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I gave this address ‘In Defence of Democracy’ to the New Zealand ACT Party Annual Conference, in Wellington and Auckland, July 2022. I want to thank David Seymour, Leader of the ACT Party, and like myself committed to liberal democracy, for inviting me to speak. Although the address was given at a political party event, I was a guest speaker so the ideas I present are my own.
IN DEFENCE OF DEMOCRACY
Professor Elizabeth Rata
University of Auckland
Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to speak today. My talk ‘In Defence of Democracy’ is for those of all political persuasions who are deeply worried about New Zealand’s descent from democracy into a tribal form of ethno-nationalism.
I want to talk about democracy – about what it is we are in danger of losing and what we need to do to retain our nation’s remarkable 170 year legacy of democratic governance.
Nearly forty years ago the 1985 Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Act set in motion a radical constitutional agenda. The aim – to shift the country from democracy to tribalism. In that time a corporate tribal elite has privatised public resources, acquired political power, and attained governance entitlements. Activist judges have created treatyism – a new interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi as a ‘governance partnership’. Intellectuals have supplied the supporting racialised ‘two world views’ ideology.
The question we must ask is this: How has a small group of individuals, both Maori and non-Maori, managed to install a racialised ideology into our democracy?
In his book The Open Society, philosopher Karl Popper identifies those who would take us back to the past, to that closed tribal society from which we are all descended. He describes how throughout history those who ‘could only make themselves leaders of the perennial revolt against freedom’, those ‘incapable of leading a new way’ will return us to what he called ‘cultivated tribalism’.
It is this colossal failure of vision for a democratic future that has taken New Zealand to the crossroads. Democracy is one path ahead; ethno-nationalism is the other.
Treatyism’ success can be seen in how comprehensively ‘partnership’, ‘decolonisation’, ‘co-governance’ – whatever term is used – is inserted into all our government institutions, into the universities, and into the law. It is an ideology that tells how we are to understand our country’s history and how we are to envisage its future.
The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi was, like all human products, of its time and place. One aim – shared by British and Maori signatories alike – was to establish the rule of law by imposing British sovereignty through British governance. Sovereignty and governance go together as two sides of the same coin – with intertwined meaning. In the decades which followed, the treaty lost relevance in the new colonial society. This is the case with all historical treaties.
Revived in the 1970s as the symbol of a cultural renaissance, the treaty was captured by retribalists in the 1980s to serve as the ideological manifesto for the envisaged order – a reconstituted New Zealand. It was given a ‘spirit’ to take it above and beyond its historical location so that it could mean whatever retribalists say it means.
This treatyist ideology successfully promotes the false claim of partnership between the government and the tribes. However there is a deeper more insidious strategy propelling us to tribal ethno-nationalism. It is the collapse of the separation between the economic and political spheres.
The separation of the economic from the political is absolutely essential for democracy. When economic interests and political ambitions are merged there is no accountability to the people – consider all those totalitarian leaders whose power gives wealth and whose wealth gives power – a merger broken only when (and if) the people revolt.
The corporate tribes have already acquired considerable governance entitlements – the next and final step is tribal sovereignty. It’s a coup d’etat in all but name, accomplished not by force but by ideology – enabled by a compliant media.
Given the enormous success of retribalism is it too late to reclaim New Zealand from the relentless march to blood and soil ethno-nationalism?
That depends upon our willingness to understand, value, and restore democracy.
To do this we need to be clear what democracy is.
First, it is the remarkable and still uncommon form of government described in Abraham Lincoln’s famous words as ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’.
Second, democracy has three pillars. Remove or even tweak these pillars and it collapses.
Third, democracy requires the ‘partially loyal’ universal individual.
I want to talk about these three pillars and that partially loyal individual. If we are to understand democracy this is where we start.
The pillars are:
- The citizen – the individual who bears political and legal rights – not the racialised group member.
- The state –– the governing infrastructure of parliament, systems of law, education, health and so on, regulator of public resources such as water, foreshore and seabed, flora and fauna, radio waves . . ..
- The nation – at once a geographic entity and a symbol of a unified though historically diverse people who muddle along together in liberal civil society.
Each of these pillars is riven by a necessary tension – a tension arising from their inherent contradictions – contradictions which make democracy future-oriented, progressive – and vulnerable.
The contradictions are:
- As citizens, we have a duty to society but, at the same time, we have personal interests arising from kin, cultural, and other social loyalties.
- The state is simultaneously the capitalist state – generating economic wealth and inequality – and the secular democratic state – guaranteeing political equality and regulating wealth distribution.
- The nation is unified in facing the future, yet diverse in its past.
Democracy is peaceful battle within and between each of these three pillars. This bloodless conflict is only possible when individuals are partially loyal.
So what is ‘partial loyalty’?
I first came across the term in anthropologist, Alan Macfarlane’s The Making of the Modern World. It intrigued me and I have developed the idea further in the following way.
‘Partial loyalty’ can explain what it is about the modern individual who has contradictory loyalties simultaneously – identifying as a family member, a member of an ancestral group, a cultural group, a tribe, a religion, an identity group defined by leisure interests, sexuality, and so on.
This is civil society. From different, even conflicting interests how do we decide where our loyalty lies – is it to New Zealand? To an identity group? An ancestral group? To those ‘who look like us’?
The idea of ‘partial loyalty’ is a way into thinking about this question.
It is a question that someone in a tribal society, an autocratic society, a religious society would not have to ask, or be permitted to ask, because the answer is already provided.
Most societies demand total loyalty.
- Traditional tribal societies allowed one identity – fixed by birth status and and kinship ties – not open to individual choice. Loyalty was non-negotiable because total loyalty ensured the group’s survival.
- Autocratic regimes, both past and present, impose total loyalty – not for the survival of all, but for the elite – imposed by might and by ideological indoctrination.
Democracies are different in a fundamental way. They not only allow partial loyalty but require it.
In a democracy we hold many loyalties simultaneously – family and social groups where the loyalty is personal – creating a deeply held sense of identity and belonging – perhaps to a tribe, culture, religion, sport or other type of association.
And at the same time we are loyal to a diverse society and to its governing system that is not personal. Indeed loyalty to the democratic nation is loyalty to a vision – the idea of ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’.
These two different loyalties – one a deeply personal identity – the other a rational commitment to an idea – is why democracy is so difficult. It is much easier to fall back into loyalties of emotion, not reason.
The ease and attraction of total loyalty favours ethno-nationalism – it is profoundly anti-modern and anti-democratic – yet profoundly seductive.
I want to turn now to how we have been seduced. This means talking about ideology.
Retribalism has attackedthe three pillars of democracy through the covert use of ideology. I want to talk specifically about how this is occurring in language, education, and the media.
Retribalist ideology and language
Ideologies control not just speech but thought itself. The most successful have a manifesto, a ‘sacred text’ or covenant. Mao’s Little Red Book, the Communist Manifesto, the sacred texts of religions, the US Constitution’s Second Amendment – these are used to symbolise a spiritual, ‘beyond this world’ authority, disguising the real-life ambitions of those controlling the ideology.
Since the 1980s the Treaty of Waitangi has been developed as such a manifesto – using two highly effective tactics.
I call the first the transubstantiation tactic.
Here the treaty is transformed from an historical document to a sacred text. This mystical transubstantiation takes the treaty into the realm of the spiritual from where it acquires a doctrinal authority – one to be interpreted for we common folk by a new priesthood – treatyist intellectuals.
Once the treaty’s unchallengable spiritual authority is established the second tactic comes into play. It is the diversion tactic. This ‘how many angels on a pinhead’ tactic operates by diverting us into echo-chamber squabbles – about the 1840 meaning of this word, that word, this intention, that intention. This is all interesting and important material for historians but our concern should be, not what the treaty said in 1840 – those days are gone – it served the purpose of the time – but what it is being used to say today – and for what purpose.
What about retribalist ideology and education?
Our education system is indoctrinating children into retribalism. The so-called ‘decolonisation’ and ‘indigenisation’ of the curriculum is the method. This is a disaster. Decolonisation will destroy the very means by which each generation acquires reasoned knowledge, and in so doing, the ability to reason.
I have described how this ability creates the disposition of partial loyalty that is required to be a citizen. Reasoning provides the rationalism to counter the irrationalism of total loyalty. By undermining the secular academic curriculum – that which creates the reasoning mind – we are destroying the partially loyal individual. Our fate – to be left with those capable only of mindless total loyalty.
And retribalist ideology and the media?
An ideology becomes omnipotent when it is not challenged. In a democracy the media should inform us of all competing interests and in all their complexity. We, the people, need to know everything, because it is us who will decide what should happen. Mainstream media has failed to do this – indeed is culpable in embedding treatyism.
Is it too late to save New Zealand’s democracy? Have we already passed the crossroads? A pessimist, realist perhaps, might say ‘yes’. As a reluctant optimist I would say there is still time if we do the following:
- Remove the treaty and its principles from all legislation. People (not a sacred deity) put these into legislation. People can remove them.
- Remove retribalism’s ideology from all public institutions, including the universities.
- Encourage those in civil society who value and desire Maori culture to participate in – for example – Maori media, Maori language, kaupapa Maori schools, Maori literature, arts, music, fashion, film, festivities . . . all the activities of a vibrant culture.
- Teach a complete and unvarnished NZ history developed according to sound scientific methods.
- Allow New Zealand English to evolve organically through incorporating Maori words, not by government decree.
- Re-build the education system to teach academic subjects – the source of the partially loyal individual – not ideological dogma .
And finally, hold a national discussion – possibly over several decades – about a symbol for New Zealand’s foundation. I have four suggestions:
- The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi – for its historical value only – not as a legal and constitutional document. Recent attempts to trace democracy to the treaty are nonsensical and will further embed treatyism.
- The 1852 Constitution Act. This Act, with all its limitations, did establish New Zealand democracy. It set up Parliament and the beginnings of the workable state that continues today. It recognised the citizen to whom Parliament is accountable – even though only certain Maori and settler men were able to vote – it is that crucial principle of accountability to the people that was put in place.
- The 1893 Electoral Act – women’s suffrage.
- Don’t have a founding document. Do we need one?
On a personal note – I confess an emotional pull to the 1893 Electoral Act – for kinship reasons – one of my great-grandmothers was a signatory to the Suffrage Petition. However as a ‘partially loyal’ citizen I must give full and rational consideration to the other contenders – even to argue against my own various loyalties in coming to a decision. There is no doubt that the 1852 Constitution Act is the strongest contender because we can trace our liberal democracy to this legislation. Surely it worth celebrating?
But we may never decide on an official founding document – and that’s fine. It is the continuous peaceful battle of democracy in action that matters. But that ongoing battle is democracy’s inherent source of instability – an unsettleness that is both its strength and its vulnerability.
When citizens abdicate their democratic duty, when the media abandons its responsibilities, when judges become political activists, when academics are intolerant of open inquiry, and when governments are subverted by an ideology – that is when a corporate tribal elite emerges to encircle the commons, that is to privatise what belongs to the public, to us the people, and to govern not in our interests but for themselves. In this way wealth and power are merged.
Before moving to my conclusion I want to make one thing absolutely clear – especially to those who will seek to distort my words – I support the activities of those in civil society who value and engage in Maori language and culture. A liberal civil society is where we meet in all our differences – indeed society is at its most creative when diversity is practised and enjoyed by all.
Politics arises from civil society – from the various conflicting interests of people. That political-civil interaction is what democracy looks like. But, and this is the crux of my argument, no interest group has the right of governance unless the people agree. Elections are that act of agreement – always temporary with the winner always on trial.
New Zealanders, both Maori and non-Maori, have not been asked to agree to tribalist governance. If we had been asked would we have agreed?
Tribalism and democracy are incompatible. We can’t have both. If we wish to keep New Zealand as a liberal democratic nation then, as we derive our citizen rights from the nation-state, so we have a duty to ensure that the nation-state which awards those rights, remains democratic and able to do so.
For our country to remain a liberal democracy, we need to know what democracy is, its true value, and what we must do to restore it.
and https://openinquiry.nz. My choice of the title ‘In Defence of Democracy’ is a nod to the Listener letter ‘In Defence of Science (NZ Listener, 31 July 2021). I was one of the seven signatories to that letter.
 Rata, E. (2021) Ethno-nationalism or Democratic Nationalism: which way ahead for New Zealand?
 Amartya Sen (1999). Democracy as a Universal Value. Journal of Democracy 10.3 (1999) 3-17.
 Rata, E. (2021) The road to He Puapua – Is there really a treaty partnership? The Democracy Project, 5 July.
 My first article, published in 1996 was entitled ‘Goodness and Power’: The Sociology of Liberal Guilt, New Zealand Sociology, 11(2), 231-274.
 Karl Popper. The Open Society, Vol. 1.
 Acknowledgement to Professor Brian Boyd for this beautifully apt phrase ‘the myth of past perfection’.
 ‘Neotribal capitalism’. Available at www.elizabethrata.com
 The term ‘global citizen’ is nonsensical. A citizen is someone who bears rights. Those rights must be from an entity that has the power both to award the rights and to enforce them. Currently it is the nation-state that does this as there is no global institution that has the authority to award and enforces rights and responsibilities.
In the absence of such an authority the term ‘global citizen’ is hollow in substance, and only useful as a metaphor for the aspiration of equality for all people.
 Margaret Wilson, cited in Rata, E. (2005). Marching through the Institutions, The Neotribal Elite and the Treaty of Waitangi, Sites New Series, 1 (2) 56 – 81. Article available https://openinquiry.com and www.elizabethrata.com
 My recent book, written with Tauwehe Tamati, is about a teaching method to use in kura kaupapa Māori in order to develop students’ academic achievement in both Maori and English.
Rata, E. and Tamati, T. S. (2022) Academic Achievement in Bilingual and Immersion Education: TransAcquisition Pedagogy and Curriculum Design. Routledge.
 Public Service Act 2020 Te Whakapakari I te hononga I waenga I te Maori me te Karauna Strengthening the Maori Crown relationship. Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission. Fact Sheet 3.
 The cultural knowledge of traditional societies is not science. However the science-culture distinction doesn’t exclude traditional knowledge from the secular curriculum. It does however put limits on how it is included. Students can be taught in social studies, history, and Māori Studies about the traditional knowledge. But this must not be induction into belief and ideological systems. The home and community (e.g. marae and churches) are for induction into cultural beliefs and practices.
The following extract is taken from Rata, E. (2022) The Decolonisation of New Zealand Education. The Democracy Project.
“Proto-science (pre-science) is found in all traditional knowledge and includes traditional navigation, medicinal remedies, and food preservation This knowledge, acquired through observation and trial and error, as well as through supernatural explanation, along with the ways it may have helped to advance scientific or technological knowledge, is better placed in history of science lessons rather than in the science curriculum.
Science provides naturalistic explanations for physical and social phenomena. Its concepts refer to the theorised structures and properties of the physical world, its methods are those of hypothesis, testing and refutation, its procedures those of criticism and judgement. The inclusion of cultural knowledge into the science curriculum will subvert the fundamental distinction, one acknowledged by mātauranga Māori scholars, between naturalistic science and supernaturalistic culture”.
This paper was published as An Overview of Neotribal Capitalism in Ethnologies Comparees. Oceanie, debut de siecle. No 6, Spring, 2003.
Author: Elizabeth Rata
I have updated the article slightly and re-named it ‘Neotribal Capitalism’ (June 2022). As I read it again for the first time in at least a decade I realised that not much needed updating although there are several passages that I want to comment on.
This italicised extract (below) is taken from page 17. Despite the long-term resistance by many New Zealanders to treatyist constitutional change, the neotribes have successfully advanced their non-democratic agenda in the two decades since 2003. The legislative inclusion mentioned in the extract did indeed lay the foundation for a new ethno-nationalist constitution. He Puapua (2019) is intended to be its implementation.
Attempts by the government to award constitutional recognition to the neotribe in terms of political partnership have been thwarted only by the absence of a national consensus. The Minister of Treaty Negotiations, Margaret Wilson, acknowledges that the more limited ambition of recognition through legislative inclusion ‘may be the best that can be achieved in the current political climate’ (1996: 15).
I copied this italicised extract from page 12. As a co-signatory to the ‘In Defence of Science’ NZ Listener letter (July 2021) I find my words from 2003 disturbingly prescient.
The inherent conflict between research that is ‘independent’, ‘open to scrutiny’ and ‘driven by hypotheses or intellectual positions capable of rigorous assessment’ (Ministry of Education, 2003: 17) on the one hand, and ‘closed’ (ie. not available for independent critical scrutiny) neotraditionalist research on the other is not addressed by the new Tertiary Education Commission in its policy formulation document. . . . The institutionalisation of kaupapa Maori research into the tertiary sector with the establishment of the Maori Development and Knowledge Panel and a Maori Centre for Research Excellence is just the most recent example of this reactive process of ‘principles of the treaty’ inclusion.
The third extract is from p. 22. I’ve chosen in order to highlight how retribalisation is in fact the privatisation of public resources for the neotribal elite.
The process by which communal ownership was acquired, resources capitalised, commodities produced, and access to and control of the resources showed in fact a process of privatisation.
