Mark Latham, values and community

Glenn Milne has an article in this morning’s Oz about the (alleged) political watershed/revolution that voting for a Latham-led ALP would involve. Milne’s article includes a long-ish quote by Labor fellow-traveller and ANOP pollster Rod Cameron:

“For the first time in my 30 years in this game, the issue of values is paramount as an election battleground. This is what brought Latham out of the ruck and he managed, to some extent, to change the national agenda a values agenda. Energy, conviction, aspiration, fatherhood, passion, courage, generation X, independence, different political priorities all of these diverse but values concepts suddenly became important.

“Values will be more important than policy for Mark Latham. Policy will be there eventually and spelled out in partial, not full, detail, much to the chagrin of some journalists and commentators. And the policies that Latham does unveil will be presented through a values prism.

“The battle lines have been set. The parties have chosen their corners and they won’t fundamentally change. One side is offering values and the other is putting up a conventional political agenda, emphasising a steady stream of electoral bribes, pork-barrelling, targeted largess [sic], some promises regarding services and a massive dollop of political advertising dressed up as government advice to the community.”

I can’t help remembering the ballyhoo in the leadup to the election of the Howard government in 1996. It too was touted by many commentators (quite possibly including Glenn Milne for all I know) as heralding a return of “values” to politics. Howard made much of his implementation of a Ministerial Conduct Code and Charter of Budget Honesty to differentiate himself from Paul Keating, who was broadly perceived as shonky and discredited as a result of fiascoes like the vanishing “L-A-W law” tax cuts and the Roz Kelly whiteboard affair.

Of course, we now know Howard wasn’t really interested in ‘values’ at all. The Ministerial Conduct Code was jettisoned as soon as he discovered it would inevitably result in the ongoing wholesale sacking of Cabinet colleagues, while the Charter of Budget Honesty has delivered nothing of the sort. In fact, its only tangible effect has been to induce successive Labor leaders to avoid releasing their detailed economic policies until the last possible moment. Few would now associate Howard with ‘values’ (at least in the sense of integrity) except possibly as personifying their antithesis.

Is Latham any more genuinely interested in ‘values’ (leaving aside what those values might be)? I suspect the answer is a heavily qualified “yes”. Although I’ve previously suggested Latham’s policy announcements about reading to kids, the role of fathers and the like can in part be seen as Dick Morris-style ‘symbolic’ campaigning strategies intended to ‘cut through’ conventional political discourse and speak to voters’ ‘real’ concerns (thereby also facilitating a ‘small target’ strategy to avoid the Charter of Budget Honesty), there’s another (but related) element as well: communitarianism.

Communitarianism, as some readers will be aware, is both a philosophical and political movement that became quite popular among some on the ‘soft’ left in the 1980s and early 90s. The Blair Labour government’s early successes in the UK are often credited to an overtly communitarian orientation. Communitarianism seemed to offer a ‘third way’ between capitalism and socialism, advocating policies that would restore ‘heart’ and a sense of community and belonging to the ruthless edifice of global capitalism, without challenging any of the fundamental assumptions of 1980s neoliberalism.

Mark Latham’s policy writings, especially while in the parliamentary sin-bin when Beazley was leader, are strongly influenced by communitarian thinking, and announcements like “reading to kids” clearly suggest that he still thinks in that way. So it may well be that Latham has a sincere intention to implement a communitarian, values-based agenda in government. What that might actually mean in practice is harder to assess.

This excellent essay from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy contains a detailed discussion of communitarianism:

Such political communitarians blame both the left and the right for our current malaise. The political left is chastised not just for supporting welfare rights economically unsustainable in an era of slow growth and aging populations, but also for shifting power away from local communities and democratic institutions and towards centralized bureaucratic structures better equipped to administer the fair and equal distribution of benefits, thus leading to a growing sense of powerlessness and alienation from the political process. Moreover, the modern welfare state with its universalizing logic of rights and entitlements has undermined family and social ties in civil society by rendering superfluous obligations to communities, by actively discouraging private efforts to help others (eg, union rules and strict regulations in Sweden prevent parents from participating voluntarily in the governance of day care centers to which they send their children), and even by providing incentives that discourage the formation of families (eg, welfare payments are cut off in most American states if a recipient marries a working person) and encourage the break-up of families (eg, no-fault divorce in the US is often financially rewarding for the non custodial parent, usually the father).

