Monday, 23 February 2015

POLS 208 Democracy Music Video Screenings 2015

• First Aid Kit – Silver Lining
• Belle & Sebastian – Party Line
• Lady Lamb the Beeper – Billions of Eyes
• Daughter - Smother
• Palma Violets – Best Friend
• Little Green Cars - Harper Lee
• Sharon Van Etten – Everytime the Sun Comes Up
• Of Monsters and Men – Mountain Sound
• Sharon Van Etten - Give Out
 • Sharon Van Etten - One Day
• Mount Kimble - Carbonated
• PJ Harvey -Good Fortune
• Daughter - Youth
• The Head and The Heart - Rivers and Roads
• Fleet Foxes - Grown Ocean  
• Merchandise - Little Killer 
• Jimi Hendrix - Star Spangled Banner Woodstock 1969
• The Pixies - Monkey Gone to Heaven 
• REM - Orange Crush 
• The Band - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 
• The Decemberists - Rise to Me
• Tiki Taane and Pdigsss- Faded 
•Lady Lamb the Beekeeper- All I Really Want to Do 
• Sonic Youth - Kool Thing  
• Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit 
• Lady Lamb the Beekeeper- The Nothing Part II
• The Coup - The Guillotine 
• Shapeshifter - In Colour 
• Yumi Zouma - The Brae
• The Brunettes- Small Town Crew 
• Sleater-Kinney - A New Wave 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

POLS 208 Democracy Lecture Schedule 2015

Lecture Schedule
1.    What is Democracy?
Section 1: Athenian Democracy & The Roman Republic
2.    Athenian Democracy 508-322BC: Descriptive Overview
3.    Athenian Democracy 508-322BC: Critical Evaluation
4.    The Roman Republic: Democracy or Oligarchy?
Section 2: Liberal Representative Democracy
5.    What is Representative Democracy? The Liberal Pluralist View
6.    The English Revolution 1640-88: Background, Context and Key Actors
7.    The English Revolution 1640-88: Main Events and Significance for the Historical Emergence of Liberal Democracy
8.    The Revolutionary Revival of Democracy in France 1789-95: Background, Context and Key Actors
9.    The Revolutionary Revival of Democracy in France 1789-95: Main Events and Significance for the Historical Emergence of Liberal Democracy
10.  The American Revolution 1776-1791: Background, Context and Main Events
11.  The US Constitution and Bill of Rights: Redefining Democracy
12.  The Liberal Justification of Capitalism and Representative Democracy
13.  The Liberal Critique of Socialism and Participatory Democracy
Section 3: Socialist Participatory Democracy
14.   The Marxist Critique of Capitalism: Inequality, Crisis, Alienation, War, Climate Change
15.  The Marxist Critique of Representative Democracy
16.  The Paris Commune 1871 and Socialist Democracy
       ----------------Mid-Semester Break----------------
17.  The Russian Revolution 1917: Significance and Main Events
18.  The Russian Revolution 1917: A Democratic Revolution?
19.  The Rise and Fall of Stalinism: Death of Socialism?
20.  Revolution, Socialism and Participatory Democracy
Section 4: Democracy in the 21st Century
21.  The Debate between Socialists and Liberals Concerning the Future of Democracy (1)
22.  The Debate between Socialists and Liberals Concerning the Future of Democracy (2)
23.   The Feminist Critique of Liberalism and Representative Democracy
24.   Globalisation and Democracy: Is Globalisation Undermining Democracy?
25.  Cosmopolitan Social Democracy: A Feasible Alternative to Neoliberalism?
26.  Movements for Progressive Change in the 21st Century: from the Seattle anti-WTO Protests to the Arab Spring, Occupy, and Beyond

POLS 208 Democracy Video Screenings 2015

POLS 208 Democracy Video Screenings

Video Documentaries

• Blade Runner - Opening Scene
• Matrix Trailer HD (1999)
• Snowpiercer

• A two minute introduction to Athenian democracy that correctly emphasises that it was a direct particiaptory form of democracy. 

A useful and informative introduction to the revolutionary creation and central features of Athenian democracy.

A brief introduction to the central features of Athenian democracy.
Less interesting than the videos listed above but still worth watching. A brief introduction to the central features of Athenian democracy by
Professor Jeffrey Rusten from Cornell University in the United States.

