Rehearsals for Change: Politics and Culture in Australia

Rehearsals for Change: Politics and Culture in Australia

Rehearsals for Change: Politics and Culture in Australia

Rehearsals for Change: Politics and Culture in Australia

Excerpt

Whenever I would tell people I was working on a book on the prospects for social change in Australia the usual answer was: It'll be a short one. If, in fact, this is so it is neither because there is no prospect for change, nor because the problem is a simple one. Considerable change is, of course, inevitable, if only as a result of the way Australia is intermeshed in the world economic system. The crucial question is how do we control this change so as to move towards a more humane, egalitarian and free society rather than in the largely opposite direction that seems to be our present lot.

To answer this requires a sense of what sort of change we seek (namely a vision of an alternative future), a theory of which groups in society can be mobilized to press for such change, and a strategy of how to go about it. Throughout this century radicals have looked to the working class and one version or other of Marxism to provide this vision, theory and strategy. A loss of certainty about both the revolutionary potential of the working class and the relevance of Marxist theory has ironically accompanied an upsurge of discontent with liberal economic and political systems over the past decade.

In Australia the most significant single concept of political change has been the social democratic one of working through the Labor Party and movement towards what Ben Chifley referred to as 'the light on the hill'. Gough Whitlam's period as prime minister marked both the triumph and the collapse of this faith. After his dismissal from office in 1975 it is hard to remain totally convinced that this is the way to achieve change.

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