AS A POLITICAL (and social) theorist, my thinking has always been anchored in a passionate attachment to the Australian people – the polity. My thinking has been guided by contemporary questions of how to think about our polity and the challenges that face it.
I have been the kind of political scientist who addresses contemporary collective challenges. I have worked on the idea of the state and public life; citizenship and personhood; social democracy as a historical ethical project; the democratisation of the administrative state as this relates to the question of the purpose and quality of publicly funded service delivery; the related question of how those who do the work of public policy and administration understand their roles and work. I’ve worked as a political and social theorist as well as in the practical side of public policy. I’ve explored the importance of how we conceive politics and political institutions – the importance especially of political rhetoric – in opening a space for imaginative and creative responses to collective challenges. I have considered the core question of institutional design – how the state serves as a public container for society – as central to whether our different kinds of interdependence function in ways that facilitate or harm our wellbeing. Now, as an emeritus professor, I’ve come to realise that in Australia, one conversation – one invitation and the very language and tradition from which it’s made – offers us an opportunity to re-vision our polity (who we are as the Australian people) in a way that is timely and responsive to the existential collective challenges of this century. If we are to take up this opportunity it will ask of us that we reframe ideas of wealth and wellbeing, which, in the current neoliberal moment, is a useful place to start.
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