Gerard Henderson

In 1980, when I first came to Melbourne from Sydney, I found myself working among homeless people in the inner city. I was guided by a fantastic nun, one of those forthright people with a fearless sense of justice. She stood up to police and clergy alike. One day we had a long wait in the casualty department of St Vincent's Hospital with a gentleman from the streets ...

Donald Horne: critics and negotiators

The general idea of ‘public intellectual life’ is more useful than the particular idea of’ the public intellectual’. ‘Public intellectual life’ is a public manifestation of what I called in The Public Culture ‘the critics’ culture’ of a liberal-democratic state. (It is made possible by the belief in a questioning approach to exist­ence as a central force in society.) However only parts of this critical activity emerge into the public culture; it is these parts that might be thought of as its ‘public intellectual life’. They provide a kind of public acclimatisation society for new ideas. All kinds of people may play a part in working up these ideas down there in the subterranean passages of the critics’ culture and others may take over the business of negotiating them into the public sphere. Many of these ‘negotiators’ are paid public performers in the news and entertainment industries. However some of the ‘critics’ also have a capacity to barge in directly – but only if they have a desire to appeal to people’s imaginations, and the talent to do so. These are the ‘public intellectuals’. Some of them may be one-offs. Some become regulars. They become influential if they articulate ideas that are already in the minds of some of ‘the public’ anyway, if in a more diffuse state. They get nowhere if they don’t. Two of my books, The Lucky Country and Death of the Lucky Country, were prime examples of appealing to interests of which readers were already becoming aware.

... (read more)

Gerard Henderson takes as the subject of this important book the relations between the bishops of the Catholic Church and its lay organisation, the Catholic Social Studies Movement during the period from 1940 to the 1960s. The study is particularly welcome as neither Church nor Movement were given to public self-exposure. Henderson, by using the files of the National Civic Council and the minutes of relevant episcopal committees, has given us an insight into the conflicts within the church over its role in political activity in this period

... (read more)