In New Zealand the identity movements of the 1970s enabled the commonality between Maori and pakeha members of the new professional class to serve as the means for the recognition and politicisation of ethnic difference. The subsequent institutionalisation of ethnic boundaries established the conditions for neotribal capitalism. This paper discusses this process of ethnic boundary construction and summarises the research studies that lead to the theory of neotribal capitalism.
One of the most complex dilemmas faced by constitutional democracies today concerns the regulation of universal democratic rights and the recognition of cultural difference. New Zealand has an enviable reputation as a nation that has achieved a satisfactory balance between these two often conflicting demands. In this paper I provide an outline of the theory of neotribal capitalism as a counter-argument to the ideas that support this reputation. I argue that, despite the democratising ideals of the cultural recognition movements, the Maori cultural revival of the 1970s established the context for a Maori elite to acquire political and economic capital from the political regulation of culture and the creation of ethnic boundaries.
The orthodox view is that Maori, who consist of approximately fifteen percent of New Zealand’s increasingly multicultural (though still mainly Anglo-based) population, are reviving a traditional culture and modernising it to fit into today’s world. This movement for indigenous self-determination is understood to be a rejection of the pakeha (Anglo settler descendant) dominance established during colonisation. Its symbol is the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, a document signed between the British government and the majority of tribal chiefs and recently revived to serve as the nation’s ‘founding document’ and the basis for a bicultural constitutional ‘partnership’ between the revived tribes and the government.
In this paper I propose a contrasting view of the processes and outcomes of the past four decades of ethnic recognition in New Zealand. I argue that a broad peoples-based movement for cultural recognition and social justice has become derailed by a combination of global and local forces and by the responses of various interest groups to these forces and to each other. Not only has the derailment of a democratic movement for social justice become a vehicle for the creation of ethnic boundaries, it has become the means by which a Maori elite have acquired considerable economic and political capital at the expense of all Maori in whose name the cultural recognition movement first received widespread support. More seriously for New Zealand’s long-term future the derailment has created the conditions for destabilising New Zealand’s constitutional democracy.
I begin by examining the two main groups, Maori revivalists and pakeha biculturalists, who led the movement for cultural recognition to show that it was, ironically, the politics of recognition that established the brokerage sites and mechanisms for the creation of ethnic boundaries and the emergence of neotribal capitalism. This is followed by a brief outline of my research into the Maori revival and the bicultural movement to show the emergence of fundamental tensions and contradictions between the intentions and the outcomes of the various projects that comprise these movements of major social change. The tensions and contradictions are theorised as neotribal capitalism.
Part One The Context
The reasons for the derailment of the New Zealand’s post-war democratic movements for social justice are multi-layered. They are to be found at a global level in the economic contraction and the decline of Western hegemony from the 1970s (Friedman, 1994), in the political experiences of New Zealand’s well-educated protest generation, and in the ways in which two distinct groups in the radicalised new professional class responded to changing global conditions. The combination of these global forces (the apparent disintegration of modernity’s universalising politics) and local circumstances (the contraction of the local economy and the squeeze on the new professional class) led to local versions of the identity ideologies that were replacing modernist universalism throughout the postcolonial world.
Identity politics enabled the most vulnerable of the new professional class (its most recent entrants, such as women and ethnic minorities), to respond actively to global economic contraction and its accompanying ideological shifts. Local movements were built around identity politics to ensure that the gains women and minority groups had made in the prosperous fifties and sixties were maintained in sites for identity recognition. These sites include women’s studies and cultural studies in academia and government policies that target marginalised groups.
In the 1970s a small group of tertiary educated Maori became the leaders of the cultural revival that signalled the first stage of ‘glocal’ identity politics in New Zealand. By the end of the 1980s this group had successfully defined indigenous recognition in terms of the new identity politics and achieved important political gains, particularly the government’s willingness to revive and honour the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. The consequences of unjust colonial practices were to be addressed through historical grievance settlements. The powers of the Waitangi Tribunal (established in 1975) were extended to hear reparation claims dating back to 1840. These inroads into political recognition and institutionalisation were extended in the 1990s to include the concept of political ‘partnership’ between the tribes and the government. This was to be achieved by legislating adherence to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in a range of Acts of Parliament.
Tribal institutions, revived by the Treaty reparation settlements, provided the structures for the materialisation of this indigenous identity. Those Maori who had led the cultural and indigenous movements become tribal brokers, a comprador bourgeoisie, on behalf of the newly established tribal economies. They negotiated for political and economic resources across the newly created sites of Treaty partnership discourse: the revived tribes on the one hand, and, on the other, the state institutions committed to recognising the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
It is worthwhile noting the ad hoc way (on the government’s side at least) that the brokerage of Maori revivalism into the institutions of government occurred. A government minister in the early 1990s National Government is able (with the hindsight of 2003), to describe the way in which the requirement to adhere to the principles of the Treaty were first incorporated into legislation through the highly influential 1991 Resource Management Act. ‘I am quite sure that none of us knew what we meant when we signed up to that formula’. By ‘formula’ the former Minister, Simon Upton, means the requirement that local government, through the Resource Management Act, ‘take account of the “principles” of the treaty’. Revealing further the extent of a government driven by tribal interests rather than its own policies, Upton adds that ‘when it framed the Resource Management Act, the National Government was aware of treaty “principles” developed by the Court of Appeal in 1987 and by the Waitangi Tribunal in dealing with Maori land Claims. “But given the extraordinary wide reach of the act, handing over its implementation to local councils with no clear guidance on how those principles might intersect with the claimed rangatiratanga of any particular group amounted to a legislative evasion”.’ (Simon Upton quoted in the New Zealand Herald, 22 – 23 Feb. 2003)
The ad hoc nature of governments’ reaction to tribal demands continued throughout the 1990s. In 2000, the Labour Prime Minister, Helen Clark, acknowledged that ‘there is no one in Cabinet actually co-ordinating the insertion of Treaty clauses into new legislation’ (Listener, 2000: 22). Yet in response to a survey (New Zealand Herald, 28. 11. 2000, p. A3) that found that ‘two out of every three people believe references to the Treaty of Waitangi should not be included in legislation, Helen Clark indicated that the government was providing effective leadership in matters of Treaty and government legislation. Arguing that “strong leadership will reverse New Zealanders’ views on this contentious issue”, the Prime Minister located the problem in the “not very great public understanding”. However, she did ‘admit that the ‘Government had not been properly prepared for the debate over the treaty clause originally inserted in the health reform bill’.
Andrew Sharp (1997: 452) has drawn attention to this reactive ad hoc response in his reference to the unprecedented way in which ‘governments were losing control of policy formulation and execution’ in relation to the Treaty.
The left-wing activists who increasingly identified as ethnic pakeha in the new ‘glocal’ identity movements of the 1980s that replaced earlier left-wing universal movements took up the challenge of biculturalism with considerable vigour. ‘Being Pakeha’ meant acquiring a geographically based ethnic identity with Maori as the referent. The use of the word to describe oneself was a self-conscious symbol of ethnic identification that other groups of settler-descendants refused to accept. Its popularity among the left until the late 1980s and its subsequent decline is indicative of the shifting fortunes of bicultural adherents.
Biculturalism was the movement that linked the two ethnically distinguished groups of the new professional class, the Maori radicals (I also use the terms revivalists and neotraditionalists for this group) and the pakeha biculturalists. In doing so, biculturalism strengthened and institutionalised the boundaries between the two. By creating a space between ‘two worlds’ the strengthened boundaries denied the real material commonality between Maori revivalists and pakeha biculturalists, a commonality based not only upon shared class interests but also upon a considerable degree of actual shared ethnicity. This mixed ethnicity from the high incidence of historical intermarriage is continued in the intermarriage practices of the new professional class. In a recent and important study on ethnicity measurement and reporting Paul Callister (2003) has drawn attention to the association between education and having a Maori partner. The trend in New Zealand for more highly educated Maori to marry ‘out’ is (also a trend in inter-ethnic marriage in the United States), is ‘more pronounced amongst those with university qualifications’ (2003: 36).
The institutionalisation of ethnic division occurred through legislation and policies that required government agencies to adhere to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. This construction of an institutionalised division on ethnic lines by two groups of the new professional class replaced their earlier shared leftwing universalist politics and denied their shared lived commonality. Both groups continued to share the same privileged material conditions of all new professional class members: university education for their children, overseas travel, the health and material comforts of middle-class life. Both groups continued to intermarry (Callister, 2003).
However, ethnic division enabled Maori revivalists to assert themselves as a distinctive political force, a political position strengthened by the social and cultural identity that creates a niche repertoire for these (increasingly) ‘global representatives of the local’ (Friedman, 2001: 67-8). Such cultural repertoires are particularly apt in a post-fordist world where niche identities fit well with niche consumption. The distinctive political identity is reinforced by the cultural niche positioning in the development of a privileged elite. Friedman (2001: 67) has referred to ‘the conversion of status for indigenous representatives’ as they take indigenous politics onto the world stage, noting that ‘such a shift implies a contradiction in identity, a contradiction between the rootedness of indigeneity and the cosmopolitan life of the higher circulatory elites of the world arena’.
With the shift of egalitarian idealism from leftist progressive universalism to group identity politics the explanations of the left biculturalists for the outcome of biculturalism were rephrased in a new discourse. This was a confused and confusing mixture of Habermasian communicative action, rightist communitarianism and postmodernism’s championing of the local. The stalemate provided by the left’s inability to address the fundamental issues of the conflict between public good and private autonomy, and between universalism and local primordialisms, enabled the tribes to control Treaty discourse. Margaret Wilson, the Minister of Treaty negotiations and a leading biculturalist, demonstrates the left-right confusion of cultural politics.
With clear Habermasian overtones, Wilson rejects a fundamental plank of democratic philosophy – that the individual is the political monad – by arguing that ‘I do not see why individual and group rights need to be constructed in oppositional terms. This is not to say that there may not be instances where there is conflict. It is more important however to find the points of consistency between the two sets of rights.’ And in a move into relativism which leaves behind any notion of the Habermasian standard of rationality in communicative action, she argues that ‘(b)oth are valid within their own terms’ (2000: 20).
By the 1980s the strong influence of postmodern ideas in New Zealand social sciences had provided the intellectual justification for the left’s shift to identity politics and away from modernity’s democratising universalism. A leading leftist commentator in New Zealand has referred to the destructive effect on the left caused by the identity politics of the new social movements’ identity politics. ‘Communists and socialists alike found themselves assailed by those late arrivals on the left-wing block – the new social movements’ (Trotter, 2003: 37).
Despite Foucault’s disclaimer against the reduction of knowledge to relative experiences, the result of postmodernism’s capture of New Zealand social science was to reduce ideas and judgement to mere opinion, with all opinions of equal value. The nihilistic vacuum left has become fertile ground for a strange but mutually benefiting axis of neoliberal self-interest, neoconservative rigidity and neotraditional fundamentalism.
Neotraditionalists used postmodernism’s celebration of the local to acquire support from those of the left who moved to postmodernism in the 1980s. The resultant culturalism is both an anthropological ideology and an intellectual brokerage mechanism for the institutionalisation of neotraditionalism. As an anthropological ideology it is ‘increasingly used as a privileged tool to legitimise political domination’ (Babadzan, 2001: 150) with its ‘sacralisation of cultures and identities’. In this approach ‘culture’ is ‘transformed and essentialised’ (Babadzan, 2001: 149) with ‘anthropologists appropriating the ethnic-culturalist discourse that actors themselves hold about the meaning of their practices’. Peter Munz’s (1994) critique of the New Zealand culturalist anthropologist, Anne Salmond, identifies this practice. He refers to the ‘reliance on the finality of uncritical self-representation (that) has become American anthropological orthodoxy’. (Munz, 1994: 61). I would add ‘New Zealand social science orthodoxy’ as well.
Neotraditionalism is the belief that a traditional social structure has been revived. However, it is the process identified by Habermas as a ‘self-conscious traditionalism’ which ‘is itself a thoroughly modern movement of renewal’ (cited in Barry, 2001: 259). Maori retribalisation is explained as the restoration of the social relations of a traditional redistributive society consisting of kinship-based groups. In claiming that genealogy, rather than ethnicity, is the primary determinant of tribal membership and tribal definition, Apirana Mahuika (1998: 219) argues that ‘cultural identity . . . on ethnic non-blood lines rather than tribal blood lines . . . would be suicidal for iwi and culture, because whakapapa is the heart and core of all Maori institutions, from Creation to what is now iwi. Whakapapa is the determinant of all mana rights to land, to marae, to membership of a whanau, hapu, and, collectively, the iwi whakapapa determines kinship roles and responsibilities to other kin, as well as one’s place and status within society.’
The uncritical acceptance by biculturalists of Maori as tribal kin-groups of a particular ethnicity rather than according to a broader non-kin referenced ethnic identity enabled the tribes, rather than pan-Maori, to be recognised as the legitimate inheritors of the traditional resources. This meant that the tribes were defined as the rightful claimants for the historical reparation settlements. The return of these resources, either in kind or in monetary form, enabled several of the larger tribes to establish successful tribal economies. In the neotraditionalist interpretation of this economic development the tribes were now able to develop a group-based form of capitalism that maintained traditional social relations alongside contemporary technologies, management and organisation. The group-rights pakeha biculturalists accept this ideological version of the ‘restored’ tribes as models of a new and more democratic form of capitalism, a ‘communal capitalism’ (Spoonley et al., 1996: 75).
Part Two Neotribal Capitalism
Rejecting the concept of ‘communal capitalism’ as a contradiction in terms, my theory of neotribal capitalism provides an alternative explanation for Maori revivalism and the interdependent biculturalist movement. The theory interprets the new social structure (the neotribe) that organises and operates the economic enterprises (resourced primarily by the Treaty settlements) as fundamentally different from the traditional social structure (the tribe) of a pre-capitalist redistributive economy. However, neotraditionalism provides the ideological justification to interpret the contemporary tribe as the legitimate inheritor of the past, and, as such, the legitimate inheritor of the Treaty of Waitangi settlements.
A series of research studies into Maori revivalism led to my conclusion that the capitalisation of resources and their control by one group to the exclusion of others alters social relations in ways so fundamental that a new social structure (the neotribe) is created. This is explained in terms of a new relationship between the economic dimension and ‘the mode of regulation or social environment of production’ which, according to Esser and Hirsch (1994: 74) enables the elements of (the) complex relationship between production and reproduction (to be) related to each other socially.
David Harvey (1989: 121) also acknowledges the ‘strength of regulation theory in its grasp of the dialectical complexity between the production and reproduction environment’. This relationship is not dissimilar to Marx’s ‘modes of co-operation’ ( 1965) as the social regulation of accumulation. The operation of the neotribal economic dimension (the determinant ‘in the final instance’) occurs in regulating the social environment in ways that enable the capitalisation and commodification of traditional resources under the political control of the tribal elite. This control is achieved through neotraditionalist ideologies of revived kinship structures and revived forms of traditional leadership.
I began my own research into the Maori revival and pakeha biculturalism in the late 1980s. Like many other researchers, both Maori and pakeha, who were involved in the exciting and hopeful period of minority group and women’s identity movements, I was able to benefit from the expansion of postgraduate research that also occurred at this time. New academic courses in cultural and women’s studies provided the academic discourse and theories for the social movements that had, in their turn, contributed to tertiary expansion.
My master of education thesis (Rata, 1991) and other publications (Rata, 1988, 1989) documented the Auckland kura kaupapa Maori education organisation, Te Runanga o Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tamaki Makaurau. I was the runanga or committee’s inaugural secretary and administrator of its teacher education programme. Colleagues who were within the kura kaupapa Maori movement and also university academics established a master of education (Maori) degree in the Department of Education at the University of Auckland. Many kaupapa Maori researchers were to complete master and later doctoral studies in this department. It became the centre for the development of kaupapa Maori theory as a codified body of thinking promoting a distinctive kaupapa Maori epistemology. Kaupapa Maori theory is regarded by its adherents as ‘a uniquely Maori way of looking at the world’ (L. T. Smith, 1999: 175). It rejects the ‘academic Western tradition’ with ‘its inherent right to knowledge and truth’ accorded to the ‘inquiring individual researcher’ (Walker, 1997: 2).
Increasingly throughout the 1990s, research undertaken in education, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and Maori Studies was explicitly intended to record and support Maori self-determination. By the end of the decade the eclectic mix of leftist and postmodernist theorists whose ideas had underpinned the development of Maori education studies was replaced by indigenous theorists. ‘Kaupapa Maori research (is) research over which Maori maintain conceptual, design, methodological and interpretative control . . . “research by Maori, for Maori with Maori”’ (Jahnke and Taiapa, 1999: 45). My doctorate thesis was to be no exemption to this political requirement. Studies into the relationship between the intentions, actions and outcomes of a range of revivalist initiatives, including Maori schools, Maori fisheries and Maori kinship groups, began, like most Maori research of the period, as a way of supporting Maori political aspirations.
