Strong Leadership: Thatcher, Reagan and an eminent person
Oxford University Press, 296 pp, $24.95 hb
Australian attitudes to strong leaders, big bosses and tall poppies are said to be simply disrespectful, but are in fact ambiguous. Our high culture constructs a version of low culture which is defined as wittily cock-snooking, and rejoices in, its ironic one-liners. G.A. Wilkes quotes as slightly canonical an account of a Gallipoli digger giving a vulgar, impromptu brush-off to General Birdwood. Again, we could reflect on how literary culture in Australia despises the monarchy, whereas the popular imagination still rejoices in Royal visits.
Graham Little in his canny new book, Strong Leadership, can move rapidly from Plato’s conceptions of timocracy and oligarchy to the telling observation that: ‘As always, the theories of the ancients have a contemporary ring. Since Malcolm Fraser was defeated in 1983 there has been a boom in ‘entrepreneurialism’ and the businessman has become a culture hero.’