Duncan Ivison
University of Sydney
If you asked me a few years ago ‘what is postcolonial liberalism?’, I’d have said ‘an oxymoron’. As an undergraduate, I thought liberalism was a dirty word. The idea that it could accommodate the aspirations of those who would challenge colonial authority, authority that called itself liberal, seemed naïve. As I have begun researching indigenous political movements, and their responses to democratic theory, I have been surprised to discover that people who call themselves liberals have been some of those most responsive to the challenges these movements pose. Aside from confronting my prejudices about liberalism as a political doctrine, my research has brought to my attention the importance of democratic participation in organising just societies. I am becoming more convinced that democracy, rather than equality or freedom, should be the watchword of progressive politics. Of course democracy presupposes a measure of equality and freedom, but it is more than either of these taken alone.
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