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AQ: Australian Quarterly

AQ: Australian Quarterly 89.2 Apr-Jun 2018

For over 90 years AQ: Australian Quarterly has been packing its pages with the debates that have shaped Australia and the world, tackling the big topics in science, politics and society. Grounded in evidence, yet written in a style accessible to everyone, AQ is unique in Australia’s publishing landscape, pushing back against the trends of subjective truth and media spin. If it matters to Australia then it matters to AQ.

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Australian Institute of Policy and Science
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4 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
a word

Of the many societal forces that affect us – family, community, government, technology etc. – the economic paradigm under which we live arguably has the most effect on our lives. It can make or break our employment options, it provides technological marvels that enable our creativity or aspirations, it underpins our ‘free’ healthcare and education. Embracing ‘The Free Market’ and the boom times of capitalism have maintained Australia’s living standards as the envy of the world. The decision to open Australia up to such opportunities was a conscious choice by the reformist governments of the 70s and 80s. Likewise, the choice to re-evaluate and question the terms of these pacts should also be conscious decisions. Corporate Capitalism and the economy are not monoliths; yet when governments anthropomorphise an economic mechanism – ‘The Market…

13 min.
transcending capitalism policies for a post-growth economy

In response to such arguments, most economists tend to insist that technological innovation, better design, and market mechanisms will mean that economies can and should continue growing indefinitely. The main political implication of the growth paradigm is that governments shape policies and institutions with the aim of promoting economic growth, giving society a ‘pro-growth’ structure. Just recall how tediously Prime Minister Turnbull repeated his ‘jobs and growth’ mantra during the last election campaign. ‘Earth as a Petri dish’ has become worryingly apt, given that the dominant colony seems to be consuming all the available resources and is at risk of poisoning itself from its own wastes. This vision is supported by consumerist cultures that seek – and indeed expect – ever-rising material living standards. On the flip side, any policies and institutions that…

8 min.
from lawn to lattes~the cult(ure) of consumption

If people learned to love their stuff, really love it, then rather than spend their time and money on ‘retail therapy’ they would willingly spend their time and money caring for their things, maintaining them, repairing them, restoring them and, when they had no further use for them, finding those once-cherished objects a new home. But ‘consumer culture’ means that it is now considered normal to believe that waste creates wealth. The idea that people would spend $10 per litre to buy bottled water and then throw the bottle away is not seen as ‘inefficient’ in the world of economic rationalism, rather, such unnecessary consumption of resources is usually seen as ‘good for the economy’. Just as the ancient Egyptians used their spare economic capacity to build pyramids and the ancient Chinese…

15 min.
when the system collapses:   a post-capitalist capitalism?

This depends on your definition of capitalism, and the term is so ideologically laden that some proponents assert that capitalism has always existed – because there have always been markets – while others argue that it has never existed – because there has always been government. Leaving aside both extremes of the Loony Right, in the context of this article I will define capitalism as a social, production and monetary system where the profit motive is dominant, whose ideology is pro-market (and broadly anti-government), where most of the means of production are owned by individuals (capitalists) rather than the State, where finance and money creation are also predominantly private, where the power of capitalists and financiers to manage their businesses and personal affairs is only lightly limited by the State (while…

11 min.
economic diversity in the energy sector: post-capitalism in the here and now?

Rapid developments in renewable energy technology have made the task of transitioning Australia’s energy system away from fossil fuels not only possible, but economically feasible. Yet compared to other OECD countries, Australia has been slow to embrace the transition, which is particularly striking given its vast renewable energy potential. While Germany produced 36% of its nation’s electricity needs from renewable energy in 2017 and Sweden achieved its 2020 renewable energy goal of 49% back in 2012, Australia continues to debate its national renewable energy targets, fuelling ongoing policy uncertainty. In this challenging and constantly shifting policy environment, three distinct economic models have emerged to transition Australia’s electricity system to one powered by renewable energy, each posing radically different economic and political possibilities. The first is for privately owned corporations to continue to…

12 min.
pre-empting apocalypse?   postcapitalism as an everyday politics

The term ‘postcapitalism’ signals the possibility that capitalism, both as an economic and geopolitical organisational form, might soon end. Or perhaps even that it has already ended and we are just now becoming cognisant of its demise. What is significant is that attachments to postcapitalism are occurring across the political spectrum. On the left, the seeds of possibility were sewn in the early part of this century at the World Social Forum, as documented by Gerda Roelvink in Building Dignified Worlds. Here social and solidarity economy movements showcased experiments with non-capitalist forms of economic organisation of all sorts and at all scales. The fear is that increasing inequality is slowing economic growth and unravelling the very basis of capitalism. At the other end of politics, the ‘right wing electoral mutiny’ from Brexit to…