Friday, October 20, 2006

The strange case of David Burchell

The Australian has a strange group of commentators and I noticed today David Burchell discounting Iraqi death counts. Along the way Burchell muses that the Lancet is 'not one known for its expertise in social statistics analysis’. neither is Burchell, he began his days as a Communist, by the time he joined the Communist Party it had long ago ditched the Soviet Union as far as it could, but it couldn't entirely do so and maintain a separate existence from the ALP. Burchell's political trajectory was towards the ALP like many Communists and the CPA's Australian Left Review of which he was the last editor was very pro-ALP. These shows on Burchell's part a certain intellectual comfort with the idea of exercising power or playing at being a court intellectual. Along the way he became a Foucauldian of sorts, like Peter Botsman, and thus was preoccupied with the 'how' of government ('governmentality') rather than the 'why' or outcomes. Like Botsman Burchell was a Lathamite. It’s an interesting career but when it comes to policy advice on Iraq Burchell can offer only:
Whether Western forces should stay or go - and this is a decision that hangs in the balance - may determine the fate of tens of thousands of lives.
I would have more respect for someone who argued a case one way or the other.


At 10:07 AM, Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

Geoff, just picking up in one hit comments on several of your posts.

I have to agree with you re David B. I found your comment re distinction between the how, why and outcomes interesting. I am coming to the view that we need a greater focus on the how so that people understand better how things work.

On John Howard, I think that his approach is better explained in part by the Methodist tradition or that part of it that relates to individual responsibility and self help. Brother Bob represents a second part of the Methodist tradition.

You had some very interesting material in your comments on agrarian and regional matters. I went to your web site to read the papers and also looked at your electoral analysis. As you might expect, I have a different approach and would love, time willing, to debate some of this with you.

There's the rub and also an apology. I did look at the course material, but ran out of time in commenting.

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

Thanks Jim. The agraian stuff is interesting and I will do more work on it.. I think Howard does believe in self-help but he believes that the government should then reward those who help themselves, Menzies was similar, a pure free-market liberal would disagree. I think we can see this in his attitude to drought relief contra the environmental scientists and the economic rationalists.


Post a Comment

<< Home