• The Expansion of the Roman Empire 

• The English Civil Wars
Although produced way back in 1992 this is a better video documentary than anything I've seen that has been uploaded to the internet. It is available in VHS format in the AV section of the university library.
  • Location:Dn: Central Library: AV Services: Videocassettes
  • Call Number: O98998  

Causes of the English Civil Wars, The Trial of Charles 1st.
These short videos are worth looking at for the background and the trial of the King.

• The French Revolution
- This video is not entirely accurate but it is mildy amusing and contains some useful visual material.

- A music video by Jeffrey Lewis that outlines the timeline of the French Revolution in 2 and a half minutes! 

- A much better video documentary (around 30 minutes in length), is presented by the middle-of-the road academic historian Gwynne Lewis. Unfortunately it is not available online, but it can be consulted in the AV section of the library or purchsed as a DVD.

The title is: The French Revolution.
The call number is O95138
The Otago library link is:

• US Constitution and Bill of Rights – 097616 (two videos, the first is on the Constitution and system of government; the second focuses on the Bill of Rights). 50 minutes each. Both boring but very useful provide useful descriptions of the US system of government by conservative American political science academics.

The title is:
The United States Constitution The United States Bill of Rights and Constitutional Amendments
The call number is O97616
The Otago library link is:

Milton Friedman - Redistribution of Wealth
Chicago and monetarist economist, Milton Friedman, providing a neoliberal justification of the unequal distribution of wealth in advanced capitalist societies. 

Hayek on Socialism
Friedrich von Hayek providing a brief critique of socialism. 

David Harvey on the Global Financial Crisis and Crises of Capitalism.
Animation of David Harvey providing a 10 minute oral outline of the Marxist analysis of capitalist economic crises. 

•  Climate Change and Capitalism
• To access the 2014 major assessment report (AR5) by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), go to:

If you want to download the most important graphs and figures then go to:

• To access the 2007 major assessment report (AR4) by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 
go to: 

• Video showing thinning of Greenland polar ice based on international study using satellite data and photographs from the University of Leeds website. 

See also the British channel 4 news report on the study (2012) at: 

"2012 Record Low Artic Ice Sheet". The Arctic ice cap is melting at a rapid rate and may shrink to its lowest-ever level within weeks as temperatures continue to rise. Al Jazeera's Nick Clark joined an expedition travelling deep into the Arctic Circle to Qaanaaq, in Greenland. Three minute report on the melting of the Arctic ice caps. Well worth watching.

• Very interesting report on the 'carbon bubble' on the Guardian website. Highlights which stock exchange listed companies have the greatest carbon assets and the financial risks that they face if these assets become unburnable due to the introduction of more effective environmental policies addressing the causes of climate change. This also indicates just how powerfully motivated these companies are to lobby governments to prevent them introducting more effective environmental policies to counter global warming. 

• John Bellamy Foster gives lecture on capitalism and climate change. 

•  The Russian Revolution

The most accurate video documentary on the Russian Revolution that I have been able to find on Youtube is in three parts at:
The Russian Revolution - Part 1
The Russian Revolution - Part 2
The Russian Revolution - Part 3 

•  Comparative Data on Democratisation- Polity IV and Freedom House
These are US research institutes sponsored by the US Government, including the C.I.A, and accordingly some of the assessments are biased, for example, South Korea is designated as being 'free' while Venezuela is only 'partly free'. Nonetheless, the data provided by Polity IV and Freedom House does give an indication of the growing global spread of representative democracy. 

• The Centre for Reponsive Politics provides lots of interesting and useful data on the American political system, especially on how business exerts disproportionate influence. 

Comparative Statistics on Gender Inequality
• UN Women provides lots of interesting and useful comparative data on gender inequality and women's participation in government. 

The most recent (2011) Progress of Women report can be downloaded from: 

The World's Women 2010: Trends and Statistics can be downloaded from: 

David Held interviewed on globalisation, democracy, and the need for reform of the global order during the 21st century
Very interesting eight minute interview.

Videos on the Global Justice and Occupy Movements
• Dystopian Futures- A Compilation of Dystopic Sci Fi 

Showdown in Seattle- 'This is what democracy looks like'. Part V of the Indy Media documentary on the global justice protests that successfully shutdown the millenium round of the WTO at the end of 1999. This sparked the dramatic growth of the global justice movement during the first half of the 2000s.

