Open discussion on the evolution of Australian and New Zealand Thought

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Importance of the history of Australian thought

In his blog round up at Catallaxy Files, Rafe commented that one of his new year's resolutions was to get this blog moving again. I, too, feel this need.

The blog originally began because of a perceived gap in public discussion about the history of Australian and New Zealand thought. You see, it is hard to understand how and what people think now if you don't know what they thought in the past. The past is always with us, often unseen.

I am old enough in a personal sense to have lived through a number of changes in thinking. Wearing my historian's hat, I also spend a fair bit of time looking at aspects of the past. There I am concerned with what happened and, to a degree, why. Increasingly in my research, I feel the need to drill down, to break through the bounds imposed by present thought and perceptions to actually understand just how people saw their world.

Recently in A personal memoir on Mel Ward, I looked at aspects of the life of one man through the prism set by my relationships with him. What I didn't really say in that post is that the period I was talking about was a period in which different ideas clashed, a clash that affected Mel and his work. It wasn't just a clash between past and new ideas, but also between different concepts of the new.

Another recent post, Can New Zealand match Australian incomes?, was in part a discussion on a current policy debate. However, clashes of ideas and different ways of thinking again underlay that debate.

The idea, for example, that the role of Government is simply to set the institutional framework, to provide certain services, and then the market will deliver the best result is one part of that debate. The views and influence of management writer Michael Porter is another part.

In Mapping the Australian blogosphere,  I looked at research that attempted to map links across the Australian blogosphere. One feature of the results was the way that like minded blogs clustered around nodes. Club Troppo was one such node, Catallaxy Files another.

Club Troppo describes its role in these terms: Politics, economics, law and life from a 'radical centrist' perspective, defined by Noel Pearson as "the intense resolution of the tensions between opposing principles". Catallaxy Files, by contrast, espouses free markets, the Austrian School of Economics, and sometimes Libertarian positions. Different blogs, different positions.

But how do these blogs fit into the history of Australian thought? They didn't just arise. Clearly, both have different groups of followers. So what do they draw from?

To my mind, this is quite an important question: both blogs are concerned with the now; both blogs have been classified by the Australian National Library's Pandora Project as worthy of permanent retention so that their shadow will continue; yet they are very different and have different impacts.

So returning to my opening point, I guess that you can expect Rafe and to try to grow this blog. The need is still there.  

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