Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture Wars

Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture Wars

Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture Wars

Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture Wars


Do Right and Left still mean anything in politics? Are environmental issues always 'left wing'? Is it only 'right wing' to worry about the family? In fact, these traditional connections have broken down, but what is taking their place? In Australian politics today a new free market Right holds the ascendancy in ideas, while Labor and the Left struggle with a crisis of belief. David McKnight makes a compelling argument that the new Right has a radical agenda, not a conservative one. He shows how this drives some of the most vexed issues of our time: overconsumption, work-family balance, immigration and the environment. McKnight points to the rise of a new politics based on moral values, and argues that the Left needs to rethink its fundamental ideas. He offers a positive political vision beyond Right and Left which he calls a 'new humanism', based on classic principles of freedom, compassion for others and the common good.


The ideas of economists and political philosophers both when they are right
and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood.
Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves
quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some
defunct economist. Madmen in authority who hear voices in the air, are distilling
their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.

John Maynard Keynes, 1936

Do the terms Right and Left still mean anything in politics? Political pundits use these terms but, as with any words repeated too often, the meaning starts to disappear. So many people have become sceptical. We routinely describe John Howard's Liberal—National Coalition government as Right. Logically, then, Labor is Left. But is this polarisation accurate, or even helpful? the meaning of these terms, like the ideas of those parties, has been transformed in recent times. When Kim Beazley was elected leader of the Labor Party for the second time in 2005, former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser commented that there was not a single issue on which Kim Beazley was 'on the Left of me'. Then there is Iraq. George W. Bush (on the Right) made war and was joined by Britain's Labour government (on the Left). Meanwhile, the French government (Right) and the German government (Left) opposed the British—United States war. What's going on?

The Right is defined as conservative and the Left as radical in their attitudes to social change. But the radical economic changes . . .

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