Socioecological change in a feudal island state

Distinguished Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick


The transition from neoliberalism to neofeudalism is well underway in most western societies. The diversion of resources to an undemocratic elite has not been as blatant since the 19th century, social mobility is stagnating, surveillance capitalism mines our data to exercise social control over our consumption, and care for people and the rest of nature is ordinary to the extent that species and ecosystem loss are exponentiating, along with human poverty and homelessness. The island State of Tasmania has not fully escaped a feudal condition since the violent and sanctimonious attempted genocide of the Palawa people of Tasmania by the British commanders, their convicts and the yeomen who stole their land. There have been waves of elites, each associated with forms of social and environmental modification. The yeomen, the miners, the dam-builders, the foresters and the tourism/real estate establishment successively formed powerful elites that transmogrified the rest of nature in distinctive and cumulative ways, and, to varying degrees, subdued the masses. The current elite has subverted the partially successful resistance to the environmental harm caused by previous elites by turning nature into a commodity to be gifted to themselves, by vitiating legal means of resistance, and by creating a new underclass. Geographers might consider subverting the new paradigm, as the old one dies, by conceptualising and implementing environmental and social probity in a process of emergent resistance.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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