Ideas for Social Reform: Distributism & Catholic social movements.

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Dr Race Mathews in conversation with Professor Paul Smyth.

Social Policy Connections hosted Dr Race Mathews to talk about his new book, Of Labour & Liberty: Distributism in Victoria 1891-1966, at Box Hill in the YTU Study Centre on Tuesday 16 May. The book had been launched by former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks on 20 April, and was reviewed in SPC’s May newsletter.

Of Labour & Liberty examined whether genuine economic democracy and increased participation in the running of firms, labour hiring capital rather than capital labour, could reinvigorate political democracy and ensure increased equity and social wellbeing. Though not a Catholic, Race was intrigued by the influence of Catholic movements on the development of major cooperatives, especially the current giant cooperatives in Mondragon in Spain. His book looks at the origins of Distributist political programs to build businesses with equality among all members, on the values of social justice and participation.

As honorary Professor of Social & Political Science at the University of Melbourne, and General Manager of the Research & Policy Centre at the Brotherhood of St Lawrence till 2013, Paul Smyth has written widely on new perspectives on social policy, emphasising social investment and inclusion, especially in collections he has edited, Social Policy in Australia (2014), and Inclusive Growth in Australia (2013).

Race wished to reinvigorate cooperative movements in Australia by alerting social justice groups particularly to the origins of many reform programs in the churches, and specifically in Catholic endeavours. He hoped for renewed engagement of intellectual currents, such as the Fabian Society, with social reform movements inspired by religious belief.

For his part, Paul Smyth emphasised the possibilities in recent social thinking, such as that of Maurice Glasman and the Blue Labour movement in Britain, which opens Catholic social thought into a wide circle of conversation with ecumenical, interfaith, and secular partners in efforts to devise inclusive and participatory systems of social policy.

Smyth recognises the need for increased productivity in the economy to sustain social supports, but argues for a social security system that is sustainable and offers real equality of opportunity.

You can purchase Of Labour & Liberty at your bookstore, or directly from Monash Publishing for $34.95 plus postage, or from our SPC office in Box Hill for a discount $30.

Sydney launch of Race Mathews’s book.

Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long will launch Of Labour & Liberty on Friday 16 June 2017 10:30am‑12pm, at the invitation of the Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University.

At the Female Orphan School, Conference Room 1, Building EZ, Western Sydney University, corner James Ruse Drive and Victoria Road, Rydalmere, NSW 2116. Attendance free, but registration essential, with light refreshments. Book here.


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