Class in Australia
Monash University Publishing, $39.95 pb, 270 pp
To contemplate class in Australia is to be confronted immediately by paradox. Australia has over the past forty years become much more unequal, and yet those institutions formed to contest class inequality – the trade unions and the Labor Party – have become weaker and less militant. The labour movement has largely avoided a language of class as divisive and old-fashioned, and yet right-wing propagandists have successfully deployed a rhetoric of ‘battlers’, ‘aspirationals’, and ‘élites’ to draw support and win elections. The university system has been transformed, so that its leadership is akin to a corporate class of ‘change agents’ and much of its workforce is insecurely employed. Within the halls of learning, class analysis has not for some time been an area of vigorous research; in the humanities and social sciences, the action (and the research funding) has long been elsewhere.