Is Australia polarised?
The country is no UK roiled by Brexit, or US torn apart by the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency in 2016. But we’ve had our own brushes with polarisation – most recently on the question of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
On this episode of Life & Faith, we look at the issue of national division from a sideways angle: could the Anywhere-Somewhere divide explain contemporary polarisation and the gulf in people’s instincts?
The terms belong to David Goodhart, author of The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics and Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century.
People in the Anywhere class, Goodhart says, tend to be well-educated, mobile, and cosmopolitan, making up about 20-25% of the national population. Their Somewhere counterparts, on the other hand, tend to be more rooted in their local communities, perhaps more conservative and communitarian, and make up 50% of the population.
Neither worldview is better or worse, he argues, but Anywheres tend to run the country, and don’t reliably read the national room. For Goodhart, this explains the cry for recognition of recent populist movements – and raises the question of where someone might seek what Goodhart calls “unconditional recognition”.
“The institutions that gave people unconditional recognition like the family, like the church or indeed the nation, all of these things are weaker and the weakening of that unconditional recognition bears most heavily on the people who are the lowest achievers, as it were, in modern liberal democracies.”
David’s book The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics
David’s book Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century
David’s “Too Diverse?” essay for Prospect
Brigid Delaney’s piece in The Guardian after the 2019 federal election
The LSE blog post on British Parliament’s “class problem”
The SMH report on the backgrounds of Australia’s federal MPs