People's revolution or state imposition?

Nabben, R 2006, People's revolution or state imposition?, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Education, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title People's revolution or state imposition?
Author(s) Nabben, R
Year 2006
Abstract My aim in this study is to develop more theoretically informed praxis - and practically informed theory - about two seminal questions: "What is the good life?", and "How we are to live together?" This thesis explores community and development through the lens of a small Community Building Demonstration Project that was conducted in Melbourne's Northern suburbs between 2001 and 2005. This project, at the time, was promoted by the State Labor Government as a radical strategy that would overcome deeply entrenched social problems.

I argue that we are indeed in a predicament that does not easily lend itself to deductive-positivist methods of problem solving. Given that 'reality' can be interpreted in many ways, and knowledge itself is coloured by the interests of powerful groups, how best are we to investigate from within the frame of our own culture? Questions of the social are deeply implicated with those of the environmental, economic and cultural, thus part of the research challenge is to circumscribe a methodology that is appropriate to asking questions about how we are to work together towards the human good.

The thesis progressively contextualizes the hidden connections between the day-to-day lived experiences of those in the project and broader factors at the regional, national, and ultimately global political-economic levels. The research re-views the history of Western expansionism over the globe, firstly in the form of the colonial 'adventure', and more recently the efforts to 'develop' the Third World, in what has come to be accepted as 'modernism' and 'progress', but most typically at the cost of community. The research necessarily grapples with the contemporary litany of fashionable ideas like social capital, the Third Way, 'joined-up' government, and Participatory Rural Appraisal.

The questioning throughout the thesis of the holistic relationship between the 'personal' and the 'political' leads to various propositions about dealing with our predicament, ranging from how we may seek more respectful interpersonal relationships, to how a community-based committee might represent local interests, as well as what guiding philosophies of the state may be consistent with the goals of such 'development'.

As the nature of the predicament becomes clearer, I begin to focus on the question of the opportunities for personal agency given the seemingly overwhelming structures that surround us. The empirical study of the Community Building project reveals the contradictions and dialectics that occur when change is attempted in such a milieu. It shows the interplay of contradictions when imposition meets resistance, and what opportunities there are there to work in the space between these dialectics. It finally reveals other possibilities for understanding and acting, or for 'other discourses' that we might use to make a better future together.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Education
Keyword(s) Community development
Structure and agency
Third way
Critical theory
World systems
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