Almost a decade later, the notion of kaupapa Maori research is so entrenched that even at the level of the government’s new tertiary research funding policy (a policy designed to develop New Zealand’s scientific community within the competitive global market), an ethnic version of knowledge is accepted without question. ‘Maori research was seen to encompass research into things Maori, and research conducted according to Maori methods of research and subscribing to Maori ways of knowing.’ This ethnic ‘way of knowing’ is to be developed through a Maori Knowledge and Development panel which will consist of experts on Maori research. ‘The panel would directly evaluate Maori researchers, and (where appropriate) provide advice to other panels where the research being evaluated had a Maori focus.’ (Ministry of Education, 2003: 36).
The inherent conflict between research that is ‘independent’, ‘open to scrutiny’ and ‘driven by hypotheses or intellectual positions capable of rigorous assessment’ (Ministry of Education, 2003: 17) on the one hand, and ‘closed’ (ie. not available for independent critical scrutiny) neotraditionalist research on the other is not addressed by the new Tertiary Education Commission in its policy formulation document. The tendency to ignore the hard issues of the meaning of ethnic recognition in the contemporary world is characteristic of the government’s ad hoc treaty-based approach. The institutionalisation of kaupapa Maori research into the tertiary sector with the establishment of the Maori Development and Knowledge Panel and a Maori Centre for Research Excellence is just the most recent example of this reactive process of ‘principles of the treaty’ inclusion.
As my own research progressed during the early 1990s it became impossible to ignore the tensions and contradictions that began appearing in the research findings. These pointed to a different interpretation of ethnic and indigenous identity politics. Finally I had no choice but to abandon the political intentions of my research and address the issues revealed in the studies. I theorised the unacknowledged contradictions and the disparities between the Maori revivalist claims and the actual outcomes in terms of an emergent neotribal capitalist regime (Rata, 1999, 2000). This theoretical position has led to further research into the neotraditionalist ideology which is neotribal capitalism’s self-representation.
The research analyses the brokerage mechanisms that enabled the tribal elites to acquire tribal, rather than pan-Maori ownership, of the historical reparation settlements, and that continue to provide political access. It includes an examination of the ways in which the neotraditionalist ideology has been so comprehensively taken into the institutions and processes of the democratic state. Other research critiques the culturalist discourse in academia and government. The purpose of these studies is to demonstrate the cumulative effects of neotraditionalism upon the universalist egalitarian principles that inform and support New Zealand democracy (Rata, 2002b, 2003a, 2003b).
Part Three The Research Studies
The initial studies that led to theorising neotribal capitalism are: the bicultural project of the 1980s, the revival of a Maori whanau or extended family, the family’s return to tribal lands and establishment of a marine farm, the tribe’s own revival, the establishment of the national Maori fishing industry and the establishment of kura kaupapa Maori. The first study, of the 1980s’ bicultural project (Rata 1996b, 2000), was an examination of the ‘goodness and power’ (Gouldner, 1979: 36) paradox experienced by an expanding group of self-conscious ethnic pakeha who were committed to establishing biculturalism on a national scale in order to support the Maori cultural revival.
This complemented the study of a Maori family (Rata 1996c, 2000) who had undertaken a revival of genealogical ties in order to return to traditional tribal lands and establish a marine farm. In turn, that study led to an account of the process by which the Ngati Kuri tribe of New Zealand’s far north emerged from two centuries of ‘historical invisibility’ to become a major player in Maori politics from 1988 (Rata 2000). The study of the family’s marine farm led to an investigation of the newly established national Maori fisheries (Rata 2000).
My own background in kura kaupapa Maori education meant that studies of the establishment of the schools and the accompanying teacher education programme were also undertaken (Rata 1996a, 2001). Post-doctoral studies of family revival practices (Rata 2002a), kaupapa Maori influence on teacher education (2002b), neotraditionalist ideology (Rata 2003a) and the Maori elite of neotribal capitalism (Rata 2003b) followed. It is my intention here to give a very brief account of several of the studies, primarily to show the path taken from the studies to theorising neotribal capitalism, and latterly, to extending the theoretical ideas to the broader implications for New Zealand democracy (Rata 2003b). This progression of my scholarship, from uncritical participant-observer ethnographer to critical theorist, did, not surprisingly, require that I reconsider the relationship between research and political engagement at a very fundamental level (Rata 2002c).
The study of the bicultural project of the 1980s focussed upon the actions and motives of an increasingly influential group of settler descendants who, born in the prosperous post-war period, received free secondary and university education in large numbers. Many of these people entered the humanities-based professions of teaching, health, the church, social services and the media, with a smaller number moving into government and politics. (The biographies of many senior politicians in the current Labour Government fit this profile). Their left-wing political instincts were honed in the heady days of radical student activism, from the ‘Ban the Bomb’ and anti-Vietnam war protests of the 1960s to the conservation and anti-apartheid movements of the 1970s.
Culminating in the 1981 nation-wide demonstrations against the visiting South African Springbok rugby team, this activism channelled its focus and energy into a home-grown issue – Maori cultural revival. In the post-1981 period, culture identity became its focus. Biculturalism emerged as the means by which Maori and settler descendants could recognise each other as distinct ethnic identities, identities that justified claims to geographical place. Anglo settler-descendants adopted the older Maori term ‘pakeha’ as the self-referent in increasingly large numbers.
Cultural recognition moved quickly into political recognition. By 1985, the Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Act gave significant power to the earlier, and more symbolic 1975 Treaty of Waitangi Act. The 1985 Amendment ensured that the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi and its enforcer and interpreter, the Waitangi Tribunal, had significant political and moral authority. The research study examined the enthusiasm of pakeha biculturalists in exploring both their own identity as pakeha in a particular relation to Maori, and in supporting Maori revivalism. Specific attention was drawn to the extent of pakeha feminist support for Maori self-determination and then to a further shift, in the early 1990s to a largely silent retreat from Maori issues. The heyday of pakeha biculturalism, characterised by large numbers of self-identifying pakeha learning the Maori language, attending marae visits and advocating bicultural practices in the workplace gave way to a confused but silent withdrawal by many of the earlier biculturalist as retribalisation replaced the earlier pan-Maori social justice ideals that had characterised the bicultural movement.
Despite several decades spent in recognising and emphasising the differences between Maori and pakeha, both pakeha biculturalists and Maori revival leaders, as members of the prosperous and well-educated new middle class, have a similar educational background and shared middle-class political and economic aspirations. City-raised and university educated in the main, Maori who have become the brokers of neotribal capitalism, emerged as an elite during the revivalist movement’s shifts from cultural renaissance in the 1970s to retribalisation and tribal economic development in the 1980s and 1990s. Recently their concern is to institutionalise various forms of tribal political partnership with the government, moves that will consolidate their position as a neotribal capitalist aristocracy. As the elite of neotribal capitalism they retain the links forged with their pakeha counterparts during the rise of the well-educated new professional class from the 1960s. They shared the radical politicisation of the new middle class in the protest culture. Just as importantly they shared the shift to middle class prosperity in the following decades.
It is unsurprising that the networks with their pakeha counterparts from the days of shared protests were maintained. Many continued to work together as lecturers and teachers in schools, polytechnics and universities, or as trade union officials, or in welfare, the media and the church. As the radicals became successful and influential in politics, the bureaucracy and the professions, the Maori professionals were able to insist that their pakeha bicultural associates actually enact the rhetoric of cultural recognition that both had created. Indeed the confidence of Maori professionals as the political ‘drivers’ is revealed in the ‘scary radical’ role ‘defiantly embrace(d)’ (Simpson, 2003: 51) by a Maori educationalist who asserts ‘So a lot of people see us coming and they run – but, you know we’re Maori people and you can’t run far’ (Pihama quoted in Simpson, 2003: 51).
This commonality of real material conditions and radicalism (increasingly nostalgic as the radicals aged) explains the continued and effective support of left-leaning pakeha for the Maori revival through all its forms, from the earlier cultural renaissance to the more recent construction of ethnic boundaries within the nation’s political structure.
Commitment to retribalisation and biculturalism of an increasingly political kind was not disrupted by the movement of some members of this group into new right politics during the 1980s. (Several members of the 1984 – 1990 Labour Government founded a new right-wing political party after failing to retain control of the Labour Government that they had pushed to the right). Indeed the tribe was regarded as the perfect regulatory mode for the new right policy of devolved state activities. Those pakeha biculturalists who remained on the left regarded the tribes as organisations governed by communal mechanisms more deeply democratic than the supposedly ‘limited’ democratic forms of representative government.
The commonality between tribal leaders and influential pakeha of the right and the left in government goes some way towards explaining the extraordinary success of the tribes in acquiring and maintaining political recognition. Not only has a non-democratic organisation (the neotribe with its hierarchical social relations and kinship-based membership) been successful in arguing that it, rather than all Maori, be the inheritors of the grievance settlements, but this very organisation is acquiring legal recognition as a Treaty-based political ‘partner’. Attempts by the government to award constitutional recognition to the neotribe in terms of political partnership have been thwarted only by the absence of a national consensus. The Minister of Treaty Negotiations, Margaret Wilson, acknowledges that the more limited ambition of recognition through legislative inclusion ‘may be the best that can be achieved in the current political climate’ (1996: 15).
The second study of the establishment of kura kaupapa Maori, traced the campaign of an Auckland-based Maori group, Te Runanga o Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tamaki Makaurau, to establish Maori language and philosophy schools and to acquire recognition and funding from the state for these schools. The schools were an extension of the early childhood centres, kohanga reo, set up in the early 1980s in order to reverse the declining use of the Maori language. The study showed the brokerage process of the bicultural project in action as biculturalists committed themselves to supporting the establishment of separate Maori schools in legislation and policies.
The success of the Runanga’s campaign for state funding of kura kaupapa Maori was acquired on the basis of the claim that the kura would produce bilingual and bicultural citizens. The appeals to inclusive national sentiment in the submissions to the government during the pre-legislation period may be contrasted with the neotribalist discourse of the movement itself. These show the contrasting interpretations by pakeha biculturalists and Maori neotribalists with respect to the purpose of kaupapa Maori education. The biculturalists supported kaupapa Maori education as part of the commitment to the group rights idea used to justify identity politics despite the fact that the notion of group rights subverts the basic democratic principle that it is the individual, not the group, who is the bearer of legal and political rights. For the neotraditionalists on the other hand, kaupapa Maori education was concerned with restoring the primordial kinship relations of the traditional tribe.
My other studies of a Maori family’s cultural and economic reconstitution in the late 1980s and its establishment of a marine farm on tribal lands showed how the economic processes of capitalisation and commodification changed the family’s relations in fundamental ways. The family or whanau achieved a great deal in a few years, testament to the deep beliefs that a return to traditional values and practices would replace the unemployment and problems of modern urban living. Like many other Maori families of the time (all with varying numbers of pakeha among the whanau – the result of ongoing and frequent intermarriage) this whanau researched its genealogy, traced family members, held reunions, funerals, unveilings and birth practices according to traditional custom. Naming children after their Maori ancestors and insisting that others use the Maori name with the correct pronunciation replaced the English names that had become common from the 1950s. By the later 1980s, the researched whanau had established its genealogy, placed its younger children in the kohanga and kura, held the mandatory whanau reunion and acquired land in its tribal homelands.
The establishment of a marine farm by those of the whanau who returned permanently to the tribal lands (others visited intermittently, some for a while before the visits trailed off) ended this period of communal involvement. In the early stages everyone, including the pakeha members of the whanau, were involved in the retribalisation process and planning for the marine farm. However, problems emerged even before the marine farm was established. There were conflict over ownership definition, kin belonging, the place of pakeha and Maori from other tribes in relation to direct descendant whanau members and to the tribal resources, the way in which capital contribution (as its form in either actual money, physical labour or mental labour) related to work done on the farm and anticipated profits.
It was not long before the farm was divided in two for each of the nuclear families who had agreed to settle permanently. The ideal of a large communal holding worked by a permanent group and augmented by the occasional visits of the city-based family members was soon rejected in favour of small enterprises owned and operated by couples and their children who worked on the farm and who would receive the profits of their labours. It was no different from any other small agricultural holding throughout the country except that in this case the families did not have freehold land but claimed the right to the land and shoreline on the basis of tribal descent.
Researching a small family based economic enterprise led into researching the establishment of Maori economic venture, the national tribal fisheries to see if the same issues of access, ownership, control and benefit, were similar to those issues at the marine farm level. The fisheries study examined the contribution made to neotribal capitalism by the reshaping of pan-Maori revivalism into retribalisation in processes of property rights, capitalisation and brokerage. The 1985 Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Act and the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission were pivotal in the reshaping of Maori revivalism into neotribal capitalism. In a series of treaty and fisheries legislation and policies tribal legal identity became defined in terms of property ownership rather than as social and cultural entity only.
The 1989 Maori Fisheries Act built upon the recognition of the tribes as modern legal corporate entities established in the 1985 Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Act. It became the mechanism for defining the nature and extent of tribal property rights. ‘It follows’ (that is, from the 1989 Maori Fisheries Act, which recognised in law that “article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed Maori continued possession of their fisheries, Signatories to the Treaty were the chiefs – the representatives of the tribes’) ‘that the rights being dealt with in the Maori Fisheries Act should be tribal rights, and that ownership of those rights, to the extent that they continue in existence today through the provisions of the Maori Fisheries Act, should rest with tribes’ (Habib, 1991: 30).
The 1992 Settlement Act was the historical ‘moment’ when the newly recognised tribal property became capital. Property rights invested in the private person or the corporation (the neotribe) are not yet capital although the legal recognition of ownership is a necessary step in the path to capitalism. That step occurred with the mechanism created by the Settlement Act for the use of tribal property in the production and circulation of commodities based upon the utilisation of the fisheries property. Commodification is the accumulative mechanism of capitalism.
The study of the re-emergence of the Ngati Kuri tribe from several centuries of obscurity showed how the process of identity recognition was essential to claiming property rights. Once the traditional resources were recognised legally as tribal resources, it was imperative for specific groups who had material interests to assert those interests through the median of the tribe. The Waitangi Tribunal was the institution that conferred tribal recognition upon claimant groups. For tribes such as Ngati Kuri or the Chatham Islands Moriori who had been included in the definition of another collectivity, the Tribunal provided a place for the juridification of a contemporary definition.
This definition merged the revived historical tribal definition with the new capital-owning corporate identity. Without a clear tribal definition, descendant groups could not access the tribal property rights that were acquiring legal recognition from the late 1980s. Tribes, such as the Moriori Tchakat Henu (indigenous Moriori) sought judicial recognition of their self-defining status as a historically distinguishable tribal group in order to challenge the allocation of fishing property rights already made as part of a claim by another tribal group. Ngati Kuri, on the other hand, undertook the process of tribal definition re-establishment in order to make a claim for fishing property rights on the basis of its historical existence and the need for the people of the area to maintain their access to the fishing grounds.
The whanau’s revival, the fisheries study and the marine farm study opened up another important piece in the retribalisation process, that is, the revival of the tribal structure itself. The retribalising whanau needed a tribe to return to, the fisheries claimants needed strong tribal identities in whose name claims could be connected to the tribal signatures on the Treaty of Waitangi. This historical link provided the justification for the contemporary claim as a tribal, not a pan-Maori, claim. The decision to allocate fisheries resources under the treaty grievance process led to a wave of tribal definition and consolidation. Some of the larger tribes maintained a strong core of adherents within the tribal lands. Others, such as the tribe to which the researched whanau belonged, were severely depopulated. The study of this particular tribe, the Ngati Kuri of New Zealand’s far north became an account of historical invisibility and visibility, interwoven with the fortunes of the Rimu whanau itself.
Part Four Theorising Neotribal Capitalism
Taken on their own, each of the research studies suggested unacknowledged discrepancies between intentions and outcomes. These discrepancies could be explained as a project gone wrong, a specific problem due to an unexpected event or rogue occurrence. However, all the studies suggested the same problem. The way in which a particular project was explained fitted best with the intentions, rather than the outcomes, of that project. For example, the intention of the kura kaupapa Maori movement was to produce bicultural and bilingual citizens of New Zealand. This was the way the movement was explained to its own members and to its biculturalist supporters in influential educational positions and in government. However, my research showed that the shift away from biculturalism towards an insular tribalism had begun even before the legislation was achieved.
By 1990, the kura kaupapa Maori legislation had instituted the kura into the state education system. Political support had been achieved on the basis of its stated committed to bicultural citizenship. Yet, the founding document of kura kaupapa Maori, Te Aho Matua (which was later included in legislation), was based upon the notion that the purpose of the kura was to construct each child as a member of its tribe. Kin belonging was placed before concepts of individual autonomy and universalism that underpinned the mainstream state education system. The incorporation of Te Aho Matua into the kura kaupapa Maori legislation exemplifies the institutionalisation of neotraditionalism.
Discrepancies both between Maori revivalist intentions and outcomes, and between the actual outcomes and the explanation of the outcomes, were also revealed in the marine farm and fisheries studies. The process by which communal ownership was acquired, resources capitalised, commodities produced, and access to and control of the resources showed in fact a process of privatisation. The group who acquired the resources in the communal name went on to acquire effective control over the resources. Detribalised Maori were excluded completely, despite the fact that pakeha biculturalists’ support for the Maori revival was achieved on the basis of the movement’s pan-Maori social justice intentions. Those Maori who identified with the tribe but who were not in the controlling elite have received little benefit either from the treaty settlements.
