What will the future of work, social freedom and employment look like? In an era of increased job insecurity and social dislocation, is it possible to reshape economics along democratic lines in a way that genuinely serves the interests of the community? Of Labour and Liberty arises from Race Mathews’s half a century and more of political and public policy involvement. It responds to evidence of a precipitous decline in active citizenship, resulting from a loss of confidence in politics, politicians, parties and parliamentary democracy; the rise of ‘lying for hire’ lobbyism; increasing concentration of capital in the hands of a wealthy few; and corporate wrong-doing and criminality.
It also questions whether political democracy can survive indefinitely in the absence of economic democracy – of labour hiring capital rather than capital labour. It highlights the potential of the social teachings of the Catholic Church and the now largely forgotten Distributist political philosophy and program that originated from them as a means of bringing about a more equal, just and genuinely democratic social order. It describes and evaluates Australian attempts to give effect to Distributism, with special reference to Victoria. And with an optimistic view to future possibilities it documents the support and advocacy of Pope Francis, and ownership by some 83,000 workers of the Mondragon co-operatives in Spain.
Race Mathews is a former Chief of Staff to Gough Whitlam, Federal MP, Victorian MP and Minister, Local Government Councillor, academic, speech therapist and primary teacher. He has held numerous positions in the Australian Labor Party and the co-operative and credit union movements and has written and spoken widely about their history, attributes, and activities. A major focus of his research has been the great complex of worker-owned co-operatives at Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain and its origins in the social teachings of the Catholic Church. He is married to writer Iola Mathews, and lives in Melbourne.