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Australia, new social movements

Sean Scalmer


Since the early twentieth century, the term “social movements” has been used to denote socialist and industrial campaigns of labor. “New social movements” are generally dated from the middle 1960s. The term was invented by a group of European thinkers impressed with the radicalism of contemporary protest and convinced of labor's exhaustion. They depicted the “new” movements as critics of industrial society; advocates of post-material values; democratically organized; staffed by the new middle class; and devoted to the most radical and extra-parliamentary of actions. They were, so the argument ran, the social actors of the future ( Touraine 1971 ; Offe 1985 ; Melucci 1989 ). Many Australian radicals were impressed by these ideas, and they seemed to sum up the rhythms of recent history. From 1965, a wave of political protest crashed across the Australian polity. It began with protests against racial segregation, the Vietnam War , and conscription, and soon swept up students, trade unionists, indigenous people, Christian believers, and many else besides. “Black liberation” was followed by “women's liberation,” “gay liberation,” and even “tree liberation” ( Scalmer 2002 ). Opposition to the Vietnam War formed the center of political anger and dissent. However, younger activists also created “Free Universities,” scribbled manifestos, held conferences, and led occupations. The peak ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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