Libertarian solutions favored by the political right have contributed even more directly to the erosion of social responsibilities and valued forms of communal life, particularly in the UK and the US. Far from producing beneficial communal consequences, the invisible hand of unregulated free-market capitalism undermines the family (eg, few corporations provide enough leave to parents of newborn children), disrupts local communities (eg, following plant closings or the shifting of corporate headquarters), and corrupts the political process (eg, since the mid-seventies special economic interests in the US have gained more power by drawing on political action committees to fund political representatives, with the consequence that representatives dependent on PAC money for their political survival no longer represent the community at large). Moreover, the valorization of greed in the Thatcher/Reagan era justified the extension of instrumental considerations governing relationships in the marketplace into spheres previously informed by a sense of uncalculated reciprocity and civil obligation. This trend has been reinforced by increasing globalization, which pressures states into conforming to the dictates of the international marketplace.

More specifically in the American context, communitarian thinkers such as Mary Ann Glendon indict a new version of rights discourse that has achieved dominance of late. Whereas the assertion of rights was once confined to matters of essential human interest, a strident rights rhetoric has colonized contemporary political discourse, thus leaving little room for reasoned discussion and compromise, justifying the neglect of social responsibilities without which a society could not function, and ultimately weakening all appeals to rights by devaluing the really important ones.

Critics of political communitarianism have noted that its advocates have typically favoured fairly conservative, ‘family-centred’ and somewhat authoritarian policy prescriptions, while leaving most if not all of the neoliberal economic agenda (which has arguably contributed in a fairly major way to social alienation and the breakdown of community) completely untouched and unchallenged. Political communitarians fiddle around the edges of social reform, attempting to put a human face on feral capitalism but not achieving very much in practice because they accept uncritically that there’s no viable alternative to the ‘minimal state’, deregulated, privatised neoliberal agenda.

Is that what we can expect from Labor under Latham? I suspect so. Latham’s communitarian assumptions (i.e. that neoliberalism only needs to be humanised at the margins) might even be correct, but it’s a measure of the intellectual poverty of Australian political discourse that mainstream media commentators don’t even seem to have recognised the communitarian strand of his thinking, let alone attempted to analyse the theoretical underpinnings of the policies it spawns.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Doug
2021 years ago

Intriguing. But you’re right, it is a measure of the poverty of western democratic discourse that there is no percieved viable alternative to “more of the same but … um … nicer”.

Factory
Factory
2021 years ago

“… it’s a measure of the intellectual poverty of Australian political discourse that mainstream media commentators don’t even seem to have recognised the communitarian strand of his thinking.”
The communitarian movement is pretty obscure movement, at least for the mainstream. Which means that not only would the media have to explain Lathams policy writings in respect to the commutarian philosophy, they would also have to explain the philosophy as well, which is a much tougher job.

Also I would include here a link to an article that d^2 did on the topic of commutarians and masturbation, but unfortionately I can’t find the link. :(

Al Bundy
2021 years ago

Ken, check these Google results. There has been ample discussion of Latham and his ‘3rd way’ mysticism. Just how much Latham is into it can be seen at this link in particular.

The overall thrust of your post seems somewhat disparaging towards ‘neoliberalism’. Indeed, the word has become a term of opprobrium used by critics of capitalist ideology as they bemoan the emphasis on individual rights and interests. By contrast, communitarianism is rather generously characterised as championing individualism, but recognising that individuals can prosper only when they contribute to and are a part of communities.

Bah, what humbug. Let’s remove the Double Plus Un Good linguistic nuancing from that last bit of dross, and we’re left with communitarianism exposed for what it really is, ie the welfare of the collective must be valued over any individual rights or liberties. Base socialism.

The ‘reading to kids’ schmozzle is nothing more than an innocuous response to Howard’s in-your-face broad based literacy testing and tied funding. I believe there’s precious little evidence to suggest that reading stories to your kids improves their literacy. It might have some benefits, but literacy ain’t one of ’em.

