Is Pauline Popular or What is a Democratic State?

The complete text of the paper is here.

Statistics, by cooking the books, say that Australia’s unemployment is at 8.6 per cent, or just under one million people. If we disregard that one hour’s work a week classifies a person as employed, then the figure is really between 1.5 million and 1.9 million unemployed. This is a crisis that recent governments have ignored because of a lack of will. We are regarded as a Third World country with First World living conditions. We have one of the highest interest rates in the world, and we owe more money per capita than any other country. All we need is a nail hole in the bottom of the boat and we’re sunk. [1]

In this paper, I want to use the appeal of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party as a point of departure to reflect on the idea of liberal democracy [2] and equality. As the One Nation Party teaches us here in Australia, ‘popular’ resistance to the two party system does not necessarily make it ‘popular’ with the population at large and, without a doubt, not with intellectual critics. Why is this so?

The Pauline H. phenomenon might be a good example to call into question the wisdom of a free public space opened to all individuals. I want to argue—in contrast to the commonly agreed analysis of the One Nation Party as an irrational eruption of dark feelings within the community—that we can see it as a possibility for the opening up of the political space. I want to claim that the appeal of the One Nation Party is not only because of its racist strategy—which clearly is a part of its attraction—but, rather, the One Nation Party’s appeal is also because it represents an alternative economic model of the management of the state which two main parties do not provide. In order to understand my claim, I will outline the liberal concept of the state and its critique and Aristotle’s model concerning the political.

Bobbio, Norberto. Liberalism and Democracy. Trans. Martin Ryle and Kate Soper. London, New York: Verso, 1990.

Hanson, Pauline. Maiden Speech. 10 October 1996. Internet. One Nation Party. Available: http://www.onenation.com.au/. Accessed 8 August 2001.


[1] (Hanson, 1996).

[2] According to some writers, the idea of liberal democracy is a misnomer, since the notion of democracy is in opposition to the idea of liberalism in its classical meaning. See, for example, (Bobbio, 1990: 1). “The existence at the present time of regimes referred to as ‘liberal-democratic’ or ‘democratic-liberal’ suggests that liberalism and democracy are interdependent. In reality, however, the relationship between the two is very complex and by no means one of continuity or identity. In the commonest usage of the two terms, ‘liberalism’ denotes a particular conception of the state, in which the state is conceived as having limited powers and functions, and thus as differing from both the absolute state and from what is nowadays called the social state; ‘democracy’ denotes one of many possible modes of government, namely that in which power is not vested in a single individual or in the hands of a few, but lies with everybody or rather with the majority” (Bobbio, 1990: 1).