The political rhetoric of "mum and dad"

I've a piece in today's Canberra Times: 'When politicians speak of 'mum and dad', they don't mean normal mums and dads'. Obviously, this phrase has an important purpose: to remind citizens that investment and commerce are not purely corporate. It introduces a suburban, familial atmosphere into an otherwise mercantile landscape. You too, says the unspoken pitch, could become one of these petty bourgeois capitalists, enjoying modest rewards from modest investments. But this purpose is usually cankered, because it obscures inequality, suffering and other social ills. The "mum and dad" phrase suggests benign domesticity and humble ambitions; it shifts focus to visions of well-meaning striving, w

What's the problem with consumerism?

I've an essay in the latest New Philosopher magazine, "A Commodified World". I argue that consumerism isn't simply consuming, having too much, or being 'materialistic'. Instead, it's a very specific approach to the world. [C]onsumerism can’t be defined simply as satisfying appetites, purchasing too much, or being fixated on junk. It’s better understood as a way of looking at the world and ourselves. In this picture, we are not citizens who happen to consume. We are consumers. Economic transactions are our way of relating to one another and the world. In other words, there is no such thing as society. There is a market, within which individuals compete and collude. Here, only exchange value m

The Loss of Moral Authority

Recently some have accused the church or politicians of losing "moral authority" in the same-sex marriage debate. But what is moral authority, and what does it mean to lack it? I explored this in today's Canberra Times: [M]oral authority is better understood, at least in its modern sense, as a sign of seriousness; of commitment to ethical life. We listen to someone with integrity, not because they give us foolproof answers but because we know they are genuine about the debate itself. They care enough about the issue to conduct themselves conscientiously. Despite their many blind spots or fumblings, they demonstrate goodwill. The loss of moral authority, in this light, is not an automatic los

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