Same with Latham’s slavishly Steve Biddulph approach to fatherhood. Blehhhh! What sanctimonious, new-age, tree hugging rot.

You’ve got to question any ‘political philosophy’ that reads suspiciously like academic sophistry. Descriptions of communitarianism bog the reader down in ragged etymology, leading to the suspicion that the actual substance of the argument does not bear close scrutiny. It’s one thing to identify a policy area where a ‘3rd way’ is required, but it seems far harder to actually come up with the policies that are somehow going to ‘enable’ communities to deal with their own problems. Why does ATSIC come to mind, I wonder?

It might be fun to sit down and argue for or against the ‘universalism’ of Western liberal democracy in the face of cultural ‘particularism’, and to discuss the impact on community institutions in this country or that. But these are discussions about ambiguous concepts like ‘hegemony’, ‘cultural imperialism’ and globalisation. What applicability do they have to issues important to the Australian electorate? What makes you think that Australians are interested in new theoretical approaches to governance? If Latham isn’t getting traction with the press on his 3rd way stuff, just maybe it’s because no one is interested, not because mainstream commentators are intellectually bankrupt.

It’s not so much that I

…accept uncritically that there’s no viable alternative to the ‘minimal state’, deregulated, privatised neoliberal agenda.

It’s just that the next best system I know of is a long way behind.

jen
jen
2021 years ago

‘explain Lathams policy writings in respect to the commutarian philosophy, they would also have to explain the philosophy as well,’

Factory. What is so difficult about that? What else have they, – Yes they, the whole media,- got to do all day?
Iraq.
Yes, well, there is that.
And the environment
mmmmm
And the election – I mean, the pre-election hype
Now you’re talking! So amidst all the pre -election hype, might there not be a market for explanations and analysis that relate current events to cultural heritage. Or is that way too academic for us mainstream masses?
Nothing like a good explanation to clear up the main passages I always say.

jen
jen
2021 years ago

yes al, ‘ample’ discussion. As I sit here over a steaming cup of tea, wrapped in a blanket and freezing my arse off in the warmest climate in oz. I count around 5 entries that could be said to be mainstream in that plethora of googled results. The usual suspects: The Age – venerable and senile, The Australian at least it doesn’t cost more than five bucks up here, Aunty AM and Lateline – oh yes Time Magazine very poppy – Admittedly I’m only up to ‘NEXT 3’, but hell, it’s 3 something am and I’ve run out of milk.
The ‘ample’ discussion therefore, is confined to the likes of ‘you lot’ on the blog and in the academy. Admit it, ‘You lot’ are not altogether ‘mainstream’. ‘Us lot’, the commercial crass rat sector haven’t a clue about the third way – the NT News and the Melbourne Sun, the Weekly, commercial radio and TV and and …..just won’t talk about such high falutin concepts as communitarianism. Because the stupid fuckin hacks who work on those rags ‘n’ tatters can’t be bothered selling real ideas to us the plodders. THEY lack imagination big time and they have no community conscience above ‘recipe of the week’ and who is richer and/or more plastic than who. I would argue that anyone who can follow the career path of Michael Jackson, can surely follow an idea that places him/her in a political community. We the unwashed just need information that is meaningful – even if (Parish) we have to begin with a crackpot pollie reading to his offspring to get us going about the school down the road. And from there perhaps the hacks could extrapolate (Yes,I’m a phony-I beg your indulgence)and we might find out what literacy means and then OMG we might take in a whole policy about education and then, and then al, we might vote knowing something real – The hacks owe it to us, what else have they got to do?

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Excerpted from Al Bundy’s links page, an excellent article on Latham and the Third Way is in the Journal of Australian Political Economy from last year. I reviewed Latham & Botsman’s book on communities and policy in the same journal in 2002

Scroll down on the contents page to find the links to the .pdf files

Al Bundy
2021 years ago

Because the stupid fuckin hacks who work on those rags ‘n’ tatters can’t be bothered selling real ideas to us the plodders.

Hey, Jen, they don’t come much more plodderer than me. To rephrase a point I made to Ken…If they’re not sellin’, maybe it’s because we aren’t buyin’. Nobody in Britain is singing praises about New Labour’s 3rd way policies. That’s because outside of the halls of academia, such esoteric discussions have no applicability.

