Famous writer mistakenly impressed

As regular readers know, I think the literati are typically poor analysts of political and policy matters.

Though Nobel-prize winning author J.M. Coetzee’s style suggests to me a more analytical mindset than is usual among literary figures, comments in yesterday’s SMH on books and writers on Australia he has found interesting are not encouraging me to revise my theory:

Other writers I was impressed by included Mark Davis, Geoff Boucher and Matthew Sharpe, who try to place recent developments in Australia in a world context.

I gave up on Davis’s book, but I did finish and blog on Boucher and Sharpe’s book on ‘postmodern conservatism’ in Australia.

One of my criticisms was that is that it doesn’t place recent developments in Australia in a world context, but rather confuses recent developments in world politics with an Australian context.

We saw this with long discussions of ‘neoconservatism’, which is pretty much a uniquely American phenomenon, and the wild exaggeration of the role of religion in Australia conservatism, in a mistaken analogy with US conservatism.

There was far too little reading of Australian conservatives, and far too little effort to understand them in their own terms. As a result, Boucher and Sharpe’s book is hopelessly unreliable as an account of conservatism in Australia. To the extent Coetzee believes it is accurate, he knows less about his new country now that before he read the book, since ignorance has been replaced with misinformation.

4 thoughts on “Famous writer mistakenly impressed

  1. Face it Andrew. You are going to have to reduce the number of hours you spend thinking about education policy, in order to write the book that tells the real story of Australian liberalism and conservatism.


  2. Please do, if you can find/make the time. The assumption that Australian conservativism (or politics in general, or even circumstances) is the same as American conservativism is, I think, a cause of many problems in Australian conservativism (or politics or developments in general).


  3. Sometimes I think that Australian “conservatives” are their own worst enemies when it comes to public understanding of their positions. They are great at gossiping (and squabbling) with each other, but they seem to have a pathological fear, if not outright hatred, of the printed word.
    So first they refuse to speak to journalists and historians, or, if they do talk at all, try to reveal as little meaningful information as possible. Then they complain that the journalists and historians haven’t given the public a full and accurate account of conservative points-of-view.


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