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Seeing the world with an 'anarchist squint'

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This ideological double bind is no less relevant to party politics as practised in contemporary Canberra as it was to what British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm termed, in his book of the same name, "the age of extremes".

Seeing the world with an 'anarchist squint'

Richard King
The Australian
March 16, 2013

'FREEDOM without socialism is privilege and injustice," declared Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakunin in 1867, "[but] socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality."

This ideological double bind is no less relevant to party politics as practised in contemporary Canberra as it was to what British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm termed, in his book of the same name, "the age of extremes".

notwithstanding the occasional fanatic, everyone now knows, or is supposed to know, that while gross inequality makes a mockery of freedom, attempts to limit inequality have the effect of increasing the power of the state.

Thus politicians of both Left and Right gravitate towards the "non-ideological" centre, where timidity goes under the name of pragmatism and where a Bill Clinton or a Tony Blair or a Hawke-Keating can get credit for nicking the enemy's clothes and describing the resulting ensemble as the third way.

The problem with this appetite for centrism is that it tends to leave the big questions unanswered and, more often than not, unasked. Is capitalism, as it is presently pursued, fair or even sustainable? How is it possible to have constant growth without precipitating ecological chaos? What does the rise of China augur for the relationship between capitalism and democracy?

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