Two Books From Australia on the Nation-State

By David Payne
Volume 6, Number 2 (Winter 1995-1996)
Issue theme: "Affirmative action for immigrants?"

A Nation of Our Own

by Robert Birrell

Sociologist Birrell is disturbed by the fact that a whole generation of Australians is growing up looking upon their past with disdain and even shame. This is happening because the history of Australia is in process of being revised by young academics with axes to grind. Feminists, Aborigines and migrant groups gnash their teeth when pondering old accounts of Australia's budding nationhood in which nationalism is seen not only as leading to a new concept of nationhood, but also to social reform. It grates on these groups to think that a society that abused them could possibly have produced anything worthwhile. Marxists further poison the well with their baseless assumption that any and all actions taken by the federationists must have been motivated by a need to keep the masses at bay. Birrell argues point by point against the revisionist positions, and scores well in my opinion. His book is an intellectual response to the 'Asianization' policies of the Australian government. Australia Betrayed

by Graeme Campbell and Mark Uhlmann

While Birrell calmly and rationally argues for the falseness of the revisionist position, Campbell (a member of the Australian House of Representatives) and Uhlmann take a different approach. They assume the falseness of revisionism and try to persuade the mass of Australians that they are in fact being betrayed. Theirs is a well-written, in-your-face plea for 'intelligent nationalism,' which stresses the importance of maintaining good relations with Asian countries and does not oppose the desirability of becoming better informed about them. Such things must be done, however, without sacrificing the culture and traditions of Australia - without becoming an 'Asian nation.'

[A Nation of Our Own by Robert Birrell. Melbourne Long Australia Pty Ltd., 1995. 292 pages. Available from the Social Contract Press at $14.95. Australia Betrayed by Graeme Campbell and Mark Uhlmann is published by Foundation Press of Carlisle, Western Australia. 1995.]

*David Payne teaches philosophy in Petoskey, Michigan.