But I’ll digress for a moment, and give you a hot tip for next time you’re wondering what the hell ‘XYZ’ means…

Open up Google, and type in ‘define: XYZ’. Eg enter in the search term: ‘define: communitarianism’, and out will spit the stuff you desire in a nutshell.

In my words,

Communitarian policies delegate power and responsibility away from central government to community groups in order to deal with social issues. That community group might be a family, or it might be a local council. This represents a supposed ‘3rd way’ in that it limits the role of the state to ‘enabling’ people to deal with local issues in a way that reflects their own localised values, while not going so far as to hand that power over to individuals as the libertarian ideal would demand – ie It’s neither socialist nor capitalist.

It’s bollocks, of course. The contradictions and inefficiencies of such an approach are immediately apparent. How well does handing responsibility for justice in Aboriginal communities over to ‘traditional law’ work? ‘Problematical’ would be a fine understatement. Yet this is precisely what communitarianism is all about. I don’t want to single out Indigenous issues in my examples, but the ‘self determination’ policies laid out by successive governments reflect the spirit of communitarianism to the letter.

The fact is that the professional administrators in central governments are damned good at what they do. The results they achieve might suck, but when considered in the context of the red, black and green tape that they must overcome, the solutions put forward by the tenured bureaucracy are generally the ‘least-worst’ available. And, no, I’m anything but a fan of central government, I’m just convinced that the supposed merits of the ‘3rd way’ pale beside the complications the implementation of such policies entail.

Also, consider childcare. In South Australia, centres are run by committees made up of parents. The fact is that the committees spend less time worrying about establishing programs that reflect their shared values, and more time trying to figure out how to raise money to pay for new equipment and deal with industrial issues that they have absolutely NO experience with.

Now this is a pretty dry sort of conversation, and you can find out pretty much all you might want to know on the Net. If you want to know about it, it’s all there for the pluckin’.

Read the links posted by Mark, and make up your own mind over whether the daily fish-wrappers should be devoting copy to explaining Latham’s synthesis of a “radical centre”.

Whew, the more I find out about Latham, the more I dread a change of government. Give me the high inflation, high unemployment muddle of traditional ALP leadership. At least you know that the problem can be fixed. Start introducing the fundamental changes in the distribution of powers entailed in the ‘3rd way’, and you’re riding dangerously close to the wind of constitutional change. Let’s decide those sorts of things in a proper referendum, not by stealth through the new-age wankology of ‘enabling’ politics.

Norman
Norman
2021 years ago

Bronwyn Bishop had a dream run until finally the media decided to analyse what she was saying, and her balloon burst. Latham has been enjoying a similarly “soft” dream run from the extraordinarily kind media; but will the media’s Nelsonian blind eye approach be continued during the Election Campaign?
If Packer, Fairfax et al decide to present a comprehensive summary of Latham’s muddled writings, statements and behaviour, not all the efforts of the ABC journalists can save us.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Al B, one of the first fields of policy where communitarianism got a run was crime prevention. The concept of crime prevention in itself is similar, in that it recognises that the cops and the justice system only mop up after the fact most of the time. It’s also relatively cheap as opposed to building more jails, hiring more cops etc. Talk to anyone involved in “community” crime prevention and a couple of problems arise repeatedly – first, either consultation in a local area is with the usual suspects as community leaders (small business, Rotary Clubs, school principals, etc) or those who participate in the consultation are unrepresentative – either they have an agenda or are cranks with nothing better to do than go to public meetings (go to a Senate committee hearing outside Canberra and see who turns up for proof of this assertion!). Secondly, perceptions about particular crime issues are often widely dissonant with actual rates of particular crimes so the programmes at decentralised level are wrongly targetted. Thirdly, although the Qld Gov’t for instance requires evaluations of community programmes run with public money, these are often not too rigorous, or only come after the money has been mis-spent. I understand by the way that one of the first jurisdictions in which this sort of approach was tried was SA in the early 90s and that it was largely a cock-up in practice.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Mark and Al,

I mostly agree with your observations about communitarianism (as might have been partly apparent from the primary post). I think the communitarians’ critique of modern politics of both left and right is much more persuasive than the positive policies they advocate instead. Communitarian prescriptions tend to be either twee, silly and ineffectual as broad policies (like funding reading to kids programs), disturbingly authoritarian, or a recipe for gross waste, inefficency and confusion through devolutions of functions to local community groups. The ATSIC example someone mentioned is quite apt, I think.