Occupy Wall Street Video: Global Day of Action, 15OCT 
Six minute video focusing on the protests of Occupy New York.
The Guardian: Occupy Protests Mapped Around The World

The Guardian: Images of the World Social Forum 2013 in Tunis

• A Twenty Year Programme of Neoliberal Fiscal Austerity?
British Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, said in 2013 that the cuts pushed through by the Coalition did not go nearly far enough. He said that there was a “very long way to go” and added: “This is not a two-year project or a five-year project. This is a 10-year project, a 20-year generational battle to beef up the economy in ways that we have not seen for many, many decades.”

Thursday, 25 September 2014

New Zealand 2014 Election Outcome- A Victory for the Right

Here is a link to a superbly realistic socialist analysis of the election outcome, originally published on the ISO of Aotearoa website, republished here by the ISO (US).

As the article states, "This analysis is provisional, and immediate, and bound to change as fuller results become available and the shape of the new coalition emerges. But we need to start with these bad new days and not any good old ones."

Clearly this election indicates that there has been a substantial shift to the right in New Zealand's political culture. Facing up to this unpleasant reality needs to be the starting point for the left collectively thinking through what has happened.

The article was originally published at:

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Prosperity for All? Economic, Social and Political Change in New Zealand since 1935

My single authored book entitled – Prosperity for All? Economic, Social and Political Change in New Zealand since 1935 – was published by Cengage (Melbourne) in 2005. I plan to complete a revised, expanded and updated edition in 2016.

I have posted the back cover description and the table of contents so that people can work out if it is likely to be useful and interesting.

Back Cover Description:
This book draws upon years of original research to provide a lively, lucid and compelling account of economic, social and political change in New Zealand since 1935. It assembles a wealth of factual information, that is not easily accessible elsewhere, in order to ascertain whether or not this change has brought prosperity for all. The carefully reached conclusion is that extensive inequalities of class, gender and ethnicity abound and have increased since the mid-1970s.

With respect to New Zealand’s political history, this book describes, explains and critically evaluates the rise and fall of the Keynesian welfare state, the shift towards neoliberalism from 1984 to 1999, and the Fifth Labour Government’s Third Way.

The book is organised thematically and chronologically to make it clear, accessible and user friendly. Reading guides at the end of each chapter enable the reader to explore issues in greater depth. This book will be illuminating not only for students and academics in economics, history, politics, sociology and public policy, but also for non-academic readers wanting to know more about the most important transformations in the economy, society and polity since 1935.

Table of Contents:


Part I: Economy

1.    From Long Boom to Prolonged Stagnation: New Zealand’s Post-War Economic     Development    18

1.1)    End of the Golden Weather: from Boom to Stagnation    19
1.2)    Monetarist and Keynesian Explanations of the Collapse of the Post-War Long Boom    21
1.3)    The Marxist Explanation of the Collapse of the Post-War Boom    23
1.4)    Monetarist, Keynesian and Marxist Interpretations of Disinflation from 1984 to 1992,
    and the Recoveries from 1993 to 2005    44

Part II: Civil Society

2.    The Changing Class Structure    58
2.1)    The Reality of Class Inequality    59
2.2)    Theorising Class Inequality — Liberal, Weberian and Marxist Approaches    65
2.3)    The Class Structure of New Zealand Society    74

3.    Ethnicity, Gender and Movements for Change     86
3.1)    Ethnic Inequality: A Brief Description    88
3.2)    The Underlying Causes of Ethnic Inequality    95
3.3)    Gender Inequality: A Brief Description    101
3.4)    The Underlying Causes of Gender Inequality    110

4.    Power Shifts on Contested Terrain: Business versus Workers and Social
    Movements     121

4.1)    Capitalism and Class Struggle: The Power of Capital versus the Power of Labour    122
4.2)    The Fire Last Time: 1968 and after    130
4.3)    The Great Moving Right Show, 1978-99    143
4.4)    Keeping Government Business Friendly, 1999 and after    158

Part III: Polity

5.    The Rise of Keynesianism and the Post-War Keynesian Consensus, 1935-1972     166
5.1)    The Rise of Keynesianism, 1935-49    166
5.2)    The Post-War Keynesian Consensus, 1949-72    177

6.    The Crisis of Keynesianism, 1972-1984: from Muldoon’s Interventionism to     Rogernomics     191
6.1)    The Breakdown of the Post-War Keynesian Consensus and the Fiscal Crisis of the Keynesian
    Welfare State    191
6.2)    A Swing to the Left: The Third Labour Government, 1972-75    198
6.3)    A Swing to the Right: The Third (Muldoon) National Government, 1975-81    203
6.4)    The Wage and Price Freeze and Think Big: The Muldoon Government, 1981-84    210

