Australian ‘political public sphere?‘, that is to be published in Thesis Eleven, March 2010, as part of Special Issue Festschrift collection in honour of Maria Markus.
 Michael Pusey, The Experience of Middle Australia. The DarkSide of Economic Reform, Cambridge, 2003
Melbourne: Level 18, 1 Nicholson Street,East Melbourne, VIC, 3002(+61) 03 9752 2771
Sydney: Level 5, 320 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000
Media Enquiries: Curtis Moore email@example.com+61 481 334 013
Melbourne: Level 18, 1 Nicholson Street,East Melbourne, VIC, 3002
Design By: WP Creative