Redefining the political moment

James Arvanitakis


On 16 February 2003, more than half a million people gathered in Sydney, Australia, as part of a global anti-war protest aimed at stopping the impending invasion of Iraq by the then US Administration. It is difficult to estimate how many millions marched on the coordinated protest, but it was by far the largest mobilization of a generation. Walking and chanting on the streets of Sydney that day, it seemed that a political moment was upon us. In a culture that rarely embraces large scale activism, millions around Australian demanded to be heard. The message was clear: if you do not hear us, we would be willing to bring down a government. The invasion went ahead, however, with the then Australian government, under the leadership of John Howard, being one of the loudest and staunchest supporters of the Bush Administrations drive to war. Within 18 months, anti-war activists struggled to have a few hundred participants take part in anti-Iraq war rallies, and the Howard Government was comfortably re-elected for another term. The political moment had come and gone, with both social commentators and many members of the public looking for a reason. While the conservative media was often the focus of analysis, this paper argues that in a time of late capitalism, the political moment is hollowed out by ‘Politics’ itself. That is to say, that formal political processes (or ‘Politics’) undermine the political practices that people participate in everyday (or ‘politics’). Drawing on an ongoing research project focusing on democracy and young people, I discuss how the concept of ’politics‘ has been destabilised and subsequently, the political moment has been displaced. This displacement has led to a re-definition of ‘political action’ and, I argue, the emergence of a different type of everyday politics.

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