The Death of Mr Practical: The Practical man and Globalisation

The Death of Mr Practical:

The Practical Man and Globalisation

by Craig Bellamy

Synopsis

There is a prevailing historical connection between Australia's colonial experience and our dominant intellectual tradition. Throughout the nation's short history of settlement, most of our leading intellectuals and rulers have displayed a certain ‘practicality' that is an Australian adaptation of a British creation. This practicality disguises its hegemony through the doctrines of ‘commonsense' and 'factual truth'. Practical thinking has its roots in a form of Utilitarianism that is perpetuated by and primarily beneficial to a powerful Anglo elite.

Essential to Utilitarian thought are the two philosophical beliefs in Positivism and Empiricism. Positivism is the belief that facts exist outside of value and Empiricism is the belief that through experiencing these facts we learn the truth. The two proponents of this thought are the British philosophers David Hume (1711-1776) and John Locke (1632-1704). Australia was founded as a Utilitarian experiment and historically, this has been the guiding principle for most of our political, cultural, and intellectual leaders. This Utilitarian, practical mode of thinking is still the dominant discourse in Australian intellectual and political decision making. However, under the tripartite pressures of post-colonisation, post-industrialisation, and globalisation this convention will have difficulty in sustaining its cultural pre-eminence.

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Fitzroy as a post-industrial frontier

Post-Industrial Frontiers

The suburb of Fitzroy may not be one of the most significant nodes in the globalised world but in a similar way to other inner city districts of Melbourne and elsewhere it does have significant symbolic engagements with the world. Because it is Melbourne's oldest suburb (and thus richly historically layered) and because of its recent history as a working class industrial suburb (this in particular) means that Fitzroy has small histories that do resonate in some of the mainstay globalisation debates.

Fitzroy is one miniature stage within a networked global theatre. And the play is perchance a reflection upon the theatre itself.

Globalisation discourse dances around the totems of immigration, corporatisation, gentrification (through the new middle-class), the environment, global civil society and the broader concerns of the post-industrialisation of the major Western economies. Corporations are understood as the great pariah in the globalisation debate and post-industrialisation produces a throng of knowledge workers who cram the cafes of the gentrified inner cities. [1]

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What is globalisation?

What is globalisation?

Thankfully, globalisation is not understood as being one thing. Different groups (depending on their social and geographical positioning) interpret it in various ways depending on their own political circumstances. The minimal working definitions of globalisation (or dare I say ‘globalism') circulate around the belief that complex interconnections are rapidly developing between societies, institutions, cultures, collectives and individuals worldwide. The growth of the  Internet is part of globalisation.

These connections are believed to occur between cultural and economic practices that are local, national, technological and corporate. Globalisation is often discussed in terms of inevitability by governments, activists and academics but in my mind there is no such thing as inevitability only conformity and compliance.

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