Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (School of Arts and Sciences)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Doctor Leigh Straw

Second Supervisor

Doctor Sandra Nasr


The central concern of this thesis is the disconnect between the premise of democracy and economic realities. The first section of the thesis examines the essential components of a democratic political system by drawing upon political theorists of the past and present. From Aristotle to Robert Dahl the thesis gains an understanding of what democracy is, by identifying and isolating its essential mechanisms. The following section situates liberalism and its origins. Such a history is critical for within liberalism is the sum of many social norms, philosophies, laws, and culture in Australia. Combining political theory and the historical context of liberalism reveals several contradictory political ideals that do not match with economic and social reality. However, the mode of production and the political superstructure had effectively transformed by the 1960s and 1970s giving rise to a post-material humanitarian politics. The last sections of the thesis cover this unique moment in Australia. During this period democratic politics was being genuinely expressed. This was a time of increased political participation and decreasing inequality. What this period offers is an insight into when Australia was a healthy democracy, and identifies a time when economic realities were beginning to match the premise of democracy.