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ERIC Number: EJ848173
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 2
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0818-8068
Aussie Battler, or Worldly Opportunist?
Walter, James
Australian Universities' Review, v46 n2 p7-8 2004
In this article, the author comments on Judith Brett's article (see EJ848172). Brett dissects the differences between the Howard world-view and that of the intelligentsia, using Robert Merton's dichotomy between "locals" and "cosmopolitans" as her means. On this account, Howard's preoccupation with national sovereignty--and hence with border control and security--is the characteristic trait of the "local", knowing "in (his) bones that home and its ways are best". His critics, the "cosmopolitan" intelligentsia, are too ready to ascribe his policy preferences to bigotry and cynicism, failing to recognise that locals "place their obligations to their fellow nationals much higher than to those outside the boundary of the nation". They refuse to see the world from Howard's perspective, and hence have given him an opening: "He has captured much Australian vernacular nationalism for the Liberals and in so doing created a workable language of national unity". The author contends that Brett's book is wonderfully persuasive on this last point, showing Howard's political savvy and skill in deploying a plain man's rhetoric to wrong-foot more knowing critics. She establishes one point beyond refutation: that unless the critics can imagine themselves in Howard's shoes, appreciate the skill with which he has used everyday language to create a political imaginary, and understand the appeal of that construct to a constituency, they will never lay a glove on him. Nonetheless, Brett is too ready to identify belief rather than calculation as the source of Howard's actions, and this is because of three limitations in her argument. First, noting historical changes in the roles of knowledge elites suggests that, rather than speaking for "the broad mainstream" against elites, Howard is part of a battle between elites that has clear political purposes. Second, in her attention to Howard and the Australian context, Brett omits the comparative dimension, and so understates how closely Howard's tactics are modelled on anti-elite discourse and the "securitisation" of politics in Western polities. In this, he is firmly enmeshed in a cosmopolitan network. Third, Howard has adopted a mode of Realpolitik based on what he calls "a coalition of interests" that is progressively alienating what Brett calls the moral middle class--and this may no longer matter for the Liberal Party. The argument, so extended, suggests that Howard is both a national patriot--seeing the world much as Brett suggests--and a breathtakingly hard-nosed opportunist. (Contains 8 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia