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Glyn Davis

Glyn Davis

Glyn Davis is Secretary, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. He is a former CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at ANU. Previously he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne (2005–18). His publications include The Australian Policy Handbook (Allen & Unwin, 2007) The Future of Australian Governance (Allen & Unwin, 2000), and Are You Being Served?: State, Citizens and Governance (Allen & Unwin, 2001). He gave the 2010 Boyer Lectures and has most recently published On Life’s Lottery (2021).

Glyn Davis reviews 'Free and Equal: What would a fair society look like?' by Daniel Chandler

November 2023, no. 459 24 September 2023
Only rarely does a book of political philosophy inspire a media commotion. Well, at least a small stir – glowing reviews in leading British newspapers, BBC interviews, a speech at the Royal Academy of Arts, praise from the archbishop of Canterbury. Daniel Chandler, LSE economist and philosopher, is the thinker of the moment. Chandler’s achievement is to take the work of American liberal philo ... (read more)

Glyn Davis reviews 'The American Future: A History' by Simon Schama

December 2008–January 2009, no. 307 01 December 2008
As he stepped down from the podium at the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was unhappy. The speech was short and finished abruptly. The crowd was slow to clap. Lincoln turned to friend and occasional bodyguard Ward Lamon. ‘That speech won’t scour,’ he told Lamon. ‘It is a flat failure, and the people are disappointed.’ Lincoln placed great value on persuasion th ... (read more)

Glyn Davis reviews 'Gradual: The case for incremental change in a radical age' by Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox

September 2023, no. 457 25 August 2023
'It is too early to say’ was the legendary response of Zhou Enlai when Dr Henry Kissinger asked him about the effects of the French Revolution – proof, if needed, of an ancient culture acknowledging the long cycle of history. Except Zhou misheard. As Chas Freeman, the retired foreign service adviser at that historic meeting revealed many years later, Zhou assumed that Kissinger was talking abo ... (read more)

'Making the World Safe for Diversity: Forty Years of Higher Education' by Glyn Davis | Inaugural ABR/Flinders University Annual Lecture

March 2007, no. 289 01 March 2007
If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.President John F. Kennedy, Address to the American University, Washington DC, 10 June 1963 In March 1966 the first students arrived at Flinders University. They were typical of their time. Men outnumbered women two to one. Most lived at home with their parents, their background overwhelmingly middle class. A s ... (read more)

Glyn Davis reviews 'Our Own Worst Enemy: The assault from within on modern democracy' by Tom Nichols

April 2022, no. 441 23 March 2022
The reverberations from 6 January 2021 continue. On that day, two thousand or more protesters stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, intending to overturn the formal ballot electing Joe Biden as president of the United States. Waving phones, livestreaming their moves, some called for the execution of politicians, notably Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. For the first ti ... (read more)

Glyn Davis reviews 'Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the secrets of Brideshead' by Paula Byrne

March 2010, no. 319 01 March 2010
Anthony Blanche stands on the high balcony with a megaphone. With practised stammer he recites The Waste Land to puzzled undergraduates walking below in Christ Church Meadow. ‘How I have surprised them!’ he assures the other Old Etonians gathered for languid lunch in Lord Sebastian Flyte’s rooms. In this single image, Evelyn Waugh fixes Blanche in our memories – privilege, aesthetes, the c ... (read more)

Glyn Davis reviews 'The Aristocracy of Talent: How meritocracy made the modern world' by Adrian Wooldridge

November 2021, no. 437 25 October 2021
The Taiping Rebellion was the most disastrous civil war in history. Over fourteen years from 1850, the upheaval claimed the lives of more than thirty million Chinese people – many to violence, more to famine, plague, and displacement as hundreds of cities across the Qing empire were destroyed. Leading the rebellion was Hong Xiuquan, a poor man trying to break into the ranks of the scholar–off ... (read more)

'The legacy of Hugh Stretton: A democratic thinker in the lottery of life' by Glyn Davis

May 2021, no. 431 26 April 2021
Hugh Stretton knew he was a lucky man – someone born well in the lottery of life. Born in 1924, he came into a thoughtful family with a strong record of public service. He was educated at fine private schools and excelled in his arts and legal studies at the University of Melbourne. When war intervened, Stretton served in the navy for three years without suffering injury and then won a Rhodes sc ... (read more)

Glyn Davis reviews 'The Tyranny of Merit: What’s become of the common good?' by Michael J. Sandel and 'Philanthropy: From Aristotle to Zuckerberg' by Paul Vallely

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
Save the Children in Stockholm wanted to highlight the unfair distribution of global wealth, so it invented an online game called The Lottery of Life. This invited Swedes to a website to spin the wheel of chance. If you were born again tomorrow, where would you appear? Not in Sweden, it turns out. The chances of being born into this safe, healthy nation, where most children grow to be healthy adu ... (read more)

Glyn Davis reviews 'The New Despotism' by John Keane

June–July 2020, no. 422 18 May 2020
John Keane is Australia’s leading scholar of democracy, with work that demonstrates an impressive command of global sources. Keane’s most widely cited book, The Life and Death of Democracy (2009), included new research on the origins of public assemblies in India many centuries before the familiar democracy of Greek city-states. Keane located the origins of democracy in non-European traditions ... (read more)
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