Tribal control rests with the elite who justify their leadership positions according to neotraditionalist notions of revived tribal leadership, a hierarchical structure based upon birth ascription and aristocratic lineage. The concept of traditional aristocratic ascription has supported the general acceptance by the non-elite tribal Maori of the legitimacy of the tribal elite, despite its new classed character. An influential Maori academic and tribal leader, Sydney Mead, justifies contemporary tribal leadership in terms of its continuity with the past. ‘The social system of traditional times is still in place. Though greatly changed. Waka, iwi, hapu and whanau still exist despite years of government efforts to undermine them. There is still a Maori leadership system.’ (1997: 203).
The discrepancies between intentions and outcomes in all the studies mirrored the greatest discrepancy of all, one that was increasingly hard to ignore. Widespread pakeha (and Maori too in many cases) support for the Maori revival and cultural, then political, biculturalism was based on the belief that this was to be the path to greater social justice. The concept of a decent and just society has deep roots in New Zealand history and is an ideal still advanced in contemporary political parties. Despite the experiment with new right policies in the late eighties and early 1990s, New Zealanders remain attached to a history of democratic egalitarianism and take pride in the social justice legislation of the 1890s and 1930s. Yet several decades of biculturalism intended to bring Maori in from the margins and improve Maori social and economic conditions had resulted in the disenfranchisement of those very Maori, whose poor status is the result of earlier detribilisation and whose guarantee of continued impoverishment was caused by their present inability to become retribalised. Detribalised Maori, in whose name the historical reparation settlements had initially been promoted, were excluded from those settlements.
There was a further problem. The tribes had acquired access to the settlements because they claimed to be the traditional tribe in a contemporary context. If it’s tribal then it’s traditional. And yet the studies all pointed to the emergence of new social relations within a new social structure. My research task was to locate the discrepancies in a theoretical framework that had sufficient explanatory power. The frequent use of post-colonial approaches, such as post-colonial trauma, to explain continuing Maori disadvantage had become less plausible given the visible evidence of considerable advantage to some Maori and ongoing disadvantage to Maori poor.
All the studies pointed to the type of relationship between the social environment and the economic environment as the source of the discrepancies and conflicts. According to neotribal capitalist theory the changed social relationship between people was a consequence of the new relationships of people to material resources. Despite the fact that the lands, waters and other resources were the same material things as in the past, indeed the same as in 1840 when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, the meaning and use of these resources had changed in fundamental ways. However, in returning the resources to the tribes, the resources were juridified into legal ownership within a legal system based upon the concept of private ownership. They were capitalised as resources available for the production of commodities and the creation of profit under the control of a particular group.
The relationships between people, although still based upon notions of shared ancestry were different in fundamental ways from the communal relationships of the traditional tribe. Exploitative class relations, based upon differential access to and control of the traditional resources, replaced the traditional relationships located in the tribal hierarchical structures of a redistributive economy.
The tribe as the structuring principle of the social relations of the kin-group, was a legally defined economic unit within a democratic nation-state, a corporate neotribe. Despite the fact that the neotribe continues to practice certain cultural customs of the traditional tribe and is comprised of the descendants of its historical members, it is a new social structure, defined primarily by its economic functions. It is an economic corporation in a capitalist economic system, the same as all capitalist organisations in that it is accumulative not redistributive, class not communally structured.
It is not the modernised productive forces that determined the character of the tribe but the underlying relations between the people. Despite claims that these relations were still communal as in the traditional tribe, the logic of capitalism is that of an accumulatory regime which privileges those who own or control the capital resources. Accumulation follows resource ownership or control of the commodification process. Class division results from that control. The elite of the neotribe has a privileging relationship to the resources under its control. This fact separates them from those who, as a result of their detribalised status, are not even nominal owners of the tribes’ resources, and from those, who, as tribal members, are nominal shareholders in the tribal corporation, but whose influence is limited by the leadership ideology of neotribal capitalism.
The retribalisation movement itself did not automatically lead to neotribal capitalism. The emergence of this mode of production required the combination of a range of factors, not least the global context of new post-fordist forms of worker organisation and control that favoured localised production and communal or team worker organisation. Neotribal capitalism is a form of capitalism suited to late capitalism in that its modes of regulation provide new and undemocratic form of worker organisation and control.
Legal tribal status, legal recognition of traditional resources as tribal property, the capitalisation of the property and the production of commodities, the brokerage of the capitalised resources into the national and international economy, the control of the property (both capital and commodities) by one group at the expense of another group – all these factors needed to combine in order for neotribal capitalism to emerge as the structuring principle of the ‘revived’ tribe. And, in turn, none of these forces were possible without the bicultural context that was created from the relationship between two groups of the new professional class, whose historical position led them to identity themselves and others in terms of ethnic identity rather than according to the univeralist ethos that underpins New Zealand’s democracy.
In 2022 I would conclude with this phrase “and that is under grave threat from the neotribal elite and its agenda to transform New Zealand from democracy into ethno-nationalism.
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 The 2002 Speech from the Throne at the Opening of the 47th Parliament by the Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright (Cartwright, 2002) shows how thoroughly Treaty rhetoric is established in government circles. ‘The basis of constitutional government in this country is to be found in its founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi. My government values and remains committed to strengthening its relationship with tangata whenua (indigenous people). That means fulfilling its obligations as a Treaty partner’. Despite the insistence upon constitutional recognition, the Treaty has no constitutional status in law apart from the requirement in many acts of legislation that the principles of the Treaty are recognised or adhered to. Recent media comments by a former politician indicate the extent of the lack of consensus concerning the Treaty of Waitangi. ‘(M)ost New Zealanders do not support a treaty-based nationhood (whose rules are) so arcane that only an elite can understand them’ (Upton, 2003: 6). This view is supported by the results of a 1999 national survey of attitudes and values (Perry and Webster, 1999) which found that ‘’this is clearly not a picture of a nation with a substantial and growing proportion of support for the Treaty and the Waitangi Tribunal. Our results seem to indicate that this is issue is a major point of division within the country.’ (1999:74).
 A discussion of the brokers, the brokerage mechanisms, and the privileging outcomes of brokerage is available in Rata, 2003b
 rangatiratanga – this word has a range of meanings concerning authority. They range from some form of limited governance, to self-determination, to the concept of full sovereignty.
 Being Pakeha was the title of an influential book by Michael King. Published in 1981 at the beginning of the bicultural movement this book was avidly read by those of the new professional class who were identifying in increasing numbers as ethnic Pakeha in relation to Maori rather than in terms of a national New Zealander identity.
 Foucault’s (2001: 71) concept of ‘genealogy’ as ‘the union of erudite knowledge and local memories which allow us to establish a historical knowledge of struggles and to make use of this knowledge tactically today’ is re-interpreted to emphasise the ‘local memories’ and the primacy of the ‘immediate experience’ at the expense of the ‘erudite knowledge’.
 iwi – tribe, whakapapa – genealogy, mana – status, marae – meeting place, whanau – extended family, hapu – collectivity of whanau
 kura kaupapa Maori – Maori language and culture schools
 Chris Trotter (2003: 47) refers to the de-socialising of the Labour movement by the new professional class and their identity politics. ‘(T)hroughout the Labour movement – where whole layers of working-class leadership were being quietly, and in a few cases noisily, shunted aside. It had begun in the parliamentary Labour Party as far back as the 1970s but, by the end of the 1980s, vitually the entire Labour Party organisation, and whole swathes of the trade union movement, had fallen victim to the same relentless forces of what was called ‘”professionalisation”.’
1st June 2022
The article was published in The Australian, 25th May 2022
New Zealand’s constitution is currently undergoing a major heart and lung transplant via co-governance arrangements between Māori corporate tribes and the government.
It beggars belief that one of the modern world’s first democracies — founded in the fledgling 1852 Constitution Act — is descending into ethno-nationalism but the Labour Government is determined to embed racialised policies across a swathe of the nation’s laws and institutions, and not least in education.
Led by radical intellectuals of the corporate tribes and enabled by social justice warriors armed with an unassailable moral righteousness, New Zealand’s entire education system is rapidly being revolutionised.
Proposals in a recent government Green Paper for a Treaty of Waitangi-led science and research system include recognising mātauranga Māori (traditional knowledge) as equivalent to science.
The universities too are indigenising. According to the University of Auckland’s Pro-Vice Chancellor (Māori), this means “finding ways where Māori knowledge, ways of being, thinking and doing can thrive”.
Proposals to transform the university curriculum and teaching by inserting mātauranga Māori and kinship-based teaching and learning practices are now in the consultation phase.
The revolution does not stop there. The entire school sector is to be “decolonised”. The Ministry of Education’s ‘Te Hurihanganui A Blueprint for Transformative Systems Shift’ will include recognising “white privilege” and understanding racism in schools while the Ministry’s Curriculum Refresh will place ‘knowledge derived from Te Ao Māori (the Māori world)’ in the curriculum.
These initiatives, targeted at all levels of the education system will provide opportunities for an expansion of the cadre of decolonisers as ‘Māori exercise authority and agency over their mātauranga (knowledge), tikanga (customs) and taonga (treasures)’.
Four strategies will ensure the revolution succeeds:
First, the opposition is being positioned as racist and reactionary, effectively silencing debate and creating self-censorship.
Second, government servants are required to accept the revisionist notion that the Treaty of Waitangi is a ‘partnership’ between two co-governing entities. Reprogramming services by government-paid consultants are on hand to encourage appropriate attitudes — signalled most obviously by insisting on using the correct language.
Third, the abandonment of universalism by the well-educated liberal-left who inhabit elevated positions in government and the caring professions will remove democracy’s very foundation. This is the principle of a shared universal humanity with the individual as the political category. It is the final point in the four decades convergence of post-modern relativism and identity politics.
The fourth strategy will be the clincher. It is the use of intellectual relativism to destroy the separation of science and culture that characterises the modern world.
Traditional cultural knowledge, including mātauranga Māori, employs supernatural explanations for natural and physical phenomena. It also includes practical knowledge (proto-science or pre-scientific), acquired from observation, experience, and trial and error.
Such traditional knowledge has provided ways for humans to live successfully in their environment. Sometimes this has occurred in highly sophisticated ways, such as ocean navigation by the stars and currents, while efficacious medicines from plants may have helped to advance scientific or technological knowledge. Consequently, the role of traditional knowledge in humanity’s history justifies a place somewhere in the educational curriculum. But it is not science. It does not explain why natural and physical phenomena occur — just that they do.
Science provides naturalistic explanations for such phenomena in the discovery of empirical, universal truths. It proceeds by conjecture and refutation. It requires doubt, challenge and critique, forever truth-seeking but with truth never fully settled.
Science’s naturalism and its self-criticism are anathema to the science-culture equivalence claim. A fundamental principle of science is that no knowledge is protected from criticism, yet the Green Paper refers to protecting mātauranga Māori. Knowledge that requires protection is belief, not science. Knowledge authorised by culture is ideology, not science.
Furthermore, mātauranga Māori’s inclusion in science throughout New Zealand’s education system will place research under cultural authority. Alarmingly, that authority is to be wielded by evangelical commissars who cannot be questioned.
The outrage encountered by those foolish or brave enough to mount a defence of science shows how important science-culture co-equivalence is to the overall decolonisation strategy.
Decolonisers will not, indeed cannot, tolerate its rejection. To do so would expose the fundamental premise of a racial ideology which claims that there is no universal human being and no universal science.
This article was published as a chapter in:
Rata, E. (2020). The History of an Intellectual Dispute at Auckland’s School of Education. In Bonal, X., Coxon, E., Novelli, M.& A. Verger. Education, globalisation and the state: Essays in honour of Roger Dale. (pp. 153-164). New York: Peter Lang.
The History of an Intellectual Dispute at Auckland’s School of Education
The article has three aims. The first is to trace the origins of the knowledge/power orthodoxy in New Zealand’s educational studies to the influence of Critical Theory and postmodernism in the School of Education during the 1990s. The second is to justify both my opposition to the orthodoxy and my claim that kaupapa Māori is an ideology in the interests of the retribalising elite. This is contrasted with my claim that neotribal capitalism is an objective theory of elite emergence. The third is to locate the potential objectivity of knowledge in the accountability procedures of the scientific method. I conclude by identifying a foundational flaw in kaupapa/matauranga Māori theory. This is the confusion of the ethical relation between the researcher and the research subjects with the scientific method of investigation, analysis, and theorising.
Knowledge, Objectivity, Neotribal Capitalism, Kaupapa Māori, Matauranga Māori
Elizabeth Rata is a professor of education in the School of Critical Studies, Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. She is the Director of the Knoweldge in Education Research Unit (KERU) where she leads the international Knowledge-Rich School Project. This project is trialling the usefulness of the Curriculum Design Coherence Model for teacher professional development and pre-service teacher education. Roger Dale supervised her masters thesis about the establishment of kura kaupapa Māori and her doctoral thesis about neotribal capitalism.
The ‘culture turn’ from a class explanation of inequality, one grounded in political economy theory, to a culture explanation is now the orthodox explanation for social divisions in New Zealand. The School of Education at the University of Auckland was a major contributor to the ‘culture turn’ during the 1990s when Roger Dale was a professor in the School. It was a period of intense intellectual activity and served as the convergence site for two sets of ideas about the knowledge – power relation which were used to justify the class to culture shift. Both sets of ideas, Critical Theory and Postmodernism, conceptualise knowledge as always and necessarily ideological, as subjective, and tied to the knower and their interests in what became known more broadly as standpoint or identity approaches (Maton and Moore, 2010).
Although I initially shared this knowledge/power orthodoxy; that knowledge is always ideological (Rata, 1991), I have increasingly developed an alternative position. I now argue that it is possible for knowledge to be separated from the ‘knower’ and, as a consequence of the separation, to become objective and no longer serve as the ideology for a group’s political and economic interests. The separation occurs in processes both of disciplinary accountability and of objectification, generalisation, and universalisation (Rata, 2018). My intentions in this chapter are threefold . One is to trace the origins of the knowledge/power orthodoxy to the influence of Critical Theory and Postmodernism in the School of Education during the 1990s. The second is to show how my opposition to the orthodoxy did in fact emerge out of Marxist Critical Theory although it has now taken a different turn. The third is to locate the potential objectivity of knowledge in the accountability procedures of the scientific method.
Knowledge of the powerful and the powerless
One set of ideas which supported the knowledge/power conflation was centred on the New Sociology of Education (NSOE), specifically the ideas of Critical Theory. Roger Dale’s arrival at the School of Education in 1988 cemented the centrality of Critical Theory in the School’s burgeoning growth, an influence seen both in academic publications and in postgraduate theses. His appointment as Professor and Head of School generated a sense amongst us (I was one of those postgraduate students) that the School was part of the progressive NSOE movement rejuvenating the discipline and connecting us to advocacy educational approaches worldwide. The assumption that academic knowledge was in the service of political advocacy was not only taken for granted but we believed that it gave us moral authority to use our scholarship for the social justice ideals we claimed for ourselves.
We postgraduate students assumed that Critical Theory and Postmodernism were bedfellows, despite the absence of class analysis in the latter, an assumption based on the idea shared in both that knowledge is ideology, created and used in the interests of the knowers. According to our analysis, if knowledge and power are intimately connected then that logic also applies to knowledge of the powerless. Furthermore, the knowledge of the disadvantaged is rendered powerless in the oppression visited upon the subjugated by those whose knowledge is used in their own interests. In New Zealand’s case, these were the interests of the coloniser, interests justified by ‘Western’ knowledge. The ‘knowledge of the powerless’ versus ‘knowledge of the powerful’ approach was the seed for kaupapa/matauranga Māori theory.
The phrase ‘in whose interests’ had became the guiding question in our postgraduate studies. We took the knowledge/power mantra into the academic careers which opened up for us as teacher education moved into the universities in the early 1990s. Positions in the newly created Ministry of Education and in the NZ Centre for Educational Research also provided opportunities. This brief period of significant structural change in higher education enabled us to move into these influential positions where we (and our ideas) have remained. It was a heady time for those of us who acquired academic employment in that brief window of opportunity, one that may explain the confidence we had that our ideas were justified, if not by their logic, then by the good intentions which drove them. We were the new professional class ‘doing well by doing good’ (Rata, 1996a). Underpinned by the moral authority of social justice ideals, knowledge/power theory was protected from critique, not least because it advocated for the ‘knowledge of the powerless’ against the ‘knowledge of the ‘powerful’. For working class Māori who suffered from the decade’s neoliberal reforms, the scholarly advocacy of kaupapa Māori was timely. Inequality was to be understood as colonial-imposed oppression and not as the effects of contemprary politics.