However, as I said, the communitarian critique (as opposed to their prescriptions) is quite powerful in many ways. I suspect most readers would nod in agreement with many points in the above long extract about communitarianism from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. For instance:
Libertarian solutions favored by the political right have contributed even more directly to the erosion of social responsibilities and valued forms of communal life, particularly in the UK and the US. Far from producing beneficial communal consequences, the invisible hand of unregulated free-market capitalism undermines the family (eg, few corporations provide enough leave to parents of newborn children), disrupts local communities (eg, following plant closings or the shifting of corporate headquarters), and corrupts the political process …
You would have thought that this critique implies aneed for positive remedial action by state and national governments, and yet the communitarians never go there, sticking instead with half-baked policies that don’t in any way threaten the status quo. One might reasonably conclude that deregulated market capitalism leads to a whole range of situations that are inimical to families and communities e.g. by proliferating insecure casualised working conditions, excessive working hours, an “outsourced” self-employed workforce deprived of annual and sick leave etc, and so on.

Those phenomena could be attacked by a government with the necessary political will to restore some of the basic workplace protections stripped away during the 1980s and 90s. But you seldom if ever hear communitarians (including Mark Latham) discussing them. Of course, there are undoubtedly limits on the extent to which governments can reimpose prescriptive labour market conditions without leading to a flight of capital in a global marketplace, but one suspects that there’s quite a bit of scope for some such measures before that happens. In any event, it’s a debate we need to have, but there’s precious little sign of it from the ALP or anyone else.

Alternatively, if we conclude that any significant amount of labour market reregulation would be dangerously retrograde, we might still look at government policies aimed at expanding the “knowledge economy”, a sector where workers themselves are a business’s most valuable assets, so that it makes sense to foster co-operative endeavour and offer attractive working conditions, thus obviating any need for compulsion by prescriptive regulation. Why isn’t Labor proposing better-marketed versions of aspects of Barry Jones’ “Knowledge Nation” ideas? Probably because Latham has instead locked himself into a textbook neoliberal stance of more tax cuts (even though they’re almost certain to be laughably small) and a net reduction in outlays as a proportion of GDP.

That’s what I mean about communitarianism, especially the Latham version of it. It’s just ineffectual fiddling around the edges of reform of neoliberalism.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Ken, yes the point about the evisceration of community is apt. That’s the irony I was trying to highlight in my review of Latham’s book. Interestingly, there’s a difference between some of the UK and US communitarian thinkers (Blair’s and Giddens’ and thus Latham’s version leans more towards the Etzioni style moral authoritarianism more prominent in the US – for a range of complex and interesting reasons). In the criminological tradition, some communitarians who were troubled by what was called ‘left realism’ (basically a bunch of ex-Marxists) argued for policies such as a guarenteed minimum income and rebuilding community through redistributive measures aimed at avoiding a split between ‘communities of choice’ and ‘communities of fate’. I’m personally inclined to this sort of approach – I could dig out some references if you’re interested. The other aspect of the communitarianism debate that I think Latham doesn’t grasp (or to the degree that he does – he instinctively drifts towards the authoritarian side) is the very heated debate in North American political theory between Liberals and Communitarians in the early 90s. This is basically a recognition that liberalism rests on a relatively homogenous society – and the communitarians, seeing that it was more and more heteregeneous, essentially tried to re-homogenise things at the level of values. Latham’s ‘redefinition’ of multiculturalism is consistent with this – as is his rhetorical invocation of the ‘average Aussie’ as opposed to what he sees as the pathologies of identity politics.

