Category Archives: Books

What is exceptional about Australia?

By | Books, Environment, Indigenous, Language, Politics, Religion, Society, Sport | 136 Comments

A year or so ago I was asked to write a chapter for a book on Australian ‘exceptionalism’ by the book’s editor, William Coleman, whose father Peter was my local MLA when I lived in Sydney. William is a well regarded reader in economics at the ANU. I was tempted, but I had a lot of other writing on my plate, and finally said he should try others. Well, he did, and they include Geoff Blainey, Henry Ergas, Nick Cater, Phil Lewis and John Nethercote.  The book is out (Only in Australia. The History, Politics and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism,…

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Globalism and globalisation (and internationalisation)

By | Books, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 50 Comments

A good deal of the Trump campaign focussed on ‘globalisation’, and the effects that process has had on, for example, the American car industry. I remember Detroit in the 1960s, a vigorous city, the home of the American car, and shortly to come, as Motown, the home of The Supremes. It had a fine civic sense and fine symphony orchestra. Today it is a civic shambles. The orchestra survives, but about half the city’s 138 square miles is unoccupied. I don’t think President-elect Trump will be able to restore Detroit to its former glory, but he will certainly be trying to…

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Books, biographical stuff and uncertainty

By | Books, Climate Change, History, Media, Politics, Society | 52 Comments

Moving On I mentioned in a recent essay that my new novel, Moving On, was about to be launched. Well, launched it has been, and it is now on sale. You should be able to get it by going to your nearest good bookseller and asking them to order it for you, which they will do from me at Danbee Books, unless you live in Canberra, where most bookshops have my books (or in Sydney, at Gleebooks in Glebe and Dulwich Hill). The price is $29.95, which includes post and packing, for those ordering on line. I use PayPal, which…

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Books that have been important to me #3 The novels of C.P. Snow

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 61 Comments

You don’t hear much about C. P. Snow these days. When I was young he was an important figure, both in the literary world and in the world of policy. Born in 1905, the same year as my father, he came from a poor family, and made his way through excelling at school and university to become a fellow of a Cambridge college, then a senior civil servant, and at last a famous writer. I think I first heard of him in connection with his Rede lecture ‘The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution’, a lament from the 1950s about the…

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A new novel for me: Moving On

By | Books, History, Language, Media, Society | 19 Comments

I am announcing the publication of my fifth novel, Moving On, in the expectation that some of my readers might be able to attend one or other (or both!) of the book launches, in Sydney (October 23rd) and Canberra (October 27th). There is nothing about climate change or politics in this novel. It is about what is suggested by the book’s title: what happens when, some time after a disaster or disappointment of some kind, you gather your own forces,  and decide that you need to move on. Doing so may not be at all straightforward. It is 1999, in Sydney, Australia….

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The distinction between true scepticism and denial

By | Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 201 Comments

I came across the phrase in the title, and followed a link to a recent journal article which for once was available on open access. Entitled ‘Science and the Public: Debate, Denial, and Skepticism’,  it looked interesting. You can read it here. The four authors come from different fields, and propose to outline ‘the distinction between true scepticism and denial’. They also offer some guidelines to help researchers, and interested members of the public, decide how to deal with enquiries, on the one hand,  and problems which people see in published science, on the other. The reader is brought into the area of ‘climate change’…

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Love, sex and Cosi fan tutte

By | Books, History, Music, Society, Theatre | 35 Comments

For those who don’t know much about the work, Cosi fan tutte is an opera with music by Mozart, for a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, who also worked with Mozart in creating Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Indeed da Ponte wrote 28 libretti for eleven composers, and had a most interesting life. The opera has a sub-title The School for Lovers, but it is rarely used. Cosi fan tutte means ‘They all do it’, and ‘they’ means women. If both men and women had been meant, the third word in the title would have been tutti. This little exercise in language is important,…

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The moral basis of the Right

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Politics | 41 Comments

This is the sister essay to last week’s on the moral basis of the Left, and the subject is more difficult, because the words we use here are both more numerous and more ambiguous. Along with ‘the Right’ we can use ‘Liberal’, ‘conservative’, ‘reactionary’, ‘establishment’, ‘Tory’, ‘laissez-faire’, ‘neo-con’, and others. They all come with baggage, both linguistic and historical. ‘Right’ refers to those who sat on the right of the President of the National Assembly in Paris in 1789, who wanted less change than those on the left of the President. ‘Liberal’, again, has to do with freedom, and in this…

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The moral basis of the Left

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Politics, Religion, Society | 89 Comments

This essay is a response to a commenter who wanted me to write on something like the topic as set out above. I’m not quite happy with ‘the Left’ as the all-inclusive term. It seems to me that we all use a series of equivalents, that really aren’t equivalents, in trying to describe intellectual and moral world-views — how we see things. So I could have used, in addition to ‘Left’, or alongside it, words like progressive, radical, liberal and reformist. The words means slightly different things, and mean different things to different people, and in different countries. The terms ‘Left’…

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The role of the citizen scientist

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 109 Comments

In a recent post I mentioned a fine book by Aaron Wildavsky, and said I would return to it in due course. I knew Wildavsky’s name once I started postgraduate study, because with another young graduate student Wildavsky had written a little book on Australian politics in the 1920s. In those days nothing very much had been published on Australian politics so of course I read Wildavsky’s small piece on the 1926 referendum. He’d gone back to the US by the time I was ready to talk with him, and I didn’t finally meet him until I gave dinner in his honour…

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