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A key argument deployed by those in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union concerned the restoration of parliamentary sovereignty. One of the ironies of Brexit is that some of the leading figures who argued for parliamentary sovereignty during the 2016 referendum tried to shut down Parliament three years later so that they could ‘get Brexit done’. This attack on a representative institution was part of an international pattern of democratic backsliding during the 2010s. For the authors of this new book, understanding the internal dynamics of Parliament during the Brexit years forms part of an effort to ‘defend democracy and its institutions’. 

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This book addresses one fundamental question: is nationalism a transformative force in politics? Nationalism is usually seen as an offshoot of ‘identity politics’, which in turn is the product of long-term social change, notably access to higher education. Such an analysis can be found in David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere: The new tribes shaping British politics (2017) and Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford’s Brexitland: Identity, diversity and the reshaping of British politics (2020). There is of course merit to such positions, but it is unusual for any research-based analysis to see nationalism as the driver of political change: it is the symptom rather than the cause.

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As we await the fate of the United Kingdom in its tortuous process of extricating itself from the European Union, what better time to produce a provocatively titled text purporting to trace nothing less than the rise and decline of the British nation? ... (read more)

‘Civilization’, a seemingly tranquil notion, has always somehow managed to start quarrels and divide the room. In the classical world, where the concept was largely shaped, it managed, more startlingly, to divide the human race itself. On the one hand, so the notion appeared to imply, were people whose speech you could more or less understand ...

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I recently went back to New England. It is a long drive from Melbourne, but as I passed through Coonabarabran and Tamworth and began the ascent up the Moonbi Ranges, my gaze responded to the strange and familiar landscape. I periodically wound down the car window to smell the air – crisp but still warm for autumn. I grew up in a few different New England towns – Inverell, Glen Innes, Armidale – so I am familiar with the territory covered in the fascinating essays in High Lean Country. The high elevation of the Tableland makes the winters cold, summers mild. The dramatic landscape is dotted with granite mounds and monoliths. It is edged to the east by the escarpment and the gorge country of Judith Wright’s poems.

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