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Of Labour and Liberty

Of Labour and Liberty

Distributism in Victoria, 1891–1966

Race Mathews

What will the future of work, social freedom, and employment look like? In an era of increased job insecurity and social dislocation, is it possible to reshape economics along democratic lines in a way that genuinely serves the interests of the community? Of Labour and Liberty arises from Race Mathews’s half-century and more of political and public policy involvement. It responds to evidence of a precipitous decline in active citizenship, resulting from a loss of confidence in politics, politicians, parties, and parliamentary democracy; the rise of “lying for hire” lobbyism; increasing concentration of capital in the hands of a wealthy few; and corporate wrongdoing and criminality.

It also questions whether political democracy can survive indefinitely in the absence of economic democracy—of labor hiring capital rather than capital labor. It highlights the potential of the social teachings of the Catholic Church and the now largely forgotten Distributist political philosophy and program that originated from them as a means of bringing about a more equal, just, and genuinely democratic social order. It describes and evaluates Australian attempts to give effect to Distributism, with special reference to Victoria. And with an optimistic view to future possibilities it documents the support and advocacy of Pope Francis, and ownership by some 83,000 workers of the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain. This book will interest scholars and students of Catholic social teaching, history, economics, industrial relations, and business and management.

“Race Mathews has spent decades piecing together how an ancient church gave rise to some of the economic miracles of the modern world. With rigor and care, he tells a story that has been too quickly forgotten. And he offers something better than miracles, as well: this history puts past triumphs of cooperative business back within the future’s reach.” — Nathan Schneider, University of Colorado Boulder

“Race Mathews takes one expression of Catholic social teaching, Distributism, and looks at the challenges that intersected in the politics of Victoria between 1932 and 1966. In this book we find accounts of Irish and English heritages, European experiments with fascism, nationalist tendencies, the world war, and communism’s postwar spread. Social developments depend on the persons involved, and Mathews tells the story of their efforts, their heroism, and sometimes their failings, all of which makes for fascinating reading in an on-the-ground account of Catholic Distributism.” — David Fagerberg, University of Notre Dame

“Many critics question Distributism, and the common objection is that it may be a fine ideal, but it has no practical hope. But here is a case study showing that it has actually been implemented in the past and can be again in the future. As both a scholar and a statesman, Race Mathews has impeccable credentials with which to offer an honest examination of how Distributism can work in the real world.” — Dale Ahlquist, president, American Chesterton Society

ISBN: 978-0-268-10341-5
422 pages
Publication Year: 2018

Race Mathews is a former chief of staff to Gough Whitlam, Federal MP, Victorian MP, and Minister. He is the author of a number of books, including Jobs of Our Own: Building a Stakeholder Society and Australia’s First Fabians: Middle-Class Radicals, Labour Activists and the Early Labour Movement.

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Of Labour and Liberty

Distributism in Victoria, 1891–1966

Race Mathews

 Of Labour and Liberty: Distributism in Victoria, 1891–1966
Cloth Edition

What will the future of work, social freedom, and employment look like? In an era of increased job insecurity and social dislocation, is it possible to reshape economics along democratic lines in a way that genuinely serves the interests of the community? Of Labour and Liberty arises from Race Mathews’s half-century and more of political and public policy involvement. It responds to evidence of a precipitous decline in active citizenship, resulting from a loss of confidence in politics, politicians, parties, and parliamentary democracy; the rise of “lying for hire” lobbyism; increasing concentration of capital in the hands of a wealthy few; and corporate wrongdoing and criminality.

It also questions whether political democracy can survive indefinitely in the absence of economic democracy—of labor hiring capital rather than capital labor. It highlights the potential of the social teachings of the Catholic Church and the now largely forgotten Distributist political philosophy and program that originated from them as a means of bringing about a more equal, just, and genuinely democratic social order. It describes and evaluates Australian attempts to give effect to Distributism, with special reference to Victoria. And with an optimistic view to future possibilities it documents the support and advocacy of Pope Francis, and ownership by some 83,000 workers of the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain. This book will interest scholars and students of Catholic social teaching, history, economics, industrial relations, and business and management.

“Race Mathews has spent decades piecing together how an ancient church gave rise to some of the economic miracles of the modern world. With rigor and care, he tells a story that has been too quickly forgotten. And he offers something better than miracles, as well: this history puts past triumphs of cooperative business back within the future’s reach.” — Nathan Schneider, University of Colorado Boulder

“Race Mathews takes one expression of Catholic social teaching, Distributism, and looks at the challenges that intersected in the politics of Victoria between 1932 and 1966. In this book we find accounts of Irish and English heritages, European experiments with fascism, nationalist tendencies, the world war, and communism’s postwar spread. Social developments depend on the persons involved, and Mathews tells the story of their efforts, their heroism, and sometimes their failings, all of which makes for fascinating reading in an on-the-ground account of Catholic Distributism.” — David Fagerberg, University of Notre Dame

“Many critics question Distributism, and the common objection is that it may be a fine ideal, but it has no practical hope. But here is a case study showing that it has actually been implemented in the past and can be again in the future. As both a scholar and a statesman, Race Mathews has impeccable credentials with which to offer an honest examination of how Distributism can work in the real world.” — Dale Ahlquist, president, American Chesterton Society

ISBN: 978-0-268-10341-5

422 pages