Rethinking Neo/liberalism and the Australian Citizenship Test: a history of regulating difference

Emma Sarian

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While the rise of neoliberal discourse in Australia during the term of the Howard government (1996–2007) has long been recognised, its relationship to changing understandings of citizenship is rarely theorised except in terms of economic ideology. However, neoliberalism can also be conceived as a political rationality whose logics are ultimately concerned with the regulation of human conduct. This article contends that the Australian Citizenship Test can be understood as part of such a process of regulation, and that analysing it in terms of neoliberal and liberal (neo/liberal) political rationalities demonstrates the extent to which the Howard government’s multicultural policy was actually enabled by its predecessor, thereby providing a more nuanced understanding of how the test came to be a meaningful solution to the ‘problem’ of difference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-136
Number of pages18
JournalCultural Studies Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • multiculturalism
  • Australian citizenship test
  • liberalism
  • neoliberalism
  • John Howard
  • Bob Hawke


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