New book – The Shrinking Nation: How we got here and what can be done about it

The Shrinking Nation: How we got here and what can be done about it.

Graeme Turner

University of Queensland Press.

Over the past two decades, Australia has been experiencing a sustained period of accelerated socio-cultural change, accompanied by existential threats from natural disasters and the Covid pandemic, and punctuated by repeated cycles of political upheaval. The divisive and hyper-partisan version of party politics that has accompanied these events has hamstrung the nation’s capacity to respond to the challenges of the day – from dealing with climate change, to advancing gender equity, or to renovating the buckling structures of social welfare. At the same time, we have seen the quality of our democracy compromised.

In The Shrinking Nation, leading cultural historian Graeme Turner examines a wide range of social and cultural change, including the role played by a media environment swamped by misinformation, the social consequences of neoliberal economic policy, and the divisive legacy of the culture wars, before considering how we might strengthen the bonds of community and belonging that tie our nation together.

This timely, important and provocative book presents an original and compelling assessment of the state of the nation today, while designing a lifeline for the better country that is struggling to emerge.


Frank Bongiorno AM, author of Dreamers and Schemers:A brilliant account of how the nation shrank culturally, imaginatively and spiritually in the age of neoliberalism, and of how Australia might again find its mojo.’

The Age:Graeme Turner’s clear, emphatic, convincing examination is a big-picture study of a time when the big picture deserted our politics. It’s also a searing indictment of decades of neo-liberalist hypocrisy. But there’s also hope.’ 

Australian Book Review: ‘Turner – an inaugurating and hugely influential figure in cultural studies and its offshoots in Australia – is uniquely and generatively placed to explain “how we got here” and to defend a positive sense of the “nation” against its more insidious and divisive variants.’ Australian Book Review

Graeme Turner AO is Emeritus Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is one of the founding figures of media and cultural studies in Australia, and a leading figure internationally. He has been writing about Australian media, culture and society for many years, with a continuing focus on the idea of the nation. He has published over twenty-nine books, including Making It National (1994), Ending the Affair: The decline of Australian television news and current affairs (2005), Re-inventing the Media (2016) and Essays in Media and Cultural Studies: In transition (2020). His most recent book is John Farnham’s Whispering Jack (2022).