Roger Dale’s Critical Theory credentials caused considerable excitement amongst postgraduate students in the School. Many of us, including myself, Tuakana (Tuki) Nepe, Linda Smith, and Graham Smith were involved in the establishment of kaupapa Māori education within the broader Māori revival movement (Nepe et. al, 1989 ; Rata, 1989; 1991). Here was the opportunity to acquire the theory with which to inform our politics. We used the ideas of ‘praxis’ from Critical Theory and of ‘knowledge/power’ from Postmodernism to justify our research. We insisted that knowledge can never be objective, that it is always and necessarily the ‘knowledge of the powerful’ acting against the ‘knowledge of the powerless’. In this way, kaupapa Māori theory was able to position itself as the praxis of the powerless.
Following the completion of our masters’ degrees (mine supervised by Roger Dale was an account of the Kaupapa Māori schools’ establishment [Rata, 1991] with Tuki Nepe’s (1990) describing kaupapa Māori theory, three of us went on to complete doctoral degrees also under his supervision. These are neotribal capitalism theory which I developed in my PhD thesis in 1996 (book 2000), Linda Smith’s decolonising methodologies theory (1996, book 1999) and Graham Smith’s 1997 PhD thesis about kaupapa Māori theory and practice.
Neotribal Capitalism and Kaupapa Māori
Neotribal capitalism (Rata, 1996b, 2000) theorised the production of the conditions of social life in Māori society using Marxist economic determinacy. (In that, I was true to Critical Theory’s premise.) I identified three main themes. The first is the global-local dialectic which characterises capitalism. Local versions are characterised by their own particular racial, ideological, and historical circumstances but are structured by the class relations of that economic system. The second theme concerned the emergence of localised elites as access to resources and power was enabled by changing material conditions. The third theme identified the ideological character of local versions of global capitalism where I argued that, however strong the idealistic forces of pre-figurative movements such as cultural revivalism, they are ultimately compromised by class relations.
Localising politics, in New Zealand as elsewhere, contributed to capitalism’s neoliberal regulation by weakening the universalist democratic nation-state. The response was the turn to populist ideologies which promise the social belonging of the past. I used the shift from 1970s’ pan-Māori cultural revivalism to retribalisation to illustrate this theme, adopting from anthropology the term ‘culturalism’ to refer to neotraditionalism as the justifying ideology of retribalisation (Rata, 2003). The contemporary tribe is presented as the restoration of the traditional socio-politicial order, rather than, as I maintain, an economic corporation like any other, but one with political, even constitutional, ambitions. In contrast to my thesis, kaupapa Māori theory moved from its Marxist origins to provide the justification for retribalisation as a progressive political movement on behalf of all Māori. Critical Theory’s class analysis was abandoned but kaupapa Māori theory retained the Marxian emphasis on ‘praxis’, holding that “Kaupapa Māori contains the necessity of political action” (Smith, 2012, p. 12).
That political action was the retribalisation strategies which acquired momentum following four significant events. The first was the 1985 Treaty of Waitangi Act which enabled reparation claims to be back-dated to 1840 re-casting pan-Māori revivalism as retribalisation. The second was the State-owned Enterprises (SOE) Act 1986 (Section 9). “Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”. The history of Treaty principles in policy began at this time with the transfer of government assets to the new SOEs. Discussions between the Deputy Prime Minister, Geoffrey Palmer and Sir Hepi Te Heuheu of Ngati Tuwharetoa produced section 9. “However as Parliament did not indicate what the principles of the Treaty are, it fell to the Courts to discover them.” (Berthold in Rata, 2003)
The 1987 Court of Appeal decision was the third significant retribalisation event. The Chief Justice referred to the Treaty relationship as “akin to a partnership” (TPK, 2001, p. 78) not that it was a partnership (Round, 2002). However the word ‘partnership’ quickly became a central retribalising strategy. “This so-called partnership concept came into common parlance after a Court of Appeal case in the 1980s. The judges were attempting to describe the duties the parties to the treaty owed to each other. They likened it to the obligation partners in a partnership had, but they did not say that the treaty actually created a partnership nor did it”. (Graham, 2000, p. 13). With the fourth significant event, the 1991 Resource Management Act, which incorporated newly written Treaty principles into legislation, the corporate tribes and their interests moved into public institutions, a process which laid the foundation for constitutional claims.
It is unsurprising that the neotribal capitalism theory and Kaupapa Māori theory were developed in this political context. Both were responding to retribalising politics, albeit with opposing explanations. What may be surprising is that the opposing theories were developed in doctoral studies under the same superviser at the same time. I was developing the case for retribalisation as a process of elite emergence, one common to capitalism and initiated by the transfer of economic resources to the tribes and their political interests in the neoliberal climate. In contrast, kaupapa Māori theory was developing the justification for retribalisation as the restoration of traditional tribal governance. Retribalisation politics were seen to resist capitalism’s exploitative ‘logic of the commodity’ by providing an alternative ‘logic of the gift’. The logic of the gift idea, despite its origins in Mauss’ very ‘Western’ anthropology, is an attempt by indigenous academics to justify the ‘communal capitalism’ or ‘collective capitalism’ idea promoted by retribalising elites (Iwi Investment Wananga Report, 2010).
‘Communal or collective capitalism’ however is a contradiction in terms. Capitalism is a system which creates surplus value from the unpaid labour of the worker, surplus which, as profit, is taken by the capitalist. That exploitation, and with it the resulting class inequality, is built into the system itself. Political regulation may well be used to offset the resulting inequalities, and democratic governments seek to achieve this with various redistributive policies, but the inequalities are already created for political regulation to be required. However, the kaupapa Māori explanation of retribalisation is of the revival of a traditional system, with communal social relations carried into the new tribal corporations. In contrast, I argue that the contemporary tribe is structured according to the class relations not according to the communal relations of traditional tribal society. It is for this reason that I describe kaupapa Māori as an ideology, one which conceals the new structuring principle of the contemporary neotribe. However, establishing continuity to the past using discourses of traditinal revival (Rata, 2011) is an effective strategy used to access economic resources and political governance. It is not for nothing that the term whakapapa (genealogy) has assumed a significant discursive function .
The orthodox and largely uncritiqued view of retribalisation and its justification in kaupapa Māori theory that was laid down in the 1990s has been carried into the education system by a small but highly influential group of politicised graduates. It is to be found in Ministry of Education policy, the Teacher Graduating Standards, the localised national curriculum, and the shift to culturally-responsive pedagogies (Lynch and Rata, 2017). It influences social relations and practices at a daily level – operating as Foucault’s microtechnologies in naturalising the ideology. Even among academics and policy makers there appears to be little or no historical consciousness of contemporary Treaty interpretation, despite ‘partnership’ and ‘principles’ being as recent as the 1980s.
At the time of my PhD, I had not identified the knowledge/power conflation as a central problem to my work. In fact, identifying retribalisation as a culturalist ideology in my PhD merely reinforced my use of the conflation, although in my case, it was an emergent elite using the justification of powerless Māori to serve its political strategies. It was not until my 2000 reading of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason did I understand that a logical explanation for objective knowledge existed. Alternatives had not been provided when I did postgraduate study. Two years later I published a short monograph, Democratic principles in teaching and learning: A Kantian approach. Professor James Marshall sent me a courtesy pre-publication copy of his critique, one intended for publication in Access . He made it clear that I was in error; that knowledge was to be considered subjective, not objective as I was claiming. The ideas about knowledge in that monograph lay dormant until 2012 when I published The Politics of Knowledge in Education. By then I was increasingly dissatisfied with the taken-for-granted assumption that knowledge is always ‘in someone’s interests’ . What was the case for the opposite – that knowledge may become objective under certain conditions? If so, what are those conditions?
I identify four possible ways of responding to these questions. The first is the rationalist approach, the idea of a categorical apparatus identified by Kant as the means by which our cognition develops as we begin to classify and categorise in order to impose meaning on our experiences. Systems of presuppositions build human intelligence as the individual’s mental apparatus becomes increasingly more sophisticated with the abstraction of its contents (thoughts) from experience. Cognitive architecture theory and evolutionary educational theory (Geary, 2002) support this understanding of intelligence belonging to the individual but built as the individual is socialised into rationalised symbolic systems. In other words, individualising and socialising processes occur interdependently. It is a universalist view of human reason which allows for the unity of humankind given that cognitive processes (e.g. memorising, classifying, categorising and so on) are available to all. In turn these instruments of thought produce the thought itself. That objective ‘product’ is available to all through its generalisable capacity and because thought products can be shared using the symbolic system that is simultaneously the instrument of thought (individualising) and the means of communicating that thought (socialising).
A second approach regards knowledge as always subjective, that is always tied to the thinker. Its function as the means of communication within and for social relations is emphasised over its function as the individual’s thinking instrument. The source of thought is located in, and remains tied to, the myths, religions, languages, arts, and sciences of traditional knowledge and not in individual cognition. The knowledge to be valued and considered disciplinary may be the folk (Geary, 2002) or traditional knowledge of socio-historical groups as with kaupapa/matauranga Māori. It may be Hegel’s national spirit (as with ‘blood and soil’ nationalisms) or Marx’s class consciousness. Today, we see this knowledge in the ideologies of contemporary populist movements where traditional beliefs are harnessed to revived exclusive nationalisms.
This is the understanding of knowledge found in post-1970s’ revival of ethnicity as a structuring socio-political category (retribalisation in New Zealand) (Rata, 2017). It is the point I make in the introduction where I locate the impetus occurring in the School of Education for identifying the ‘knower’ as the ethnicised/racialised or indigenous subject. The subjective knowledge the group has of itself is considered to be the truth about the group, making any claims for objectivity redundant. Knowledge about the group by non-group or non-authorised members, especially when that knowledge makes claims to be objective (as I do with neotribal capitalism theory) is considered to be the use of knowledge to oppress the group. Only those within a group (or with the group’s permission [Rata, 2013]) can have a true understanding of the group’s experiences and interests. Because this knowledge is relative to the group, it can only be judged in terms of accountability criteria it sets for itself. This forecloses the requirement for accountability according to a discipline’s procedures concerning the scientific method. Indeed, disciplinary knowledge with its claims for rational objectivity is seen as just another cultural story, hence the rapid development of the indigenous versus Western dichotomy by the promoters of this approach.
In the past decade a third approach has emerged which seeks to reclaim the epistemological integrity of disciplines, that is, to recognise that scientific disciplines have developed ways to investigate and explain social and natural phenomena and procedures to ensure the rigour of those methods. This Durkheimian inspired response, referred to as ‘social realism’ (seminal writers include Rob Moore, Johan Muller, and Michael Young) locate the source of knowledge in the socio-historical conditions of power, as does the second approach above. But social realism argues for the possibility of objective knowledge as a consequence of the separation of the knower and the knowledge. The issue is how that separation occurs. Concepts that are central to a discipline can become separated (abstracted) from the conditions of their creation and used as the tools for both the creation of the research object (epistemology) and for its analysis and theorising (methodology) (Rata, 2018). An example is my use of class theory in neotribal capitalism. However, disciplinary concepts are insufficient to guarantee objectivity. The researcher’s selection of these concepts may be biased by her politics. This makes accountability to a discipline’s procedures, to the use of the scientific method, of crucial importance.
The central role of the scientific method is the main idea in the fourth approach. Creating knowledge that is objective depends on this method. Popper (2003) refers to the processes “of trial and error, of inventing hypothesis which can be practically tested, and submitting them to practical tests” (p. 241). Procedural accountability includes the use of recognised disciplinary concepts and of peer review in academic journals that are themselves accountable. That accountability moves the ideas outside the discipline to the public where their implications as well as their methods are available for scrutiny. Such openness to public criticism holds the discipline as well as the researcher to account. This can only occur if the knowledge is seen to be in the interests of humankind and not of the research subjects. That requires its objectification, its separation from the research subject. In Popper’s words, objective knowledge is “a product of the social or public character of scientific method” (p. 243).
My purpose in this paper has been to describe the development of two fundamentally different theories, neotribal capitalism and kaupapa/matauranga Māori in Auckland’s School of Education in the 1990s. Roger Dale’s doctoral supervision at the University of Auckland contributed to the ways in which his students (Linda Smith, Graham Smith, and myself along with many others), took very different paths in seeking the truth about knowledge. While my argument has taken me a long way from my doctoral colleagues, at that time our opposing ideas were just being developed. There was not the clarity about what was occurring that hindsight provides therefore it is timely to revive the discussion.
I continue to regard kaupapa Māori theory as the justifying ideology of retribalisation politics. Moreover I also continue to claim that neotribal capitalism is not ideology but an objective explanation for retribalisation. This claim is likely to add to the outrage already levelled at my research (and at me because for my critics the research and the researcher are tied). Surely neotribal capitalism is ideological, a theory in the interests of ‘Western’ knowledge, representing the politics of this researcher? My reply lies in the difference in accountability between the two theories.
For knowledge to be objective science, researchers must be accountable to their respective disciplines for the rigour of the method, and following that, the disciplines which guarantee that rigour must be accountable to the human society that their science serves. In contrast, the indigenous methodologies approach of kaupapa/matauranga Māori is that research methods are accountable to the people being researched. If that is the case then it is true that the research cannot be objective because it is always tied to the research subjects.
This argument for accountability to the researched is flawed. The ethical relation between the researcher and the research subjects is confused with the scientific method. However, the ethnical conduct of the research concerns the moral relationship between researchers and their subjects (human and non-human). For this moral relationship the researcher is accountable to those being researched using ethical guidelines developed within disciplines and institutions. But the scientific method used in the research is another story. For those methods of investigation, analysis, and theorising, the researcher is accountable to the discipline and to society.
My neotribal capitalism theory is an example of such disciplinary methods. My investigation into retribalisation processes and the way I theorised those processes are made available in a range of disciplinary journals (Li, 2010; Rose, 2017; Schroeder, 2003). In addition, anyone else can join the criticism in terms of how the theory may be a useful (or not) contribution to understanding society. Only ongoing criticism will tell if the theory stands up to scrutiny. But indigenous methodology will not recognise the validity of external criticism (although it does of course occur, e.g. Widdowson and Howard, 2008). For example, my critique of retribalisation is rejected on the grounds that I am not ‘authorised’ by the group. Because it is the ‘knower’ not the ‘knowledge’ which is held to account, a non-authorised researcher is troublesome. In Popper’s terms, the theory of neotribal capital is ‘open’ while kaupapa/matauranga Māori is ‘closed’ (Munz, 1999). The former remains science while the latter is belief.
A final note
It has been a deeply rewarding intellectual path since I began my postgraduate studies under Roger Dale’s supervision at the University of Auckland. We, his students, Linda Smith, Graham Smith and myself, have taken very different paths in seeking the truth about knowledge. What is more important than our different explanations about the society we live in is how we have used the scientific method. My first commitment is to the method’s accountability procedures. These ensure that ideas are continually ‘put on trial’ to be judged by everyone. The task of science is the ongoing search for truth but ironically it is a search that can never end because scientific ideas must remain provisional, must never become ‘truth’ for them to be science and not belief.
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FUTURE PATHWAYS TE ARA PAERANGI GREEN PAPER SUBMISSION
Professor Elizabeth Rata, University of Auckland
Distinguished Professor Brian Boyd, FRSNZ, University of Auckland, Rutherford Medalist 2020
14th March 2022
Future Pathways Policy Team
Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment
SCIENCE AND POLICY
The broad term ‘science’ refers to the knowledge created by scientific methods and procedures. Nations which allow ideologies to shape scientific research soon lose standing in the international science community. This will happen to New Zealand if the Green Paper’s “tiriti-led system” is implemented.
Scientific research may well inform policies in ways which do accommodate cultural values and practices. This is evidence-based policy. But policy follows research; it does not precede it. Science can inform policy but policy informing science leads to misinformation and the loss of scientific integrity. This would be equivalent to making science ‘Christian-led’ (or, if we were in another country, ‘Taliban-led’ or ‘Hindutva-led’ or ‘Xi Jinping thought-led’). It will not further science in New Zealand but will reduce this country’s attractiveness to international students and research collaborations.
SCIENCE AND MĀTAURANGA MĀORI
Enabling mātauranga Māori
The Green Paper assumes that mātauranga Māori should be ‘enabled’ in research institutions. It fails to recognise that science and traditional knowledge are fundamentally different in terms of their constitution, methods, procedures, value to society, and policy requirements.
Science provides naturalistic explanations for physical and social phenomena. It proceeds by conjecture and refutation. It requires doubt, challenge and critique, forever truth-seeking but with truth never fully settled.
Traditional knowledge, including mātauranga Māori, employs supernatural explanations such as ‘mauri’ and other vitalist concepts, for natural and social phenomena. It also includes practical knowledge (proto-science or pre-scientific), acquired from observation, experience, and trial and error. Such traditional knowledge provides ways for humans to live in the environment. Examples are ocean navigation by the stars and currents, efficacious medicines from plants, and social structures organised according to kinship relations and birth status.
The Green Paper’s reference to protect(ing) mātauranga Māori” (p. 5) is alarming. A fundamental principle of science is that no knowledge is protected. It develops from the systematic criticism and refutation of its own ideas. Knowledge that requires protection is belief, not science.
Science produces knowledge which may support or reject cultural knowledge. This means that the relationship between the two is necessarily one of tension. Mātauranga Māori’s inclusion in science is a rejection of this necessary relationship; indeed it goes further by placing research under cultural authority and interests. Knowledge authorised by culture is ideology, not science.
