A political theory of progressive individualism? Western Australia and the America's Cup, 30 years on
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© Thesis Eleven Pty, Ltd., SAGE Publications.This paper considers Western Australia (WA) as a sign, comparing what it meant during the America's Cup campaign of 1986-7, when world media attention was focused on the state, with what it represents 30 years later. In the 1980s, it is argued (Part I), WA was hard to represent at all, with natural, governmental and social horrors bespeaking a place unable to signify itself. These realities had to be 'forgotten' if a 'politics of euphoria' suitable to the Cup festival - and to the mood of credit-fuelled capitalist deregulation - was to prevail. The media, popular culture and tourism were on hand for that task. They far outstripped official efforts to represent WA as a symbol of mobility, globalization and the progressive development of state and capital, arm in arm. Returning after a generation (Part II), it seems clear that the state apparatus is motivated by a will to control, but that the same horrors attend the lives and deaths of first-nation citizens. What has changed is that policy has shifted from deregulation to privatization, which means an authoritarian state leaves both development and social justice to individuals. The progressive individualism of the 'WA Inc.' era has given way to what might be called 'tradie individualism' - signalling sociality with a boat of one's own, a funny car rego or a coin in the charity donation box. Now, if you want to express euphoria, then you must paddle your own canoe.
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