However, one should be careful of assuming that community led policy is always negative. The way in which it can be positive is if it’s tied to political as well as social action – for instance in the case of some of the cities and regions of Brazil governed by the Workers Party now in power at the Federal level.

jen
jen
2021 years ago

al despite your shameless grandstanding I will respond because it is a favourite hobby horse (Nab are you there?) I didn’t decide at this age and stage of my life to be a teacher for the lifestyle – well actually I did, but…..I digress.
Parish points to a forlorn and hopeful Barry Jones assignment, Knowledge Nation.
One of Australia’s most endearing attributes is it’s certainty that as nation it is bereft of culture. Equally endearing are the desperate measures to acquire and develop one.
De Botton, author of ‘Status Anxiety’ makes the point in The Weekend Inquirer. He says that it is this very anxiety about culture or lack thereof that can fuel ‘culture’. If then Australians have a general anxiety about thinking, that according to de Botton, springs wholesomely from envy and if this envy is what can motivate Australians (or anyone) TO think, consider, jump on a pin – Could it follow that these are ideal fishing conditions in which to cast the discourse net wide? Ouch, I can’t resist the conceit, and so many ifs!
The problem is that ‘notions’ like communitarianism or any other ‘ism’ are not presented to the average punter in a palatable form that inspires engagement. My previous comment bemoans this fact. Hacks of the world, look to your function in a democracy. Perhaps we could kick off a thought fest. Down and dirty with Diogenes and Socrates. Mud wrestling – Who is stronger? Be watching 2nite. Tickets at the door. Free if you can answer a question. ANY question – Rome wasn’t built in a day you know.

Mark
Mark
2021 years ago

Communitarianism is associated with conservative Christian thought, which places a high value on the family and community. These ideals were typically associated with conservative and Catholic political parties. However, since the advent of the so-called “New Right” and the conservative embrace of neo-liberalism, communitarianism has filtered into some left-wing circles. Most notably Tony Blair and his so-called “Third Way” who, like the conservatives argued in the past, see it as an alternative to laissez-faire capitalism and state socialism. The Third Way, its advocates argue, is an antedote to liberal individualism and the free market, whose effects are so destructive on the social fabric. Blair was able to argue, with some appeal, that a greater focus was needed on the family and community after the ravages of Thatcherism. While this is appealing, they have yet to reconcile this support for communitarianism and the need to rebuild it, and their support for privatisation, deregulation, spending and welfare cuts, and free-market economic policies. It seems Blair’s only solution to Thatcherism and the free market is MORE free-market policies. I suspect that should Latham win power, like New Labour in the UK, he will pursue these policies, reminiscent of the Keating Labor government, regardless of how destructive or unpopular they are. This will ultimately limit the appeal of a Latham Labor government, not least amongst Labor voters who are deeply suspicious of such policies.

jen
jen
2021 years ago

That’s it you lot. I give up. You just won’t be derailed into a populist media idea fest will you. Here I am blatently touting for free info and inspiration and none forthcoming, just more of the same same linear logical analysis. Luv yers all – the o great illiterate trog leech will have to go suck somewhere else.

Grandfather always did say ‘ya don’t get nuthin fo nuthin’ – but that isn’t the case here. Is it?

Al Bundy
2021 years ago

Mark,

Why are you so convinced that capitalism is the cause of all social ills?

I think it would be more accurate to examine wealth as a cause of the problems you cite. Wealth offers choices. Choice gives the power to individuals to decide with who and when they want they want to associate. For example, women are no longer bound by economic circumstance to live in unsatisfactory marriages. On top of that, they are far more educated with regards to the options available to them, and the state will support them. This is a function of both individual and public wealth.

So how is capitalism to blame for the breakdown of that most communitarian of groups, the family unit?

And you say:

…[Blair has] yet to reconcile this support for communitarianism and the need to rebuild it, and [his] support for privatisation, deregulation, spending and welfare cuts, and free-market economic policies…

Why does he need to? Are you claiming that countries with state run industries, command economies, welfare statism or high taxation and spending somehow exhibit more closeknit communities?

In our most primitive state, a human’s survival was inextricably bound up with that of his or her tribe. But while the tribe may have provided rudimentary protection and more efficient food gathering, it could only have represented a slightly less short and brutal existence for the individual.

Technology, more than any political system, has brought untold wealth and power to the individual to pursue his or her own goals and ambitions. Is the freedom to pursue happiness a bad thing?

