The Politics of Hope

Around 2002, when I first was elected to Parliament with Hon Peter Dunne, a book came to the attention of our caucus, called The Politics of Hope by Jonathon Sacks. It was a book that captured our thinking and helped clarify the principles that underpin United Future. I remember Peter Dunne recommending it to people interested in our party saying that it was the United Future 101 text book.

It remains a loved and treasured book in my collection and I refer to it on a regular basis. The author invites the reader not so much to agree with all he says, but to use the book to think about and have conversations with others about what makes a good society.

He suggests that as a society we need to move beyond a form of politics that is driven by personal and private interest, towards a political emphasis that encourages personal involvement in things best described as the common-good. This Sacks described as politics of hope.

At the heart of what Sacks is saying is the understanding that civil society, relies on healthy, functioning and ethical relationships within families, neighbourhoods and local communities. He describes what people like Robert Putman refer to as social capitol, that priceless commodity called TRUST. Let me finish this brief article with a quote…

Slowly we are beginning to realise that the story of man-the-political-and-economic-animal, is only half the truth of our human situation. Without a strong civil society, political and economic structures fail. Even businesses cannot thrive without long-term relationships of trust between producer and consumer, employer and employee. We know that schools fail without the support of families. We know families fail without the support of communities. We know that communities fail without neighbourly virtues and the obligations that flow from fellow-feeling. Neither the free market not the democratic state can survive in the long run without internalised constraints that prevent us – from a sense of honour or fidelity or decency or habit – from doing certain things which it may be to our advantage to do so. (The politics of Hope by Jonathon Sacks 2000)

Judy Turner, Deputy Leader, UnitedFuture New Zealand