Australian politics

Greg Schofield gschofield at
Thu May 24 07:28:48 MDT 2001

Phil I find the changes in ideology amongst our rulers not to be much of a
problem, what I notice is hegemony, the effective balancing of social
forces in order to secure the ruling class in its leading position, to be
something askew and very much weakened.

Part of this, perhaps most of it, is streetwise observations, that could be
said to be a matter of faith in the system, or least feeling it
comfortable, or predictable, or somehow protected by it. It is this that
feels so much weaker than I have ever known it.

I would point to other things, social organisations, things like sports
associations, local identification through joint activities, even church
attendance. Self organised social associations of all kinds either no
longer function or have been commercialised and have alienated the support
base. Little things like education being so corrupted that it has been
reduced to a job finding enterprise and any wider vistas, the very things
that once motivated struggle for public education, have just disappeared -
a thing which once held people together in collective hope has been just
being cast aside.

Perhaps it is the difference between simply being exploited and knowing you
are at every turn and every level no matter what you do. This is very
different than feeling that in some part of your life you are simply making
a human effort, gaining human recognition, the little things that make
people feel they belong, these are diminishing rapidly.

In the interests of hegemony these things, more about social fabric than
particular ideologies, had always been protected and given space to exist.
They did no real harm to the bourgeoisie, but it received the benefits of
this in the form of a more stable and pliable population, who were by these
small strands connected to bourgeois interests, identified with them to
whatever degree and by this secured a more long term balance in which to

Another aspect was the well oiled pressure valve of reformism, which caused
immediate discomfort but usually secured even stronger compliance amongst
the population as a whole. Reformism by dropping their agenda, not taking
up peoples real problems as something that can be "fixed" effectively
leaves them to stew without even hope of relief (this is an important
factor for persuading people to identify with the system).

Social-democracy collapsing into just the softer side of conservatism (if
that) has ensured short term gains but at a historic cost. Take the ALP,
which fashioned in 110 years in this country a huge amount of loyalty that
whenever push came to shove would politely buckle at the knees - that
loyalty is gone and cannot easily be regained. Even at their worst, people
had some real faith, that a change in leadership, a renewal of vigor,
anything no matter how insubstantial, in the past held out hope and would
keep this loyalty alive. Belief in social-democratic credentials is zero in
this country and I suspect in NZ and UK as well.

The ruling class is winning everything on nearly every front, their very
lack of constraint points to their waning hegomonic connections. So I read
things in this case very differently, the social pluralism which I agree
with you is more prevalent and does not in itself make things any better,
goes hand in hand with a super-commercialisation, that is it does not
matter who you are so long as you have enough dollars to be counted.

The liberal pluralism, does make it easier to manipulate people, with this
I agree, but it also has its deficit which is that there is less to
identify with, less to see oneself as a part of a society, rather it is an
ideology of atomisation. Good short term benefits but much easier to bowl
over if there is a new progressive ideology which can be identified with
and which makes people see themselves as part of something bigger than just
a collection of hedonists each making their own little way in the world.

I suppose if you wrap all this together, that would be my point, the
bourgeoisie despite (sometimes because) of their triumphalism are
hegomonically weaker, getting away with everything as they are now doing,
casting aside restraints they also severe the many small bonds that once
connected their interests to society as a whole.

Their appearance of strength is just the measure of the oppositions own
disconnection, it is therefore not an inherent strength but a defacto one.

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

At 11:26  24/05/01 +1200, you wrote:
>Greg writes:
> >I suppose I am just getting back to an overall picture, that the ruling
> >class has transformed itself into something with very much less hegemony
> >than it had before,
>Greg, I would say the opposite is true.  That the ruling class has *more*
>hegemony in Oz than in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  What has happened is that the
>*ideology* of the ruling class has changed - from Menzies-type conservatism
>to liberal pluralism.  This has thrown a lot of the left, because they have
>such a static view of capitalism, presume that the ruling class always has
>the same ideology and mistake liberal pluralism for some kind of leftist or
>socialist outlook.
>I would argue that liberal pluralism is actually the ideology most
>appropriate to, and underpinned by, the existing state of capitalist
>society.  It is a reflection of the socially fragmenting effects of the
>market reforms of the 1980s and, simultaneously, the most effective way of
>managing the fragmentation.  It's also good for a bit of the old niche
>marketing - look, for instance, at the rise of the 'pink dollar' and how
>Aussie and NZ capital have really embraced this.  Liberal pluralism is also
>a reflection of the exhaustion and retreat of much of the left and the old
>labour movement, and the way the middle class has disempowered the working
>class and pushed it out of mainstream politics.

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