I might have mentioned before that I spend most of my days working on a PhD thesis, and have done for about four years now. It’s about time this thesis was done, and I do have drafts of almost every chapter in various states of completion, totalling well over the 80,000 word limit. Sometimes I think about it and think it could be brought up to scratch in a few weeks; other times I realise it needs to be completely rewritten from scratch.

Anyway I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything here from the thesis, for various reasons. But now that I’m confident the whole argument is settled I’m going to start posting bits and pieces. Partly because putting it out for an immediate and fresh audience (there are of course people who have been reading drafts all along) motivates me to clean up the messy bits, and the prospect of telling the story actually gets me excited about the whole damn thing again. I’m also going to use this space to exorcise offcuts that I know don’t fit into the structure but I still kind of like on their own merits. I’ll post in small chunks because I know people generally aren’t in the headspace to read thousands of words when they’re sifting through teh blogs. But I’m really interested to get feedback from anyone who feels like reading it.

It’s specifically about the politics of counter-inflation policy in Australia between 1945 and the mid-1980s. But that’s really a keyhole through which I tell a story about capitalism, the capitalist state, and what the hell happened between the post-war boom and what often gets thought of as the neoliberal turn of the 1980s. In the middle there, of course, is the crisis of the 1970s. It’s about Australia, but I think aspects of the story in outline are generalisable at least to the other Anglo countries. In some ways focusing on little old Australia opens up new angles, because we’re all so used to hearing the story of the post-war boom, stagflationary bust, and neoliberalism with regard to the US and UK, and it’s interesting to see what’s different and what’s not. Interesting quirks like monetarism making its first political appearance through the Labor Party, and the great transition of the 1980s coming through Labor’s Keating and the labour movement acceptance of the Accord, rather than the hard face of Thatcher or Reagan.

I also happen to think the story makes a pretty exciting narrative, which I try to do justice to even though I’m trying to explain rather than tell the story (that last bit is my supervisor talking). There’s the Battle of the Banks, an enormous media battle of propaganda and counter-propaganda over Chifley’s plan to nationalise the banks; a decade of financial innovation in which a tower of mindboggling new financial instruments and institutions is built on the back of consumer debt, collapsing in a credit crunch (the 1950s); wild boom and bubble years of mineral discoveries and exploitation; Milton Friedman arriving on a plane direct from Chile followed by camera crews on a speaking tour in shopping malls up and down the east coast; Joan Robinson arriving a month later (fewer camera crews); Fraser’s coup and the nation of bastards, carried up and down on a whiplashing exchange rate… and dumped into the 1980s.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Really looking forward to reading these thesis-sections, Mike.

  2. […] Explaining policy As promised, here’s the first section of the first chapter. In the final document it will be preceded by an […]

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