Bureaucratic utopianism

Bureaucracy is not meant to be Utopian. After all, is not bureaucracy the home of the conformist, the cynical realists, the domesticator of conflict, the administrator of dreams, the banality of evil? Karl Mannheim wrote in Ideology and Utopia: "The fundamental tendency of all bureaucratic thought is to turn all problems of politics into administration....... Continue Reading →

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On the history and meaning of the eight hour day

The story I told in this article still has resonance for me. It was a story about how, even in the apparently material conditions that defined work and industrial conflict, the meaning of events were inseparable from the striving for recognition and the webs of significance that we, culture-making beings, weave through the time of our lives.

The poet in a time of terror

In December 2017 a man in a black SUV drove his car into a group of pedestrians crossing the street outside Flinders Street station in central Melbourne. The incident had occurred less than a year since the Bourke St event, two city blocks away, leading to the deaths of six people, a traumatised city, a... Continue Reading →

The collapsing new buildings of government

"In truth, the problem of declining trust in political institutions, is better conceived as the collapse of authority of the new nomenklatura in liberal democracies. And that, I hypothesise, has its roots in the disintegration of the civic cultures that these elites attempt to govern." from The Burning Archive (22 April 2018) My apologies for quoting from my own... Continue Reading →

Fragments on tradition

Today's cultures are both disintegrating and proliferating. Any writer has to hand the near infinite profusion of symbolic thought of every culture across history. They are there to be used with the simplicity of an internet search. But their readiness-to-hand does not make them vital traditions, but cut and paste decorations of the modern soul... Continue Reading →

Reflections on 2017

The year is drawing to a close, and while it is yet weeks from New Year, the office christmas party season is in full swing, and my mind is turning to an upcoming holiday. I am approaching the end of my current assignment and am going into my annual leave without knowing what I will... Continue Reading →

Conrad’s darkness

"I have never been able to find in any man’s book or any man’s talk anything … to stand up for a moment against my deep-seated sense of fatality governing this man-inhabited world." Joseph Conrad, 1922, in correspondence with Bertrand Russell. A new biography of Joseph Conrad has come out. The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in... Continue Reading →

Red Nostalgia

During the week I attended a lecture at my old university on the meaning of the Russian Revolution today, 100 years on from Red October. The lecturer, Mark Edele,  gave an entertaining and insightful talk to perhaps 600 guests, some alumni, some students, some dignitaries associated with the large philanthropic donation that had enabled the... Continue Reading →

The return of sacred violence

"Central to both torture and terror is the political psychology of degradation"  Paul Kahn, Sacred violence: torture, terror and sovereignty Violent imitation, which makes adversaries more and more alike, is at the root of all myths and cultures. Rene Girard, Battling to the end. It is a characteristic of our time that as political authority... Continue Reading →

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