George Seddon: Selected Writings
La Trobe University Press, $32.99 pb, 334 pp, 9781760641627
A young George Seddon smiles boyishly from the cover of his Selected Writings, a mid-twentieth-century nerd with short back and sides and horn-rimmed glasses. This collection of Seddon’s writings on landscape, place, and the environment is the third in the series on Australian thinkers published by La Trobe University Press in conjunction with Black Inc. The other two, Hugh Stretton and Donald Horne, were also on mid-century men. Born in the 1920s and reaching their intellectual adulthood in the expansive years after World War II, these three were all of wide and eclectic learning. They taught in universities, participated in public debates, and engaged with governments in the making of informed public policy in the areas in which they had special knowledge and interest: Stretton with economics, housing, and urban planning; Horne with citizenship and the arts; and Seddon with environmental policy. Their politics were formed before the rise of neoliberalism, and they shared a social democrat’s faith in the capacity of governments to solve problems. They were also confident in their autonomy as public intellectuals, inhabiting a very different academy from the audit-driven universities of today, where publication in prestigious international journals reaps more points than sustained engagement with one’s fellow citizens on matters of shared concern.