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Herbert Spencer in the suburbs? Class, politics, ideology and the Australian petty-bourgeoisie in the Howard years

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conference contribution
posted on 2006-01-01, 00:00 authored by Geoffrey RobinsonGeoffrey Robinson
A dominant trope of media commentary after the 2004 federal election was the rise of blue-collar self-employment and small business and its negative impact on Labor electoral support. In this paper I examine the evidence on the growth of self-employment and small business in Australia since the 1980s and the political consequences of this growth. I consider why the growth of self-employment and small business has been overstated by many observers, and the emergence of a right-wing anti-capitalism in the critique of the dependence of wage-labour. Although the growth of self-employment and small business has been overstated it is a real phenomenon. I extract the rational kernel from the largely ill-informed commentary on this issue and place contemporary debates about self-employment in a historical and global context. I consider why the self-employed and small business were once seen as natural allies of the working-class in a populist coalition but why they are now identified by commentators as hostile to class politics.



Australasian Political Studies Association Conference (2006 : Newcastle, N.S.W.)


1 - 26


Australasian Political Studies Association


University of Newcastle

Place of publication

Newcastle, N.S.W.

Start date


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Publication classification

E1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2006, Australasian Political Science Association

Title of proceedings

Australasian Political Studies Association Conference, University of Newcastle, 25-27 Spetember 2006

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