SCIENCE AND THE TREATY
New Zealand universities already undermine the conditions required for scientific research by requiring adherence to treaty principles, a practice which goes much further than intended by the term ‘acknowledgement’ used in the 1990 Education Act. The Green Paper’s “tiriti-led system” proposes to take that adherence much further in ways that will give ideology authority over science, imposing direction and constraints so that New Zealand research cannot meet international standards.
The intellectual freedom required for science is incompatible with a “tiriti-led system”. Such a system will need to remove New Zealand’s current legislative requirements that academic staff and students have the freedom “within the law, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas, and to state controversial or unpopular opinions” and that the university’s “principal aim is to develop intellectual independence”. These aims are to be achieved by “people who are active in advancing knowledge, who meet international standards of research and teaching, who are a repository of knowledge and expertise and who accept a role as critic and conscience of society”.
Either New Zealand strengthens its commitment to science’s universalism or it continues down the destructive path of cultural ideology. The Green Paper’s reference to creating a “modern research system that is Tiriti led” is nonsensical. Research which includes the controls that characterise traditional knowledge cannot be modern.
Tinkering with the Green Paper will not improve matters given that its numerous faults arise from the very assumption upon which the Paper is built. This is the incorrect belief that a treaty-justified co-governance system is already in New Zealand’s constitution. A new constitution of Iwi-New Zealand Government co-governance has not been placed before the public and has not been agreed to.
The Green Paper must be soundly criticised for being complicit in ideological interests which use policy to make constitutional reform by stealth rather than by Parliament.
Our submission is available for public circulation. It contains nothing that is confidential.
We wish to be engaged throughout the Future Pathways Programme.
“The word science is used to refer to the systematic organization of knowledge that can be rationally explained and reliably applied. It is inclusive of the natural (including physical, mathematical and life) science and social (including behavioural and economic) science domains, which represent the ISC’s primary focus, as well as the humanities, medical, health, computer and engineering sciences.” (International Science Council, Position Paper, ‘Science as a Global Public Good, October, 2021, p. 1, footnote 1)
 “Science is a special form of knowledge; a formalised approach to knowledge that is rationally explicable, tested against reality, logic, and the scrutiny of peers. It has two fundamental attributes that form its bedrock, and which are ultimately the source of its value as a global public good:
• that knowledge claims and the evidence on which they may be based are made openly available to be tested against reality and logic through the scrutiny of peers;
• that the results of scientific inquiry are communicated promptly into the public sphere and circulated efficiently to maximise their availability to all who may wish or need to access them.” (Ibid, p.1)
 Evolutionary cognitive scientists, for example David Geary, refer to this type of knowledge as ‘primary’ and distinguish it from the cognition required for ‘secondary knowledge, i.e. science.
Was Einstein wrong? Why some astrophysicists are questioning the theory of space-time’.
‘We may need to kill off one of the most important theories of all time.’
 Rata, E. (2013). Knowledge and the Politics of Culture: An example from New Zealand’s Higher Education Policy and Practice. Anthropological Theory, 13 (4), 329-346.
 Rata, E. (2005). Marching through the Institutions, The Neotribal Elite and the Treaty of Waitangi, Sites New Series, 1 (2) 56 – 81.
This paper was published in Public Sector, The Journal of the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand, Vol 26, No 3 September, 2003, pp. 2 – 6
The Treaty of Waitangi has become a talisman for a bicultural New Zealand. Such a leap from prior obscurity to ‘oracle’ status (Sharp, 2002) can be explained in a number of ways. The orthodox explanation is that Maori have overcome colonial-imposed subordination for the economic and political partnership promised by the treaty. In this paper I propose a different interpretation. I argue that the treaty’s elevation has occurred within the context of fundamental changes to the global political economy, most notably the repositioning of pre-colonial elites as the new elites of localised forms of the capitalist economy (Friedman, 1994; Wallerstein, 1991). In New Zealand’s case the localised form of capitalism is neotribal capitalism (Rata, 1999; 2000) under the control of a comprador bourgeoisie or brokering elite. As a result of successive governments’ acceptance of neotribal capitalism’s neotraditionalist ideology, this Maori elite has controlled the shifting interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi (Rata, 2003, 2003a), along with the concepts of indigeneity and customary rights.
In the first stages of biculturalism, the treaty was promoted as a framework for the settlement of historical grievances. From the mid-1980s, its interpretation had shifted to a ‘partnership’ between two distinctive political entities, – the neotribes and the government. As a consequence the brokering elite emerged as a neotribal capitalist aristocracy with sufficient institutionalised power to make new claims for economic resources (such as seabeds and native flora), and claims for political recognition on the basis of partnership alone.
As the main ‘site’ of neotribal brokerage, the treaty, as interpreted by the Waitangi Tribunal, plays a crucial role in legitimating the material and political aspirations of the neotribal elite. Supportive of the elite’s interpretation but retaining the pan-Maori aspirations of earlier ‘honour the treaty’ protests, is the ongoing faith of still-marginalised Maori in the promises of treaty rhetoric as well as the aspirations of the tribes that have yet to receive any treaty settlements. With this diverse support, the Tribunal’s interpretation of the treaty has become the orthodox interpretation. The following beliefs are held to be true and non-negotiable: The treaty is a ‘partnership’ between the tribes and the government, one that entitles the tribes to economic and political rights in perpetuity. Secondly, its ‘principles’ are the basis for a bicultural nation in which tribal authority is incorporated into government institutions and processes. Finally, the ‘presentist’ (Oliver, 2001) orthodox interpretation places the treaty above history. Its authority is ‘spiritual’ or ‘otherworldly’, and outside the political conditions of its real historical context.
The religious imagery of treaty orthodoxy illustrates the doctrinal status of a spiritually mandated authority, an authority which takes it out of the realm of critical scrutiny. According to Margaret Wilson (cited in O’Brien, 2003: 15), the treaty is a ‘convenant’ which has a ‘higher purpose’ (than that of a legal contract), one ‘of defining the relationship binding two peoples’. The word ‘atone’ in the government’s apology to the Tainui tribe (New Zealand Herald, 23 January 1995) conveys the idea of the expiation of a sin-inspired guilt, while the idea of a ‘foundation document’ with a spirit that ‘still speaks today’ evokes a timeless and commanding manifesto. This ‘otherworldliness’ takes the treaty from the combative political sphere to a level of unquestioning reverence. Such elevation of a historical agreement to a level where it provides a forever ongoing ‘spirit’ suggests that the treaty’s authority challenges even the ‘spirit of the law’, the authority mandate for the supremacy of the law over all other forms of authority in liberal-democracies. It combines the very political purposes of the elite (of this world) with the spiritual purpose of providing hope for those Maori who remain marginalised from fulfilling involvement in New Zealand society.
The elevation of the Treaty of Waitangi to such an authoritative, almost unchallengeable, orthodoxy deserves intense scrutiny. Such scrutiny is difficult in a climate in which those who hold a different opinion are believed to be ‘in error’ rather than in informed disagreement. The government’s continued confidence that increased education and leadership will convince the general public of the value of the treaty to New Zealand (Upton, 2003) belies an uncomfortable fact. It is not only the poorly informed who lack the required faith in the treaty. Perry and Webster’s 1999 survey of attitudes to the treaty and the Waitangi Tribunal found that the treaty ‘is a major point of division within the country’. Only five percent of those surveyed ‘think that the Treaty should be strengthened and given the full force of law’. ‘About 34 percent want the Treaty abolished’ (1999: 74).
There is also a small but growing body of scholarly literature (to which this paper contributes) interested in extending treaty discussion beyond the Waitangi Tribunal’s doctrinal orthodoxy. This paper’s contribution is an examination of the political-economic context of the current orthodox interpretation. Treaty revivalism is located within the post-1970s’ restructuring of the global economy, the corresponding shift from universal class-based politics to identity politics (Wallerstein, 1991; Friedman, 1994; Turton, 1997), and the re-emergence of traditional elites as capitalist aristocracies. Treaty politics have played a major role in the New Zealand experience of these global elite repositionings.
Neotribal capitalism refers to structuring of material resources and peoples’ relationships to these resources that was enabled by the juridication and capitalisation processes of the treaty settlements. These processes established the ‘neotribe’, a politico-economic organisation that is fundamentally different from the traditional tribe. That difference is the result of the treaty settlement processes of privatisation and capitalisation of resources, and the accompanying establishment of political structures of control (or modes of regulation) over the relations of people to those resources and to one another. Economic resources were capitalised in the processes of privatisation to the neotribes (firstly juridified as the legitimate owners) and made available for the commodity production and profit-making that distinguishes all capitalist economies. However, and this is the critical point to the argument made in this paper, the neotribe is not only an economic corporation based upon capital resources. It is also a political organisation in that it structures the social environment for the production and reproduction of capital accumulation. Unlike a liberal-democratic politico-economic organisation that actively regulates the social inequalities created by capitalism’s ‘coercive law’ (Lipietz cited in Boyer, 1990: 34) of accumulation, the capitalist neotribe lacks the institutions and processes to ensure democratic political regulation.
In non-democratic systems such as neotribal capitalism, an all-powerful state or an all-powerful oligarchy controls production, redistribution and the social environment of production. Class consciousness is replaced by collective consciousness. The interests of the tribal collectivity are considered to be the interests of each of its members. The antagonism between the interests of those who control and benefit from neotribal economic resources and those who don’t are concealed in collective membership. It is the control of both the economic and political/ideological spheres by the same elite and the lack of division between the spheres that distinguishes the neotribal regime from liberal-democracy and is what defines it as non-democratic.
It would be naive to deny the existence of powerful oligarchies in liberal-democratic versions of capitalism. Undoubtedly the owners and controllers of production in liberal-democracies do have, because of their economic strength, the advantage in terms of greater political power to influence the regulation of the social environment. What does matter however, is that control of political regulation is not theirs of right. It can be, and often is, challenged by individual citizens and associations of citizens claiming greater entitlement to the fruits of production via the processes of distribution.
New Zealand biculturalism is a local version of the identity movements that replaced the universalist class-based politics of the prosperous post-war decades. Identity politics enabled the most vulnerable of the new professional class (its most recent entrants, such as women and ethnic minorities), to respond actively to global economic contraction and its accompanying ideological shifts. Local movements were built around identity politics to ensure that the gains women and minority groups had made in the prosperous fifties and sixties were maintained in sites of identity recognition. These sites include women’s studies and Maori studies in academia along with government policies that targeted the marginalised groups.
In the early 1970s a small group of tertiary educated Maori became the leaders of the cultural revival (Fitzgerald, 1971) that signalled the first stage of ‘glocal’ identity politics in New Zealand. With the galvanising of the pan-Maori movement of the 1960s into a political movement in the 1970s, the base was established for further transformation into neotribalism under the control of the elite. This group had entered the political arena through their leadership roles in the pan-Maori movement. The shift to tribal identification meant that they could use their political connections acquired in the earlier radical protests in the cause of specific tribal interests and become recognised as brokers between the government site and the tribal site. Subsequently their brokerage role provided access to economic resources of the settlements on behalf of the tribes rather than pan-Maori. The use of ‘tradition, in culturalist discourse, especially one located in the ‘blood and soil’ rhetoric of indigenous status, justified and legitimised this political role and its material benefits. With reference to Glazer and Moynihan (1973), David Turton (1997: 11) has explained the “strategic efficacy” of ethnicity in ‘mobilizing groups around common material interests’ as the result of the symbolic content of ethnicity. The symbolic content or ideology ‘masks or “mystifies” those interests for the group members themselves’. The treaty’s symbolism serves this mystifying purpose and explains the religious imagery that accompanies treaty discourse, including its ongoing talisman status for marginalised Maori and its acceptance (albeit reluctantly by many) in the public domain of a secular society.
By the end of the 1980s Maori revivalist leaders had successfully defined indigenous recognition in terms of the new identity politics and achieved important political gains, particularly the government’s willingness to revive and honour the treaty. The consequences of unjust colonial practices were to be addressed through historical grievance settlements. The powers of the Waitangi Tribunal were extended to hear reparation claims dating back to 1840. These inroads into political recognition and institutionalisation were extended in the 1990s to include the concept of political ‘partnership’ between the tribes and the government. This was to be achieved by legislating adherence to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in a range of Acts of Parliament. Tribal institutions, revived by the treaty reparation settlements, provided the structures for the materialisation of this politicised indigenous identity. Those Maori who had led the cultural and indigenous movements become the tribal brokers, a comprador bourgeoisie, on behalf of the newly established tribal economies. They negotiated for political and economic resources across the newly created sites of treaty partnership discourse: the revived tribes on the one hand, and, on the other, the state institutions committed to recognising the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The following description of the initial inclusion of Treaty ‘principles’ in legislation provides a vivid account of the way in which brokerage between the Maori elite and government biculturalists occurred.
‘Section 9 of the State-owned Enterprises Act 1986 provides: “Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”. That is the first reference in legislation or policy to the principles of the Treaty – indeed, the first indication that the Treaty has principles. Their history began when in 1986 Ministers were considering the SOE legislation, then in Bill form. Concern was felt that its passage might lead, or be perceived to lead, to infringement of rights guaranteed to Maori by the Treaty as Crown assets were transferred to the new enterprises to become assets of the enterprises. That concern led to the Deputy Prime Minister, Geoffrey Palmer, travelling to meet Sir Hepi Te Heuheu, the paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, at his home. Sir Hepi expressed that concern directly to Mr Palmer, and told him that it would be allayed if the Bill were to provide as the Act now does. This was agreed to, and section 9 was duly enacted.’ (Berthold, 2003). However as Parliament did not indicate what the principles of the Treaty are, it fell to the Courts to discover them.
Brokerage also covers the inclusion of Maori advisers in developing government policy, and the influences and processes that strengthened the Waitangi Tribunal, and enabled the treaty settlement process to expand. Such brokerage mediated the relationship between Maori revivalists and government biculturalists, altering both groups in significant ways in the process. Citing Burt (1992), McAdam et al (2001: 142) argue that the brokerage process is itself transforming. ‘Brokerage produces new advantages for the parties, especially for the brokers.’ This was especially so for those Maori who moved from leadership of a pan-Maori cultural revival to leadership of tribal treaty claims. It was also true for those Maori who filled the new structural positions of adviser, kaumatua, and tangata whenua representative on the various councils, committees and panels that opened up as a result of the treaty partnership concept. Structural mobility on such a scale meant that many new professional Maori were promoted rapidly in order to fill the positions available. In some cases, it could be argued, this meant that individuals were promoted over and above their qualifications and experience. The rationale for such promotion was the candidate’s Maori ethnicity and understanding of Maori tikanga, acceptable by neotraditionalist standards but at odds with liberalism’s achievement-based meritocracy.
Elite control of the tribal settlements enabled the brokerage of tribal property in its capitalised and commodified form into national and international economic circulation. The acquisition of considerable economic resources, both real and anticipated, led to political power. Within the tribes, the elite established modes of regulation to unite the economic and ideological dimensions of the neotribal social structures. In turn, the consolidation of political power within the neotribal corporations resulted in increased brokerage leverage with the government. A political relationship was developed using the concept of a treaty partnership to link the new corporate tribes and the government. That partnership discourse currently enables the political brokerage of the neotribal modes of regulation into a new tribal –government political relationship. Tribal representatives and interests are included in government institutions at local and national level and with the recognition of specific Maori interests in the political process.
The success of the elite’s political brokerage in institutionalising neotribal capitalist modes of regulation into all areas of government has profound implications for democratic institutions and processes. Significant and unintended outcomes have occurred in the area of constitutional politics. The Waitangi Tribunal, as the main institutional site for the brokerage of neotraditionalism by the neotribal elite, has, according to Sharp (1997: 452) become ‘a central player in a largely unforeseen unfolding of law and policy, and opened up an as yet largely unexplored vista of constitutional change’. These legal and policy changes have consolidated the elite’s considerable political and economic power, a power derived initially from their control of the settlement process. It is justified by claims that the new tribes are the legitimate inheritors of the traditional social structures that first entered a political agreement with the state with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. In turn, this justification is legitimated by the government’s uncritical acceptance of neotraditionalist ideology.
In the same way that ‘honouring the Treaty’ became a mantra of bicultural politics in the late 1970s and 80s, ‘Treaty partnership’ became the mantra of neoliberal politics a decade later. The resulting bicultural – neoliberal combination contributed significantly to neotribal capitalism. By recognising the neotribes as traditional and thereby enabling them to inherit the historical grievance settlements and to become the legal owners of traditional resources, government biculturalists first legitimated the neotraditionalist discourse. By recognising the new propertied tribes as political modes of regulation through the devolution of government regulatory functions to the tribes, government neoliberals, in the 1990s, enabled what are essentially economic corporations, to acquire a constitutional type political status, one embedded in treaty partnership discourse.
Brokerage has followed the same process throughout the shift from honouring the treaty by recognising historical grievances to accepting the concept of a treaty partnership. First, the claimants establish traditional ‘authenticity’ to ownership, then the resource is juridified as legal property available for contractual purposes. In its privatised character it is then available for capitalisation, providing the resource for commodity production and profit accumulation. While this suggests intentions and planning, such a comprehensive forward-looking strategy is from the neotribal side alone. Apart from a desire to give the treaty constitutional status (Wilson, 1998), at a policy strategy level the government’s side is characterised by ad hoc re-active politics.
