A very intriguing article in Eureka Street, from Andrew Hamilton, the consulting editor, in which he ‘reviews’ the latest Quarterly Essay contribution from Richard Denniss.
The Quarterly Essay, in which Denniss provides a “cheeky funeral oration for the neoliberal settlement” has clearly appealed to Hamilton, and his ‘review’ makes it abundantly clear exactly why that is the case.
Neoliberal doctrine is useful, however, in enabling governments to reject proposals for expenditure that offer a social benefit, such as providing decent support for the unemployed. They respond by asking, not how we can implement it, but whether we can afford it. The question central to discussion of any policy, namely what kind of society we shall shape by addressing or not addressing the need, is not even discussed. It is dismissed as irrelevant to ‘economics’.
By of distinction, Hamilton argues we need to reaffirm and embrace once more the notion of civilisation – and not Western Civilisation as that phrase has been used in recent times, in the hope of rediscovering something of our fundamental identity:
To address our present discontents we do need a commitment to civilisation: to strengthen the bonds between people, based on a larger and deeper view of human wellbeing that embraces connections and relationships, in which the good of each person and of each group is bound up with the flourishing of all. That will call us to honour and to draw on all the texts and traditions, not simply those defined as western, which encourage the habit of asking what matters most deeply and have generated social structures that embody it.
Poetry, novels, religious texts, plays and films all explore relationships, including those involved in political and public life as well as personal ones. They reveal the poverty of much of our public discourse and prompt deeper reflection on what contributes to a good society. Without the habitual reflection and attentiveness that they demand the dethroning of one cheap and self-interested economic theory will simply be replaced by the coronation of another.
Read the Eureka Street article in full below.