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Locked into legitimacy: a study of the place of values in politics & society

The object of this thesis is the analysis of the nature, extent and origins of political beliefs and their particular role in legitimising state authority in New Zealand. In the first part two general approaches to the problem of legitimacy are considered. The first, associated with Western ‘social science’, assumes that democracy is representative of all interest groups, and is characterised by shared norms and procedures termed the ‘civic culture’. The author examines the evidence and shows that there are no valid empirical grounds in support of this assumption. The second approach, associated with Marxism, makes the reverse assumption, that the working-class in liberal democracies continues to be exploited, and that allegiance to the state in the working-class is less the consequence of ‘free choice’ than of system constraint. In the second part the author attempts to develop a model of the causal influences which shaped the political beliefs of the working-class in New Zealand history. An assessment of the historical and contemporary evidence shows that the ‘loyalty’ of the majority of the working-class to the state was as much the product of physical, legal and symbolic constraints, as that of social mobility, rising, living standards, and welfare provisions. The author concludes that the forces which shape political consciousness in New Zealand society have been centralised and consolidated by the state as a hegemonic culture pre-empting freedom of political choice.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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