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Doing Politics

Doing Politics: Writing on Public Life

Judith Brett

Since the 1980s Judith Brett has been helping to shape Australians’ conversations about politics, bringing a historian’s eye to contemporary issues and probing the psychology of our prime ministers. Her writings about Liberal Party leaders have been widely influential, especially her famous 1984 essay ‘Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People’ and her prize-winning book of the same name, as well as her analysis of John Howard’s nationalism.

Brett has interrogated some our most complex issues: multiculturalism, the politics of rural Australia, the republic, mining and climate change, our electoral traditions, the way ordinary people do politics, the decline of universities. Always she writes as a citizen for her fellow citizens, in her distinctive voice: enquiring, accessible and wry.

Doing Politics brings together the finest essays by the author of The Enigmatic Mr Deakin, From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage and the Quarterly Essay ‘The Coal Curse’.


3RRR: Uncommon Sense (1:33:00)
ABC Radio Melbourne: Drive (2:23:00)   
ABC Radio National: Late Night Live (0:21:48)   
Conversation: It’s time for Anthony Albanese to get angry (op-ed)
Democracy Sausage podcast    
Monthly: How Australian public life has been diminished (extract) ($)   
Saturday Paper   

Judith Brett
About the Author

Judith Brett is the author of Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People and emeritus professor of politics at La Trobe University. The Enigmatic Mr Deakin won the 2018 National Biography Award, and was shortlisted in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, NSW Premier’s History Awards and Queensland Literary Awards.

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2 November 2021
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Praise for Judith Brett
andDoing Politics

‘Judith Brett brings historical depth to her wise insights into contemporary politics.’

‘Brett is a gifted interpreter of politics, past and present, and a sensitive reader of people, individually and en masse.’

‘Brett’s writing is capable of extraordinary clarity, insight and compassion.’

‘Brett’s research is meticulous.’

‘[Doing Politics explores] how we got into our current political moral morass. Brett is one of the most readable of our public intellectuals…In this timely collection Brett so clearly—and tragically—encapsulates what’s wrong with our politics and our universities today.’

‘If you’re newly enfranchised, or have an existing interest in politics and history, or still can’t comprehend the exasperating events of this last decade, please read this vital work.’

‘What distinguishes Brett’s collection of essays is their scholarly depth and habit of enquiry. They prompt thought before they invite agreement…Doing Politics has a broad span, appropriate to its title…[It] is the revelation of a lifetime’s groundwork in understanding our history, the way we interact, what we value, and the particular structures Australia has built to buttress our democracy, our way of life…But more than that, what emerges…is a personal account of intellectual and moral formation and growth…And in case you think she is the earnest swot she confesses to having once been, read her final chapter on “The Chook in the Australian Unconscious”. It’s a bobby-dazzler.’

‘Judith Brett, emeritus professor of politics at La Trobe University, public intellectual extraordinaire, well deserves to be saluted…Doing Politics is a feast…Historical insight, breadth and intellectual rigour.’

‘[An] outstanding collection of essays…Judith Brett brings [a] nuanced psychoanalytic lens to much of her work on history and public figures, exploring the “deep sources of political energy” that drive individuals.’

’A complex, realistic, and optimistic picture of the past, present, and future of our country’s politics…Doing Politics is essential reading for everyone who believes not only in a better future but a better present, and that we have the tools to build them now. It will leave readers nodding in agreement, infused with Brett’s optimism about our country’s political future.’

Doing Politics is a neat collection—that could well have been half as long again—of one of the most searching writers on the politics of the everyday and everyday politics, not merely here but anywhere.’

Other editions ofDoing Politics
  • Doing Politics
    ISBN: 9781922459220
    2 November 2021
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