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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Remembering Margaret Thatcher

By Matthew Flinders
Could it be that far from the all-powerful ‘Iron Lady’ that Margaret Thatcher was actually a little more vulnerable and isolated than many people actually understood?

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Beastly Eastleigh and the ‘None-of-the-Above’ Party

By Matthew Flinders
I’d never even heard of Eastleigh, let alone been there, until a couple of weeks ago. When I did go there I wished that I hadn’t. The fact that I am told that the ‘notable residents’ of Eastleigh include Benny Hill and Stephen Gough (the ‘naked rambler’ no less) did little to quell the stench of good-times-past that hung in the air. But last week the people of Eastleigh spoke – in record numbers – and their message was clear: ‘sod off’.

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The smart fork and the crowding out of thought

By Matthew Flinders
One of the critical skills of any student of politics – professors, journalists, public servants, writers, politicians and interested members of the public included – is to somehow look beyond or beneath the bigger headlines and instead focus on those peripheral stories that may in fact tell us far more about the changing nature of society. Enter the story of the ‘smart fork’.

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Reveries of a solitary fell runner

By Matthew Flinders
New Year is – or so I am told – a time to reflect upon the past and to consider the future. Put slightly differently, it is a time to think. Is it possible, however, that we may have lost – both individually and collectively – our capacity to think in a manner that reaches beyond those day-to-day tasks that command our attention?

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Connecting with Law Short Film Competition Winners

We’re pleased to share the winning entries to Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand’s annual film competition for law students. Now in its fifth year, the Connecting with Law Short Film Competition 2012 was open to all students currently enrolled in an Australian law school. To enter, students chose at least one definition from the Australian Law Dictionary and created a 2-5 minute film based around the definition/s to educate and help students connect with the law

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Into the arena: Defending politics at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

‘It is not the critic who counts,’ Theodore Roosevelt famously argued: ‘not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who spends himself in a worthy cause’. The arena in question was The Guardian’s ‘Rethinking Democracy’ debate at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and my ‘worthy cause’ was an attempt to defend democratic politics (and therefore politicians) from the anti-political environment in which it finds itself today.

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Democratic Realism

By Matthew Flinders
Politics is messy. Period. It revolves around squeezing collective decisions out of a multitude of competing interests, demands, and opinions. In this regard democratic politics is, as Gerry Stoker has argued, “almost destined to disappoint.” And yet instead of simply defining Obamacare as a good illustration of what is wrong with democracy in the United States it’s possible to reject ‘the politics of pessimism’ that seems to surround contemporary politics and instead see the splendor and triumph of what Obama has achieved.

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Democracy as concentration

By Matthew Flinders
Nietzche’s suggestion that “When the throne sits upon mud, mud sits upon the throne” is a powerful phrase that has much to offer the analysis of many political systems in the world today, but my sense is that it is too crude, too raw, and too blunt to help us understand the operation of modern forms of democratic governance. It is certainly not a phrase that enters my mind when I reflect upon the election and presidency of Barack Obama. American democracy is, just like American society, far from perfect. Yet to see democracy as some form of social distraction or to define elections as meaningless risks descending into nihilism.

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Attack ads and American presidential politics

By Matthew Flinders

Politics appears to have become a ‘dirty’ word not for the few but for the many. Across the developed world a great mass of ‘disaffected democrats’ seem increasingly disinterested in politics and distrustful of politicians. My sense is that the public long for a balanced, informed, and generally honest account of both the successes and failures of various political parties and individuals but what they tend to get from the media, the blogosphere, most commentators, and (most critically) political parties is a great tsunami of negativity or what I call ‘the bad faith model of politics’.

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It’s just a joke!

By Matthew Flinders
Satire is dangerous because some people just don’t get it. They don’t get it in the sense that they seem unable to grasp the fact that the role of a comedian or talk-show host is to get laughs by launching a barrage of cheap shots at politicians. Some politicians undoubtedly deserve it and to some extent standing for political office comes with a side-order of politically barbed jokes and insults and the link between politics and satire goes back centuries — Aristophanes, Aristotle, and even Machiavelli understood the advantages of incorporating humour into political commentary — but my concern is that not only has the nature of the audience changed but so has the nature of political comedy and satire itself.

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In defense of politics

By Matthew Flinders
From Canada to Australia — and all points in between — something has gone wrong. A gap has emerged between the governors and the governed. A large dose of scepticism about the promises and motives of politicians is an important and healthy part of any democracy, but it would appear that healthy pessimism has mutated into a more pathological form of corrosive cynicism.

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