Andrew Sharp (1997: 452) has drawn attention to the unprecedented way in which ‘governments were losing control of policy formulation and execution’ in relation to the treaty. Such short-sighted and reactive political management by successive governments in response to treaty orthodoxy is illustrated by Simon Upton’s description of the early 1990s National Government’s incorporation of treaty principles into legislation through the highly influential 1991 Resource Management Act. ‘I am quite sure that none of us knew what we meant when we signed up to that formula’. By ‘formula’, Upton said from the hindsight of 2003 in respect to the requirement that local government, through the Resource Management Act, ‘take account of the “principles” of the treaty’. Revealing further the extent of a government driven by the neotribes rather than its own policies, Upton added that ‘when it framed the Resource Management Act, the National Government was aware of treaty “principles” developed by the Court of Appeal in 1987 and by the Waitangi Tribunal in dealing with Maori land Claims. “But given the extraordinary wide reach of the act, handing over its implementation to local councils with no clear guidance on how those principles might intersect with the claimed rangatiratanga of any particular group amounted to a legislative evasion”.’ (Simon Upton quoted in the New Zealand Herald, 22 – 23 Feb. 2003)
The ad hoc nature of governments’ reaction to tribal demands continued throughout the 1990s. In 2000, Helen Clark, acknowledged that ‘there is no one in Cabinet actually co-ordinating the insertion of treaty clauses into new legislation’ (Listener, 2000: 22). Yet, in response to a survey’s findings (New Zealand Herald, 28. Nov. 2000, p. A3) that ‘two out of every three people believe references to the Treaty of Waitangi should not be included in legislation, Helen Clark indicated that the government was providing effective leadership in matters of treaty and government legislation. Arguing that “strong leadership will reverse New Zealanders’ views on this contentious issue”, the Prime Minister located the problem in the “not very great public understanding”. However she did ‘admit that the ‘Government had not been properly prepared for the debate over the treaty clause originally inserted in the health reform bill’.
The government’s uncritical acceptance of the neotribe’s ideology of neotraditionalism could not have occurred without a supporting culturalist discourse from the government side. The two discourses combine to erase the historical consciousness that could jeopardise the elite’s control over material and intellectual resources. ‘In societies where the state class totally dominates the accumulation of commercial wealth’ (in contrast to the merchant class) ‘its own political power, which is identical to its economic power, that is, its ability to survive, is directly jeopardised by any form of historical consciousness. On the contrary, its requirements are more mythological in nature, a consciousness that de-temporalises its position in the cosmos’. (Friedman, 1994: 65) (Indeed this mythological requirement reinforces the possibility that an indigeneity legitimating discourse is emerging to replace treaty legitimation – refer to footnote 7).
In neotribal capitalism that ‘state class’ is the neotribal elite in that they control both economic and ideological domains of neotribal society. Along with a dehistoricised consciousness, neotraditionalism promotes the belief that the interests of the elite are the interests of the people. The idealism of this position (along with the reification of power) is demonstrated by E. T. Durie’s (1998: 8) confident assertion that the ideal values of leadership are, in fact, the reality. He states that ‘. . .two important values are discernible. One is that in Maori society power ascends upwards from the people below as compared with western society where power is from the top down, from a sovereign body above to the people below’.
Culturalism also serves neotraditionalism by emphasising ethnicity as a valid social and political category of differentiation. Despite extensive Maori-Pakeha intermarriage, and the widespread acceptance that all Maori have one or more Pakeha ancestors (Callister, 2003), the success of the ‘two worlds’ ideology demonstrates the process of ethnic boundarisation as a neotraditionalist strategy. Because ethnicity is a relational concept this firming of the boundaries between Maori and Pakeha simultaneously weakens the modernist principle of universalism and strengthens the concept of social division on the basis of ethnicity. Creating boundaries creates a ‘space in the middle’ that needs to be crossed. This is the brokerage site where brokers provide essential and profitable services.
The treaty partnership concept is the second stage of the process of institutionalizing neotribal capitalism into government structures and processes. Having distinguished the two protagonists in the first stage of ethnic differentiation, the use of neotraditionalism to create ethnic boundaries, and treaty historical grievances, the partnership stage re-integrates the protagonists. Because differences have been naturalised so are no longer debated, similarities can now be re-constructed. Brokerage too, changes. Institutionalised partnership has greater permanency than the limited brokerage involved in one-off treaty settlements. As partners in government institutions the neotribes are positioned to claim a fixed and permanent partnership – one located in constitutional inclusion. From the reference in a 1986 Court of Appeal decision (Graham, 2000), treaty partnership has overtaken treaty settlements as the means by which the neotribal elite can undertake the following process.
First, political power is acquired to control tribal property acquired from the settlements. This is achieved by establishing modes of regulation that are recognised by the government in terms of treaty principle two, the rangitiratanga principle, or principle of self-management. Second, resources, such as airwaves, seabeds and foreshores, flora and fauna, gas and oil, that were not included in the original historical grievance claims, are claimed on the basis of treaty partnership rather than on the basis of treaty reparations for historical injustices. (The very recent shift from treaty justification discourse to customary discourse in referred to in footnote 7). Third, the partnership concept is used to establish and control the modes of regulating these resources. These strategies have led to the strengthening of a treaty partnership concept to the point where it is a driving rationale of treaty orthodoxy.
Treaty partnership justification is derived from the extrapolation of the possession guarantees in article two of the Treaty of Waitangi into the concepts of governance and citizenship in the first and third treaty articles. There is a shift from claims based upon reparation for past wrongs (in reference to the Treaty of Waitangi, article two) to one of entitlement based upon a political partnership with reference to article one. The interpretation of partnership in turn then enables the tribes to claim economic resources and political positioning on the basis of the political ‘partnership’ rather than on the basis of historical grievance reparations only. At this stage the juridification and institutionalisation of partnership principles in legislation such as health, education and conservation, enables the capitalist neotribes to acquire an institutionalised regulatory function and enables the neotribal elites to become an institutionalised oligarchy. This unites the tribes’ economic and political dimensions, and provides the basis for the unchallengeable political control of economic resources by an undemocratic, hierarchical regime.
The tendency, in the early 1980s, to consider the Articles of the Treaty of Waitangi in isolation from each other (a consequence of the leading role played by judicial interpretations) limited interpretations that could arise from the consideration of the meaning that exists in the relationship between the three articles. The effect of the isolated method of interpretation was that the meaning of the articles in terms of an integrated purpose was lost. The concepts of sovereignty (and its expression in terms of governance or regulation) in article one, of resource possession in article two, and citizenship in article three, were not considered in totality, that is, with the meaning of one article being dependent upon the meaning of the others. However, by the late 1980s, a new ‘total’ interpretation emerged as article two, not article one, became the referent for interpreting all the articles of the treaty. This emphasis on article two was the result of the earlier treaty focus in terms of the resource reparation. It has led to the second article driving the meaning of the first and third articles.
Extrapolating the concept of governance from article one (regarding sovereignty secession) into article two (concerning economic resources), from where it acquired a determinacy which rebounded back upon article one has enabled tribal members to be reconceptualised as subjects of the capitalised resource possessing tribe. In this interpretation (one driven by the Waitangi Tribunal), the right to govern (by establishing modes of regulation) results from resource possession. In other words, if the tribe is considered to be the owners of the capitalised economic resources, then the right of governance proceeds from that status.
The effect of basing the political right to regulate a social group upon the economic right to acquire possessions shifts both governance and political subjectivity from the democratic state to the non-democratic capitalist neotribe. However, the undemocratic and class structure of the contemporary neotribe is unrecognised because the tribes are conceptualised as communal and non-exploitative structures. As in the traditional tribe, leaders are seen to be acting in the best interests of their peoples. Temm (1990: 104) makes explicit this assumption. ‘If there is to be a partnership, as envisaged by the Treaty, that partnership must be between the Crown on the one hand, representing all people who live in New Zealand and who are not of Maori descent, and the tribes of Maoridom on the other hand, who will speak through their rangatira (leaders)’ (1990: 104).
In this way the elite group who first assumed control of the capitalised resources in the early stages of settlement allocation have acquired the political ‘right’ to establish and control the neotribal modes of regulation, including the regulation of the neotribal economies. Unlike the New Zealand capitalist class whose control over the economic dimension of society is regulated by the contradictory character of the state, as simultaneously a capitalist and a democratic state, the neotribal political economy lacks a democratic site for class antagonism (Rata, 2000: 225- 232; 2003). There is neither an institutional site ‘the contradictory capitalist-democratic state’ nor a democratic subject ‘the citizen’ within the tribal economy for legitimate challenge to the ruling elite and to the unequal distribution of wealth. The ruling elite of neotribal capitalism cannot be removed from political office by tribal ‘citizens’ because citizenship is not an institutionalised status in neotribal capitalism.
My pessimistic conclusion is that, through the establishment of a treaty orthodoxy based upon neotraditionalism and driven by the neotribal elite, and through the culturalism-based acceptance of this ideology and strategies, successive governments have created the conditions for the undermining of democracy in New Zealand. Ironically, this destructive process has been done in the name of the very democracy that served so well those of the new professional class who benefited from the prosperity of the post-war decades and who became the accommodating biculturalists of the 1980s and 1990s. It remains to be seen whether the emergent customary rights – indigeneity discourse will replace current treaty discourse as the neotribal elites’ legitimating discourse and further naturalise ‘two worlds’ ideology. Whether or not this is the case, both discourses are ideologies of a non-democratic elite, and both are subversive of the conditions necessary for democratic regulation.
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 Douglas Graham, a former Minister of Treaty Negotiations, has warned against the tendency to locate partnership in the Treaty of Waitangi. ‘This so-called partnership concept came into common parlance after a Court of Appeal case in the 1980s. The judges were attempting to describe the duties the parties to the treaty owed to each other. They likened it to the obligation partners in a partners had, but they did not say that the treaty actually created a partnership nor did it’. (Graham, 2000: 13)
 According to Margaret Wilson (1998: 1) ‘It is accepted that it is only a question of time before some form of constitutional recognition is given to the Treaty of Waitangi.’
 Many brokerage relationships between Maori neotribalists and Pakeha biculturalists were formed in the days of radical student politics, in the shared protests against the Vietnam war and, particularly, the anti-Springbok rugby tour of 1981. The protests against racism in another country marked the shift from a shared political platform to a new relationship between Maori and Pakeha. Maori turned to their own protests against racism in New Zealand and the role of bicultural Pakeha changed from co-activist to supporter in respect to Maori issues.
 ‘Culturalism’ or the reification of tradition and culture is well documented in studies by Hobsbawm, 1983; Handler, 1983; Babadzan, 1988 Friedman, 1994; Anderson, 1991, Turton et. al. 1997; Giltin, 1995; Kuper, 1999, Sandall, 2001 among others. According to Hobsbawm (1983: 1) tradition is defined as ‘a set of practices . . .which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past’. ‘Concepts of culture and tradition (are divorced) from historical forces of economic change’ (Dirlik cited in White, 2001:140). ‘As an anthropological ideology, culturalism is ‘increasingly used as a privileged tool to legitimise political domination’ (Babadzan, 2000: 150) with its sacralisation of cultures and identities. Babadzan also refers to the way that culture is ‘transformed and essentialised (2000: 149) with ‘anthropologists appropriating the ethnic-culturalist discourse that actors themselves hold about the meaning of their practices’.
 This description, including the account of the meeting between Mr Palmer (later Sir Geoffrey) and Sir Hepi Te Heuheu, was provided to the writer by Mr Tom Berthold.
 In moves which point to the elite strengthening its control over the political re-positioning process a new legitimacy strategy may well be emerging. There are indications that justifying iwi resource ownership and political control in a treaty partnership may be replaced by the more comprehensive concept of ‘customary rights’ embedded in indigeneity. This approach would overcome the limitations of relying on treaty interpretation alone. It would enable the elite to claim full ownership of resources and full control over neotribal governance rather than the 50% implied by partnership. These claims would be justified in international law regarding indigenous rights. A recent statement by Professor Mason Durie indicates this shift from treaty discourse to customary discourse. Indigeneity rather than the treaty is linked to constitutional rights. His comment that ‘the position of Maori as the indigenous people of New Zealand needed better constitutional recognition’ (Cited in Berry, 2003) contains several significant indicators of a change in the discourse. The word ‘indigenous’ rather than ‘the treaty’ and ‘Maori’ rather than ‘iwi’ reverses the trend from ‘Maori’ to ‘iwi’ that first occurred in fisheries documents in the early 1990s (Rata, 2000). However ‘the concept of indigeneity is a political construct of historical and geographical placement’ (Rata, 2002) and will prove as problematic in the future (if these indicators are correct) as treaty discourse is currently. An autochtonomous priority based in mythological origins, rather than a historical uniqueness, as the legitimising tool for economic and political claims further naturalises Maori as a racial category.
This article was first published in The Democracy Project, 23 April 2022
Revolutionary moves to decolonise mainstream education are outlined in two Ministry of Education documents.
‘Te Hurihanganui A Blueprint for Transformative Systems Shift’ confidently asserts that ‘through decolonisation of the education system Māori potential will be realised’ while the Curriculum Refresh also prescribes a hearty dose of the same medicine.
Decolonisation, according to Te Hurihanganui ‘means recognising white privilege, understanding racism, inequity faced by Māori and disrupting that status quo to strengthen equity’. There will be opportunities for an expansion of the decolonisation cadre as ‘Māori exercise authority and agency over their mātauranga, tikanga and taonga’.
The Curriculum Refresh, meanwhile, proposes that ‘knowledge derived from Te Ao Māori will sit at the heart of each learning area, along with other knowledge-systems that reflect the cultural uniqueness of Aotearoa New Zealand.’
Decolonisation is a key strategy of He Puapua’s ethno-nationalism agenda. Political categories based on racial classification are to be inserted into New Zealand’s institutions. In education this means that the universal, secular system set up by the 1877 Education Act will be replaced with a radically different system based on two racial categories – Māori and non-Māori, despite the fact that such categories deny the reality of both New Zealand’s multi-ethnic population and Māori multi-ethnicity. According to 2018 census over 45 percent of those identifying as Māori also identified with two ethnic groups with approximately 7 percent identifying with three ethnic groups. Some Māori families have a parent who does not identify as Māori.
While decolonisation is underway in all the nation’s institutions, education is the key ideological institution. The Curriculum Refresh’s ‘other knowledge-systems’ approach re-defines academic knowledge as just another knowledge-system, rather than what it actually is – the universal knowledge developed across the disciplines and altered for teaching at school.
Destroying confidence in the science – culture distinction, a distinction which is one of the defining features of the modern world, will be decolonisation’s most significant and most dangerous victory. According to the International Science Council science is ‘the systematic organization of knowledge that can be rationally explained and reliably applied. It is inclusive of the natural (including physical, mathematical and life) science and social (including behavioural and economic) science domains . . . as well as the humanities, medical, health, computer and engineering sciences.
In contrast, culture is the values, beliefs and practices of everyday life – the means by which children are socialised into the family and community. For a Māori child, this may well involve immersion in marae life – or it may not. But the experiences of everyday life should not be confused with the ideology of cultural indoctrination, what I call culturalism or traditionalism and others call decolonisation. It is this ideology which is permeating the government, universities and research institutes, the Royal Society Te Apārangi, and mainstream media. Here we are presented with an idealised Māori culture of what should be, not what it actually is.
It is as much a moral, quasi-religious project as a political one, its religiosity responsible for the intensity, and perhaps success, of its march through New Zealand’s institutions. Indeed, the spiritual is a central theme in decolonisation. The belief is promoted that Māori are a uniquely spiritual people with a mauri or life force providing the link to their ancestors – the genetic claim for racial categorisation. Political rights for the kin-group are justified in this claim.
However the evidence does not support an idealised picture of Māori spirituality. According to the 2018 census 53.5 percent of those identifying with Māori ethnicity had no religious affiliation. The number identifying with Māori religious, beliefs and philosophies is small and declining, from about 12 percent in 2006 to 7 percent in 2018. As more Māori enter the professional class it is likely that this trend will continue.
Given that over 50 percent of Māori already have no religious affiliation, it is doubtful that there is a constituency for a spiritual-based education. This is where decolonisation plays its part with Te Hurihanganui and the refreshed curriculum promoting the ideological version of culture. Those hesitant Māori who are suspicious of the ideology will be outed as ‘colonised’, in obvious need of decolonisation.Those who are now racially positioned on the other side, officially the non-Māori, will require decolonisation to ensure support for the new moral and political order. Numerous consultants are already on hand to provide this profitable reprogramming service. Intransigent dissenters, who determinedly refuse the correct thinking will be ostracised as fossilised racists and bigots.
The tragedy is that this decolonising racialised ideology will destroy the foundations of New Zealand’s modern prosperous society. The principles of universalism and secularism are
its pillars in education as elsewhere. Academic knowledge is different from cultural knowledge because it is universal and secular. We could certainly live without this knowledge – our ancestors did, but would we want to?
