Bongiorno, Frank: Donald Horne’s ‘lucky country’ and the decline of the public intellectual

Frank Bongiorno

Donald Horne’s “lucky country” and the decline of the public intellectual‘, The Conversation, 11 July 2017 updated

Honest History’s president reviews Donald Horne: Selected Writings, edited by Nick Horne.

Horne’s message [in his most famous book, The Lucky Country (1964)] was that while Australia had been lucky, he was doubtful whether it deserved its luck and was worried that, unless it lifted its game, its good run would not last. But the purpose of Horne’s use of the phrase “the lucky country” is usually forgotten. It is commonly misunderstood as laudatory.

The writings track Horne’s progress from right to (moderate) left, and his pioneering of the field of ‘cultural studies’. There is a lack today of public intellectuals of similar ilk.

Being white, Anglo and male, Horne would probably not be threatened with rape, or trolled out of the country – as appears to have happened to Yassmin Abdel-Magied. Ours is now hardly the kind of public sphere to encourage the adventurous expression of new ideas. The purpose of intimidation is to warn anyone who imagines that they might have something new and bold to contribute that they can run, but they can’t hide. Even an intellectual terrier such as Horne would have found the going hard.

Frank Bongiorno’s recent inaugural lecture at ANU: ‘Is Australian history still possible? Australia and the global Eighties’.

Another review from James Walter in Inside Story. Nick Horne corrects some factual points about the publication of The Lucky Country.

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