The collaboration of intellectuals and politicians in the postwar reconstruction: A reassessment

Carolyn Holbrook

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The reconstruction that followed the Second World War is remembered as a golden period of Australian policy-making, during which the foundations of the modern nation-state were laid. Studies of the Labor governments led by John Curtin and Ben Chifley portray an unusually close and productive collaboration between political leaders and their policy advisers in the Department of Post-War Reconstruction. However, close examination of policy development during the reconstruction era suggests that the notion of a ‘blessed conjuncture of reason and politics’, in the words of H. C. Coombs, masks significant disagreements between Labor politicians and policy experts. Using the development of the full employment and housing policies as examples, this article shows that the relationship between Labor leaders and bureaucrats was not as symbiotic as is commonly supposed. This reassessment allows for a more accurate understanding of the achievements of the postwar reconstruction and the historical relationship between political leaders and public servants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-294
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Historical Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016

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