From Hope to Disillusion? A Literary and Cultural History of the Whitlam Period, 1966-1975

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Hollier, Nathan (2006) From Hope to Disillusion? A Literary and Cultural History of the Whitlam Period, 1966-1975. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


It is argued in this thesis that Australian history between 1966 and 1975 can usefully be termed 'the Whitlam period' because the 1972-1975 ALP government of E.G. Whitlam represented the culmination of a wider set of movements for progressive social change, activated primarily by post-1965 opposition to Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War. It is suggested that the defeat of this government marked the end of the postwar 'Keynesian' public policy consensus and the rise to dominance of a neo-classical liberal public policy framework, based on a comparatively negative or 'disillusioned' view of both human nature and the capacity of society to organise itself in a rational and equitable way. And it is argued that the ongoing political importance of the Whitlam period - as the political and historical Other of contemporary Australian society - means that interpretations of this period are especially contested. Accordingly, taking its cue from Raymond Williams's still relevant theoretical argument that culture is an active element of social development, this thesis examines the cultural causes of the defeat of Whitlam and the rise to dominance of neo-classical liberal public policy. It is argued that the primary cultural cause of these social developments is a broad-based Americanisation of Australian culture. The central evidence for this contention is found in the lives and works of Patrick White, Frank Hardy and Les Murray, authors held to best represent the major - Anglocentric, nationalist and American - cultural influences of the Whitlam period.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > RFCD Classification > 430000 History and Archaeology
Keywords Australia; history; Whitlam; social change
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