Gender, lawlessness and union images

Recently we have seen a spate of complaints about aggressive conduct by union organisers towards employers and the circulation of videos of this conduct. Video politics has come to the Australia as in the US where the comments of Republican senator George Allen may have cost him his seat and the Republicans the Senate and Mitt Romney struggles to explain away his videoed past of liberal republicanism. Historically working class militancy has often linked to images of male assertion and contributed to women being more likely to support conservative parties. Even in Australia conservative rhetoric evoked images of the ‘nationalisation of women’ and easy divorce in the Soviet Union (the best discussion of this in Meredith Foley’s PhD). The extent of left-wing masculinism has divided scholars roughly on reformist vs. revolutionary lines, Joy Damousi and Verity Burgmann’s analyses of the IWW are an example. The gender gap has declined and even reversed as the left became more associated with maternal themes of pacifism and caring. The emphasis of the press and conservatives on union aggression is an attempt to reverse this. Anxious Labor politicians have declared their rejection of union lawlessness. But do voters believe that laws should always be obeyed? The only evidence I have to hand on this is from a 1974 survey as described in Foundations for Australian Political Analysis by conservative intellectual and later Liberal minister David Kemp.This found that although a large majority of voters did agree with the general proposition that all laws should be obeyed if one did not agree with them, this general committment broke down at the specific level, 82% of respondents would read a banned book. Other surveys reported by Kemp showed a rejection of the view that governments had a mandate to put all of their policies into effect. He concludes:

Legal descriptions of authority constitute a claim, not necessarily a working reality of government authority.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>