7.    Treasury’s Role in State Policy Formulation during the Post-War Era: Importing     Economic Orthodoxy    214
7.1)    The Institutional Sources of Treasury’s Power and Influence    215
7.2)    Treasury During the Keynesian Era: A Moderator of ‘Over-Violent Private Competition and Ambitions’    217
7.3)    The New Right and Treasury’s Briefing Papers: Herald of Free Enterprise    219
7.4)     Treasury’s Role in the Shift from Keynesianism to Neoliberalism    230
7.5)    Treasury and the Third Way: Entrenching and Extending Neoliberalism    232

8.    The New Right in Power: The Fourth Labour Government, 1984-1990     238
8.1)    The Fourth Labour Government: An Overview    239
8.2)    The Monetarist Disinflationary Macroeconomic Strategy     246
8.3)    From State Intervention to Market Liberalization: Supply-Side Microeconomic Reform    247
8.4)    Industrial Relations Reform: The Labour Relations Act 1987    249
8.5)    Fiscal, Taxation and Social Policy    251
8.6)    Public Sector Reform    257

9.    Completing Labour’s Unfinished Business: National Governments, 1990-1999     264
9.1)    The Fourth National Government: An Overview    264
9.2)    Anti-Union Industrial Relations Reform: The Employment Contracts Act 1991    280
9.3)    National’s Neoliberal Redesign of the Welfare State    289

10.    The Fifth Labour Government: A Third Way Beyond Keynesianism and     Neoliberalism?     300

10.1)    The Fifth Labour Government: An Overview    301
10.2)    The Third Way    307
10.3)    Softening the Neoliberal Policy Regime    311
10.4)    The Veneer is Social Democratic but the Substance is Neoliberal    317
10.5)    Making Sense of the Third Way    318

11.    The Historic Shift to Neoliberalism and the Third Way: Explanation, Critique,
    and Alternatives    323

11.1)    Explanation    323
11.2)    Critique    325
11.3)    Alternatives    334

Appendix I: Glossary of Key Terms    338

Bibliography    344

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Occupy Movement and Small-a Anarchism

I've written a review article focusing on David Graeber's account of Occupy Wall Street in his book - The Democracy Project.

Graeber advocates "small-a anarchism" and consensus decision-making. In what I hope is a constructively critical review, I highlight some of the problems with this particular form of anarchism and the model of consensus decision-making that it promotes. This is not, by the way, an anti-anarchist rant. Class struggle anarchists would probably agree with all but one of the critical points I make.

Among other things, I am critical of the kind of consensus decision-making advocated by Graeber and small-a anarchists, on the grounds that "There is considerable evidence that consensus decision-making provides those who are time rich with substantially more influence than those who are time poor because of parental responsibilities and/or paid work commitments." I am not convinced that consensus decion-making alienates less people than the use of voting in situations where a consensus cannot be reached easily.

In the process of researching this article I read a superb account and critical evaluation of contemporary anarchism at See also a socialist critique of prefigurative politics at:
For an excellent socialist evaluation of Occupy Wall Street see:

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Israel's war in Gaza

I am being interviewed about the socialist perspective on Israel's war in Gaza on Radio New Zealand National next Monday (August 4) at 8.45pm.
Eric Ruder makes the important point that: "Those who stand for democracy and against colonialism must reject the 'blame Hamas' rhetoric and put the blame where it belongs--on the colonial settler state of Israel and its loyal supporter, the U.S."
Socialists advocate a one state solution, which is the view that Israel is a profoundly racist state that has been developed through the violent dispossession of the original inhabitants of Palestine, and that what is required in future is the creation of a democratic and secular Palestinian state with equal citizenship rights for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Once it's done I will post a link to the interview here. 

A listener suggested that I should have been critical of Hamas. I replied as follows: 

Fact: the Israelis have killed over 1900 Palestinians, while Hamas has killed 67 Israelis, only three of whom at last count were civilians. Any sane person who takes the time to look at the history and recent facts pertaining to the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, will readily acknowledge that Israel started this war. So if you care about what is happening in Gaza, it is vitally important to reject the 'blame Hamas' propaganda of Israel and its American backers. It is a question of intellectual and political priorities.

