Affronted by the xenophobic nationalists who stalked the land during the Howard years, many progressive Australians have rejected a love of country, forgetting that there is a patriotism of the liberal left that at different times has advanced liberty, egalitarianism, and democratic citizenship.
Tim Soutphommasane, a first-generation Australian and political theorist who has journeyed from Sydney's southwest suburbs to Oxford University, re-imagines patriotism as a generous sentiment of democratic renewal and national belonging. In accessible prose he explains why our political leaders will need to draw upon the better angels of patriotism if they hope to inspire citizens for nation-building, and indeed persuade them to make sacrifices in the hard times ahead. As we debate the twenty-first century challenges of reconciliation and a republic, citizenship and climate change, Reclaiming Patriotism proposes a narrative we have to have.
Reclaiming Patriotism was published by Cambridge University Press in September 2009. It is the lead title of the new Australian Encounters series published by Cambridge in partnership with the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.
Reclaiming Patriotism was shortlisted for the Community Relations Award in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2010. The judges' citation notes:
This important book is an engaging text that takes a fresh approach to issues around identity, race, politics and citizenship. Reclaiming Patriotism launches an urgent and timely debate about what it means to be Australian. This book is particularly important when a limited kind of flag-waving nationalism has dominated the national discourse over the past decade, both narrowing the scope for debate and limiting access to those who might engage in it.
Philosopher and journalist Tim Soutphommasane draws on many sources, both contemporary and historical, unpacking complex ideas in an accessible jargon-free style. He calls for the reinstatement of Australian multiculturalism, not as the contaminated word it has become over the past decade, but in a form in which patriotic solidarity coexists with cultural diversity. While he comes from a left-liberal background, he avoids narrow partisanship, challenging progressives to question their prejudiced interpretations of concepts like patriotism and citizenship. This book is an important contribution in rethinking the discourse on cultural diversity and citizenship, and thus actively seeks to re-engage different constituencies in a dialogue that moves the nation forward.
Reclaiming Patriotism has also been longlisted for the John Button Prize 2010.
"It is fitting that Tim Soutphommasane makes the case for progressive politics in defining Australian patriotism. When right-wingers claim the national story as their own - white picket fences, Don Bradman, Gallipoli - we need books like this to remind us that Australian citizenship belongs to us all."
- Bob Carr, former Premier of New South Wales
"... thought-provoking ... Soutphommasane's subtitle, Nation-Building for Australian Progressives, shows the scale of his ambition ... Broader in range than may be expected, this book proceeds from its wider sense of patriotism to outline a national agenda."
- The Australian Literary Review
" ... lucid, measured and very sensible ... In weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of the patriotic impulse [Soutphommasane is] admirably calm and detached, and this serves as a kind of intellectual tonic."
- The Weekend Australian
"This thoughtful book distils five years of research in political theory at Oxford University and, although its message is aimed at a left-liberal audience, it is likely to make even the politically disinterested reader reconsider his or her views on patriotism ... philosophically compelling ... Soutphommasane outlines a path for progressives to harness the moral power of a national tradition without compromising their commitment to equality. Even those without patriotic heartstrings won't be immune to the power of his argument."
- The Sydney Morning Herald
"For the left, patriotism has long been equated with jingoism and mindless flag-waving ... Soutphommasane mounts a persuasive case as to why patriotism can be a positive force for change."
- The Age
"When a young, first generation Australian of Chinese and Lao heritage takes up the challenge of writing about Australian patriotism, it seems something to celebrate … Reclaiming Patriotism is a timely contribution to many of the debates about the shape of Australia’s future ... Michael Ignatieff, renowned scholar and possibly Canada’s next Prime Minister, has recently written that “loving a country is an act of the imagination”. Tim Soutphommasane has delivered his own version of such an act. His palpable love of Australia means that this act is a most welcome one."
- The Canberra Times
Full reviews can be found here.