Chasing the Norm

Australian academic and blogger on politics, international relations, and culture

The Adolescent Country

Adolescent CountryThe Adolescent Country: A Lowy Institute Paper (Penguin Special)
By Peter Hartcher

There’s a strange disconnect in this book. The target of Hartcher’s ire is largely the politicians, yet his examples of success are largely instances of policy and his examples of failure those of the wider public debate, led as much by the media and public as the politicians themselves. As such, the book manages to point to a flaw, but never quite grasps its hands around why it exists or how to resolve it.

Hartcher claims a major cause of this problem is that our political class treat foreign policy like domestic policy, yet another arena for their debates. Hence the lack of interest and small minded squabbles. Only I think that’s exactly wrong. While I don’t have the space to detail it here (I have a journal article on the issue coming out next year however), I see the lack of interest in foreign policy is driven by our desire for bipartisanship and our unwillingness to treat foreign policy as a normal arena of national debate.

Still, this is a good use of the Penguin Special format. Provoking and just the right length (and thankfully with footnotes to track down claims). I’d recommend checking out the Lowy Interpreter debate about the book, in particular Hugh White who nails the underlying structure that is overlooked (as does Mahbubani), and Sam Roggeveen who nails the ‘so what’ question.

Worth a read for those interested in federal politics.

« Previous post