There were all sorts of other things that I didn't have time to say in that 15 minute interview. What I did say was that socialists, meaning the socialists who clearly and consistently side with the people of Gaza against the Israeli slaughter of innocent people, adopt a position of "unconditional but critical support"- meaning that we have no right to impose conditions on our support of the Palestinian people, including expecting a certain degree of conformity with our political outlook, but that we reserve the right to be critical of political Islam.

In this respect, it is important to note that from 1947 to the 1970s the bulk of the Palestinian resistance to Zionist colonisation was secular. The rise of Hamas is largely due to the failures of the secular left to provide effective leadership in the struggle against the Israeli occupation. As Mostafa Omar observes:

"The failure of the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] and its left wing over the past 30 years to provide a clear, effective leadership in the national struggle or to win any of the rights that Palestinians desperately await has hurt the credibility of secular organizations. Moreover, the anti-democratic and corrupt practices of the Palestinian Authority [which runs pockets of territory in the West Bank not occupied by Israeli settlers and armed forces] have turned many ... Palestinians against it. These conditions explain why, in recent years, a large section of Palestinian society has looked to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and, to a lesser degree, the Islamic Jihad, to resist Israel. 

Hamas's formal opposition to the Olso accords [that sought to establish a two state solution on the basis of the PLO’s recognition and acceptance of the legitimacy of the state of Israel] and Palestinian negotiator's endless concessions resonate with people who recognize the futility of negotiations. Its insistence on the liberation of the whole of Palestine connects with the aspirations of Palestinian refugees to return to their own country." In Lance Selfa (ed), The Struggle For Palestine, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2002, p.195.

Although the growing popularity and influence of Hamas may be understandable, this does not, however, mean that it should be interpreted as a positive development for the Palestinian resistance. Indeed, as Omar also observes, "for the Palestinian movement, which has been historically secular and left oriented, increased support for Islamist politics marks a big step backward." (2002, p.197). It marks a step backwards for at least seven reasons.

Firstly, Hamas is committed to the creation of an Islamic state in Palestine. This is a one state perspective that will never bring peace to the Palestinian people, fails to acknowledge the important role that Palestinian Christians have played in the resistance movement, and leaves no place for those Jews (albeit a small minority of the Israeli population) who oppose Zionism and the state that it has created on Palestinian soil.

Secondly, related to this, Hamas is not an anti-capitalist organisation and also promotes reactionary and sexist ideas with respect to the position that women should occupy in Palestinian society. It considers the creation of an Islamic capitalist society governed by an Islamic state to be the solution to the major problems faced by the Palestinian people. Socialists fundamentally reject this.

Thirdly, "due to its conservative ideology, Hamas is unable to challenge the different Arab regimes that ally themselves with the U.S., especially the right-wing Islamic monarchies in the Gulf, such as Saudi Arabia" (2002, p. 197).

Fourth, "Hamas's own characterisation of the struggle against Israel as a continuation of an age-old struggle between Muslims and Jews mirrors Israel's own propaganda. … Hamas's anti-Jewish propaganda, while a reaction to Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people, diverts attention from Israel’s real role as a watchdog for U.S. imperialism in the area (2002: 198).

Fifth the leadership of Hamas is largely drawn from the middle class and it advocates a class alliance of all Palestinians in the struggle against Israel. In practice, this means that the interests of workers must be subordinated to those of Palestinian capitalists.

Sixth, “Hamas’s backward social positions, especially regarding women, Jews and Christians, constantly undermines the struggle against Israel” (2002: 198).

Finally, Hamas subscribes to an elitist conception of the struggle for the national liberation of the Palestinian people. Rather than focusing on mass action from below being the key to defeating Israel, instead “it substitutes the actions of a tiny minority of militants for the struggle of the majority. Its reliance on individual military attacks against Israel, although popular, fails to involve the majority of ordinary Palestinians in the struggle against Israel” (2002, p.199).

For a more current critical assessment of Hamas from a socialist perspective see:

Despite these obvious limitations, there is, however, plenty of evidence that Hamas, for all of its faults, is leading the struggle of the Palestinian people in Gaza to defend themselves against Israeli aggression, and that it is widely supported by them for doing so. For more detail see this article:

This is not, however, to suggest that socialists adopt an uncritical position or turn a blind eye to the failings of Hamas, which are undoubtedly real. As socialists we are critical of political Islam as a strategy for progressive change, and where an Islamic organisation clearly is thoroughly reactionary and using terrorist tactics, as is the case with ISIS, we don't support it in anyway.