By Max Harris Published by Bridget Williams Books, 2017 Reviewed by Simon Randall
The children of the 1980s and 1990s are coming of age and over the last few years have started to find their voice across a range of social and cultural disciplines. The New Zealand Project makes a worthy contribution to progress in the political sphere from one of this generation. The book is not an academic text but a relatable and almost intimate insight into Harris’s perspectives and values as an individual. And although the author’s academic background as an Oxbridge fellow shines in his crisp, matter-of-fact style, Harris provides an accessible, engaging read for all.
Recent events show that the generation which grew up in the aftermath of the radical neoliberal economic and social reforms of Rogernomics and its successors has a different worldview from earlier generations. Harris explores the impacts of these reforms on his generation and the deficits which they now see in the contemporary political system.
The main idea of the book is that in current New Zealand politics today there is a disconnection between values and decision-making. There is the strong implication that things would be much improved if values were once more the main driver of decision-making. Harris fleshes out this point by developing a credible list of values and applies these to the key issues now facing the nation. He concludes with his “New Zealand Project”, an assessment of the challenges we face as a nation and suggestions for how by implementing values we could move forward.
This book is an ambitious undertaking. What I like most is its style — it does not present definitive answers but takes readers through the author’s thought process as he grapples with doing politics differently. It challenges and encourages readers to examine the situation for themselves and come to their own conclusions. Given its relevance, timeliness and accessibility, I recommend The New Zealand Project widely, particularly for those with their own values-driven projects who might be seeking inspiration. It is certainly worthwhile pre-election reading.
Tui Motu Magazine Issue 218 August 2017: 28.