I think the most telling statement in your last post was:

…The Third Way, its advocates argue, is an antedote to liberal individualism and the free market, whose effects are so destructive on the social fabric.

That tells me a lot about the political philosophy of the ‘advocates’ in question.

There is no ‘3rd way’, period. Nor is there a need for it. ‘Community’ is not dying, it is evolving. Latham is no more likely to achieve a renaissance in community bonding than Howard and his flag-poles-for-funding program is likely to create a nationalist identity. But let’s not pin the blame for every social malaise on poor old free-market libertarianism.

matt
matt
2021 years ago

I’m not sure about communitarianism, but then, i’m not really sure about socialism and market liberalism either. For me social liberalism (similar to that discussed by Marian Sawer in her book ‘the Ethical State’) provides a more balanced approach for implementing a ‘new’ way of governing this country. If it was all well and good to be a social liberal state before, during and just after federation, then why not now?

Whats wrong with the idea that the state’s role should be to enable all of it’s citizens to achieve their fullest potential, whether its by using free market and socialist principles, by acting as an arbitrator between employer and employee, by providing citizens with the institutions and programs that can achieve such outcomes (like public education)?

The state does not have the right to dictate everything that goes on in our lives (crudely: socialism) and it also would be negligent of it to simply rely on the market to look after its (and i would like to emphasise IT’S) citizens by providing choices that a great deal of citizens can’t access (crudely: market liberalism).

It is there to make sure we all have the same opportunities to live the best life we can, and if we fall behind to pick us up and out us back on (dare i say it) the ladder of life (aghhhh stab me now).

Am I right or am I just some idealist twit who has read too much TH Green

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Al, a couple of points. First, what you say about wealth bringing choice (and thus empowerment) is very true. I can’t recall where I read it but there is some research that found unemployed people and people on low incomes find it difficult to plan for the middle run future – presumably because life is too hand to mouth on a daily basis. I recently underwent major surgery and certainly appreciated that my income meant that I was able to have this at a time of my choosing – indeed, given that the severity of my condition wasn’t apparent until I was on the operating table, waiting for the public system might have led to severe complications or death.

Secondly, one doesn’t have to be a Marxist to see a correlation between the changing structure of the family and capitalism. Factors such as the downskilling and casualisation of many jobs, combined with women’s desire to enter the workforce, and the increasing need for geographical mobility to succeed in many labour markets have all reinforced the decline of the “traditional” family. The “traditional” family had its heyday precisely when incomes were high, and the prime economic mover being increasing consumption levels of mass produced consumer goods in the few decades post ww2. At a more cultural level, capitalism encourages a sort of cycle of obscolescence mindset where you trade in one partner if a better one looks likely to come along. We tend to commodify more and more aspects of our selves, and this contributes mightily to a decline in values like loyalty and commitment and sacrifice.

Max Weber pointed out that capitalism relied on tradition to provide social stability at the same time as forces within capitalism undermined (not intentionally but structurally) tradition, and so in a sense, capitalism kicks the legs out from under itself. This sort of analysis was also applied to contract by Weber – contract is obviously fundamental to a capitalist economy but still rests on a certain degree of trust. To the degree that people are prepared to stretch their legal obligations to the breaking point, trust dissipates, and we get the litigious society we now inhabit with all its concomitant avoidance of personal responsibility – whether private or public.

kyan gadac
kyan gadac
2021 years ago

Stop the ATSIC bashing!
ATSIC was invented long before any communitarian third way neo- liberal painting scheme.

ATSIC’s failures are down to the failure’s of the nation as a whole to confront the issues of Aboriginal dispossession. ATSIC was merely another way for white fellas to avoid responsibility.

If you think this is harsh then think about the way in which the Mabo decision has been emasculated and the lack of any real progress on land rights over the last 40 years. From a black point of view, it’s got nothin’ to do with ‘communitarianism’ and everything to do with racism.

trackback
2021 years ago

On the road

I’m off today on my long-planned trip to Jerusalem and Paris. Posting will be intermittent (not, I hope, nonexistent),so feel free to use this post to start up any new discussion you like. For those who want something to chew…