Progressive and reactionary rhetoric in the municipal reform debate in New South Wales, Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Political Science, 2016, 51 (2), pp. 323 - 337
Issue Date:
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© 2016 Australian Political Studies Association. Albert Hirschman's rhetoric of reaction is a potentially powerful typology of the arguments made by both proponents and opponents of reform (1991. The rhetoric of reaction: Perversity, futility, jeopardy. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press). However, scholars have identified a number of gaps in the typology, in particular that it has struggled to explain the lines of rhetoric associated with disputed empirical evidence. This paper reviews Hirschman's typology before applying it to the contentious municipal amalgamation debates currently unfolding in New South Wales, Australia. We then examine the lines of attack open to progressives and reactionaries on the basis of empirical data. We conclude that the use of empirical data opens new lines of rhetoric for both ‘progressives’ and ‘reactionaries’ generally, but that both information costs and complexity significantly affect the timing and penetration of the arguments.
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