Shorten, historicism & Whiggery

I have just published a review of David Marr’s Faction Man in The Conversation. I write these opinion articles very quickly which is a good discipline for academics. So some supplementary comments on my background thinking. I discuss how Shorten is an untroubled Labor loyalist unlike many intellectuals to whom political allegiance is a matter of inner debate. I referred to Shorten drawing on history to conform his political faith and I argued that history is not on the side of the left. My inspiration here was the Althusserian critique of historicism and the (in) famous 1975 declaration by the (then) British Althusserians Paul Hirst & Barry Hindess:


Marxism, as a theoretical and a political practice, gains nothing from its association with historical writing and historical research. The study of history is not only scientifically but also politically valueless. The object of history, the past, no matter how it is conceived, cannot affect present conditions. Historical events do not exist and can have no material effectivity in the present. The conditions of existence of present social relations necessarily exist in the and are constantly reproduced in the present


A statement both right & wrong (note for further development)?


I commented in the article on Deyson Heydon’s Whiggery. My recent inspiration here was Asa Brigg’s Victorian People. Here Briggs discusses Victorian debates about democracy. Briggs shows that the most vehement critics of democracy and the associated increase in the political power of the working class came not from the Conservatives, who opportunistically and a-theoretically drifted with the democratic trend, but from Whiggish liberalism such as Robert Lowe. They rejected democracy as a threat to property and culture. They drew conservative conclusions from rationalist utilitarianism. Heydon’s political origins lie in this tradition. He admires Fitzjames Stephen and Alexander de Tocqueville. Friedrich Hayek was a Whig and argued that conservatism alone could not provide effective resistance to socialism. An important strand of the Australian right represents this tradition. Bruce Smith, and Hayden Starke are examples.

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