Academic knowledge is difficult to acquire, not easily derived from experience, and involving abstractions. The formidable task of acquiring even a small amount of humanity’s intellectual canon is made even more complex and remote because abstractions are only available to us as symbols – verbal, alphabetical, numerical, musical, digital, chemical, mathematical – creating two layers of difficulty. While it is unsurprising that the much easier education using practices derived from action rather than abstraction is more attractive, to take this path, as teachers are required to do, is a mistake.
We humans are made intelligent through long-term systematic engagement with such complex knowledge. Yet decolonisers reject the fundamental difference between science and culture claiming instead that all knowledge is culturally produced, informed by a group’s beliefs and experiences, and geared to its interests. Indigenous knowledge and ‘western’ knowledge are simply cultural systems with academic education re-defined as the oppressive imposition of the latter on the former.
What is deeply concerning is the extent to which this ideology is believed by those in education and uncritically repeated in mainstream media. A secondary school principal is quoted describing the ‘dangers of prescribing a powerful knowledge curriculum’. Such an ‘Eurocentric’ approach is ‘a colonial tool of putting old western knowledge ahead of indigenous communities’ rather than an emancipatory knowledge that liberates Westernised, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Islamic, African and indigenous groups. Elsewhere another teacher goes further, calling educational success ‘white success’ and in opposition to succeeding ‘as Māori’ – which, to follow this logic, would mean not learning English or reading. There can be only one solution in this scenario – replace the oppressor’s knowledge through the comprehensive decolonisation programme now revolutionising New Zealand education.
Decolonisation is not only destructive but simplistic. Although cultural knowledge is not science, the science-culture distinction doesn’t exclude traditional knowledge from the secular curriculum. It does however put limits on how it is included. Students can be taught in social studies, history, and Māori Studies about the traditional knowledge that Te Hurihanganui describes as the “rich and legitimate knowledge located within a Māori worldview’. But this is not induction into belief and ideological systems. The home and community groups are for induction into cultural beliefs and practices.
What about the proto-science (pre-science) in all traditional knowledge – such as traditional navigation, medicinal remedies, and food preservation? This knowledge, acquired through observation and trial and error, as well as through supernatural explanation, along with the ways it may have helped to advance scientific or technological knowledge, is better placed in history of science lessons rather than in the science curriculum.
Science provides naturalistic explanations for physical and social phenomena. Its concepts refer to the theorised structures and properties of the physical world, its methods are those of hypothesis, testing and refutation, its procedures those of criticism and judgement. The inclusion of cultural knowledge into the science curriculum will subvert the fundamental distinction, one acknowledged by mātauranga Māori scholars, between naturalistic science and supernaturalistic culture.
Ironically, decolonisation ideology is justified using the universal human rights argument for equity. But the equity case misrepresents the problem. As with all groups, it is not ethnic affiliation but class-related cultural practices that are the main predictors of educational outcomes. Māori children from professional families are not failing. Rather it is those, Māori and non-Māori alike, living in families experiencing hardship and not engaging in cognitive practices of abstract thinking and literacy development, who are most likely to fail at school. This is not inevitable. Education can make a difference to a child’s life chances but it requires all schools, Māori medium immersion and mainstream alike, to provide quality academic knowledge taught by expert teachers.
Te Hurihanganui’s claim that ‘the Blueprint is based on evidence of what works for Māori in education’ gives no indication that the evidence is seriously compromised. Are Māori students in full immersion Māori education (MME) more successful than those in mainstream schools? At first glance this claim does appear substantiated. In 2020, 83.7 percent of Māori students in MME attained NCEA Level 2 compared to 71.8 percent in English medium education. However the numbers of students in each school type reveal a different picture. According to 2021 figures, 8,056 (4.3 percent) of Māori students attended Māori immersion schools where 51 percent or more of the instruction is in the Māori language. Another 29,499 Māori students (15.7 percent) are in mixed medium education with varying degrees of Māori language immersion or instruction. A full 80 percent (150,318 Māori students) attend English language or mainstream schools.
Given the sizeable difference between the numbers of Māori students in mainstream schools and those in full and mixed immersion education combined, any comparison should be considered unreliable, even meaningless. In addition, a nuanced comparison would need to compare the NCEA Level 2 subjects taken by Māori students. The extent of abstraction in a subject creates varying degrees of difficulty, something found, for example, in the difference between physics and communication studies.
Do parents of Māori children want a decolonised cultural-based education system? Here too, the evidence suggests otherwise. Under 5 percent of Māori students attend full immersion education where over 50 percent of instruction is in the Māori language. Even the flagship kohanga reo is in long-term decline from a peak of 767 kohanga in 1996 to 434 in 2021.
The 1990 Education Act established kura kaupapa Māori recognising its founders’ aims – to increase Māori achievement, to contribute to the revival of the Māori language, and to produce bilingual and bicultural citizens for New Zealand.
However the citizenship aim, one based on the democratic principle of the universal human being, cannot be met by a decolonising agenda. The universal and secular principles of the 1877 Education Act were intended to create a collective consciousness – the People of New Zealand as the Act’s title states – for a racially and culturally diverse population.
The exemptions in the 1877 Act reveal a fledgling liberal culture, a mix of idealism and pragmatism now recognisable as a distinctively New Zealand character. Parents who objected to Protestant history lesssons could remove their children from class. Māori opposed to government provision were exempted from compulsion. Private and church schools were permitted and a pragmatic accommodation for the country’s climate and geography, and for the regular outbreaks of disease, can be seen in flexible attendance regulations.
Unlike authoritarian regimes, liberalism can tolerate some dissent. What it cannot tolerate is the removal of its very foundations – those principles of universalism and secularism that anchor democratic institutions into modern pluralist society. The separation of public and private, of society and community, makes room for both science and local culture. (The recent commonplace practice of using ‘community’ for ‘society’ is one of a number of indications that the separation is being undermined.) Valuing culture and devaluing science in a merger of the two fatally undermines the universalism and secularism that creates and maintains a cohesive society out of many ethnicities and cultures.
Decolonisation will indeed divide society into two groups – but not that of coloniser and colonised locked into the permanent oppressor-victim opposition used to justify ethno-nationalism. Instead one group will comprise those who receive an education in academic subjects. These young people will proceed to tertiary study with a sound understanding of science, mathematics, and the humanities. Their intelligence will be developed in the long-term and demanding engagement with this complex knowledge. It is to be hoped, though this cannot be assumed, that they will have the critical disposition required for democratic citizenship, one that is subversive of local culture and disdainful of ideology.
The second group comprises those who remain restricted to the type of knowledge acquired from experience and justified in ideologies of local culture. Distrustful of academic knowledge as colonising and oppressive, ethnically-based cultural beliefs and practices will provide the community needed for social and psychological security. In this restricted world they are insiders. And as there are insiders, there must be outsiders – in traditionalist ideologies these are the colonists who are seen to have taken everything and given nothing. And yet the tragedy is that it is the cultural insiders who are to be the excluded ones – excluded from all the benefits that a modern education provides.
A revolution is coming. The government’s transformational policies for education make this clear. It will only be stopped by a re-commitment to academic knowledge for all New Zealand children, rich and poor alike, within a universal and secular education system. Colonisation is not the problem and decolonisation is not the solution.
Author’s Note: Elizabeth Rata is a professor of education at the University of Auckland and a founding member (in 1987) of Te Komiti o Nga Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tamaki Mākaurau
Rata, Elizabeth (2004) ‘Marching through the Institutions’: The Neotribal Elite and the Treaty of Waitangi
Published in Sites, New Series, WINTER 2004 VOLUME 1 NO. 2
From the Editorial
Jacqueline Leckie 1
Anthropology and expert knowledges: introduction
‘Kolig and Rata’s papers remind us of a legacy from the original series of Sites – lively and rigorous academic debate surrounding Maori, Pakeha and other ethnic cultures in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Kolig and Rata’s papers could be considered foundational and controversial papers for reinvigorated dialogue on national, indigenous and ethnic issues in future Sites issues.’
From the author: Please note – the journal archives start at 2005. They do not include the first year of publication.
‘MARCHING THROUGH THE INSTITUTIONS’: THE NEOTRIBAL ELITE AND THE TREATY OF WAITANGI
Faculty of Education and Department of Political Studies
University of Auckland
The successful ‘strategic march through the institutions’ of New Zealand’s democratic government by non-democratic corporate neotribes is the consequence of neotribal control over the interpretation and symbolism of the Treaty of Waitangi. The neotribal elite’s success is caused both by the widespread acceptance of their neotraditionalist ideology and by their brokerage of that ideology and its agents into government institutions
The elite of neotribal capitalism have played a decisive and self-interested role in controlling shifts in the interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi. In the identity politics of the 1970s ‘honouring the treaty’ initially referred to restitution for illegal land confiscations. From the late 1980s treaty interpretation shifted from its focus on reparations to the idea of a political partnership between the tribes and the government. In recent years that political partnership has been extended to ideas of a constitutional arrangement (TPK, 2001: 14; M. Durie, 2003; E. T. Durie, 1998; Wilson, 1998).
Control over the interpretation and symbolism of the Treaty of Waitangi was one of the most effective of the brokerage mechanisms used by the emergent neotribal elite. It enabled a strategic march through the institutions of a democratic society by non-democratic neotraditionalist forces. Elsewhere (Rata, 2003a) I examined the brokers or compradors (using the examples of Sir Tipene O’Regan, Sir Robert Mahuta and Professor Tamati Reedy), the brokerage mechanism, and the ideology of revived traditional leadership. This paper focuses specifically on the ‘partnership’ interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi and its contribution to the success of the elite’s brokerage strategy.
THE NEOTRADITIONALIST CONTEXT
In contrast to, and as a critique of the view that Treaty of Waitangi based claims for economic compensation and political partnership are justified in terms of the need to compensate Maori for a putative colonial-imposed subordinate status, treaty revivalism is better understood within the late twentieth century context of fundamental changes to the global political economy. Jonathan Friedman (1994; 2001) and Immanuel Wallerstein (1991) are among world systems theorists who argue that one of the features of late capitalism is the repositioning of pre-colonial elites as the new elites of localised forms of the capitalist economy. In New Zealand’s case the localised form of capitalism is neotribalism under the control of a comprador bourgeoisie or brokering elite. Its ideology is neotraditionalism (Habermas’  ‘conscious traditionalism’). Contemporary capitalism’s relations of production are concealed by beliefs in a restored (and romanticised) kinship social structure characterised by benign birth-ascribed leadership (Rata, 2003b).
The shift to the ‘partnership’ interpretation dates from the 1987 Court of Appeal decision that likened the relationship between the tribes and the government to a partnership (TPK, 2001: 78). During the 1990s the tribal leaders actively promoted the idea of two distinctive socio-political entities in partnership – the ‘neotribes’ and the government (E. T. Durie, 1998). Successive governments’ support for the idea of a treaty partnership during that decade enabled the leaders to use partnership and principles concepts as brokerage mechanisms for a strategic march through the institutions of government.
As a consequence of the transformative capacity of the brokerage function (McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly, 2001; Overbeek, 1990; Rata, 2003b) the leaders of the retribalisation movement have emerged as a neotribal capitalist elite, an‘aristocracy’ in the making. By the late 1990s the elite has sufficient institutionalised power to make new claims for economic resources (such as seabeds and native flora), and claims for political, to the level of constitutional, recognition on the basis of partnership alone.
The treaty, as interpreted in Waitangi Tribunal reports, is the main ‘site’ of neotribal brokerage. The Tribunal played a crucial role in legitimating the material and political aspirations of the neotribal elite. Under the lengthy chairmanship of E. T. Durie, the Waitangi Tribunal used its reports to create the ‘instrumental presentism’ (Oliver, 2001: 9) and the channelling of retribalisation that has served the elite’s economic and political aspirations. Three disparate groups have supported the Tribunal’s interpretation. The first group comprises the still-marginalised Maori who retain the pan-Maori aspirations of earlier ‘honour the treaty’ protests. These people were the intended recipients of bicultural social justice initiatives. The second group are those tribes that have yet to receive any treaty settlements.
Finally, the most influential supporters of the Waitangi Tribunal’s interpretation of the treaty are the ‘culturalists’. Located in social science departments in universities and in the professions of education, health, law, the media, the church, and social services, culturalist ideas have informed academic analysis, government policy and guided popular understanding since the 1970s. By the 1990s the culturalist intellectual approach (also variously known as cultural idealism, cultural theory, cultural relativism, and identity politics) had attained the status of orthodox doctrine in New Zealand. However its flawed adherence to cultural relativism, its ahistorical approach to social change, and its ethnic-culture reductionism are increasing subject to strong criticism by writers from a range of disciplines. These include, for instance, Barry (2001), Bunge (1998), Friedman (2001), Gitlin (1995), Kuper (1999), Matthews (2000), Munz (1992, 1994), Nanda (2003), Sandall (1999) and Windschuttle (1994).
Culturalism has informed treaty interpretation in numerous ways. It places the treaty outside history and outside the political and economic context of human intentions and actions. ‘Human beings (are construed) as products rather than as producers of culture’ (Hannerz, 1992: 16). Such an ahistorical or ‘presentist’ (Oliver, 2001) view fixes the meaning of the treaty in a timeless spiritual realm that guides human behaviour rather than being the result of peoples’ motives and actions at a certain historical moment.
Steven Webster (1998: 1-2) has referred to the role played by ‘most New Zealand-based social anthropologists since the 1970s (who) have been caught in theories of culture which present the Maori as somehow outside history’. In other writing I have the analysed the pervasive influence of culturalism in education in several influential policy documents (see Rata, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c). A recent critique by Christopher Tremewan (2004: 4) refers to culturalism as ‘a central component of Kiwi political correctness, a moral enforcement incomprehensible in terms of lived social reality but comprehensible in terms of a reconstructed social reality. It insists on a biological connection between ethnicity, culture and entitlement and, in my view, is better termed cultural fundamentalism. Its historical antecedents are invidious. Yet it dominates policy prescriptions and academic analysis of New Zealand society.’
Culturalist ideas of primordial ethnic-cultural difference, cultural relativity and ahistoricism underpin Tribunal reports and with support from (bi)culturalists in government, the courts, academia and the professions, the Tribunal’s interpretation of the treaty has become the orthodox interpretation, one that serves the political interests of the neotribes. According to W. H. Oliver (2001: 9) the Tribunal ‘reports exemplify an instrumental but – because never explicitly avowed – elusive way of writing and using history’. Oliver refers to the Tribunal’s ‘presentism and the way in which this is shaped by a current political agenda and by the anticipation of its achievement in the future’.
This culturalism approach is also found in judicial decisions. ‘In the important 1987 Lands case the Court of Appeal said that the Treaty should be interpreted as a “living instrument”, which laid the foundation for “an ongoing partnership” between Maori and the Crown, and which must be seen as “an embryo rather than a fully developed and integrated set of ideas” (TPK, 2001: 15). ‘In 1990 Sir Robin Cooke, the then President of the Court of Appeal, speaking extra-judicially, said of the Treaty: ‘It is simply the most important document in New Zealand history’. (TPK, 2001: 14).
Culturalist beliefs underpinning the orthodox interpretation of the treaty are demonstrated in the Te Puni Kokiri publication Guide to the principles of the treaty of Waitangi as expressed by the Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal (TPK, 2001). The Guide refers to the treaty as ‘the founding document of New Zealand’, ‘an exchange of promises between two sovereign peoples, giving rise to obligations for each party’ (2001: 14). It is a ‘partnership’ between the tribes and the government, one that entitles the tribes to economic and political rights in perpetuity. It has constitutional significance. Treaty ‘principles’ are the basis for a bicultural nation in which tribal authority is incorporated into government institutions and processes.
The neotribal justification for two separate socio-political organisations in contemporary New Zealand uses a presentist, ‘two worlds’ approach. This is despite the contemporary realities of fluid and mixed ethnicity (Callister, 2003; Chapple, 2000), the modernist culture shared by all New Zealanders (one enriched and textured by the cultural heritage of its contributing ethnic groups), and the single democratic socio-political system that replaced the traditional kinship organisations.
In the culturalist approach, because the treaty’s authority is ‘spiritual’ or ‘otherworldly’, and outside the political conditions of its real historical context, contemporary realities are ignored. The religious imagery of treaty orthodoxy illustrates the doctrinal status of a spiritually mandated authority, an authority that takes it out of the realm of critical scrutiny. According to Margaret Wilson (cited in O’Brien, 2003: 15), the treaty is a ‘convenant’ that has a ‘higher purpose’ (than that of a legal contract), one ‘of defining the relationship binding two peoples’. The word ‘atone’ in the government’s apology to the Tainui tribe (The New Zealand Herald, 23 January 1995) conveys the idea of the expiation of a sin-inspired guilt, while the idea of a ‘foundation document’ with a spirit that ‘still speaks today’ evokes a timeless and commanding manifesto. This ‘otherworldliness’ elevates the treaty from the combative political sphere to a level of unquestioning reverence.
The treaty combines the very political purposes of the elite (of this world) with the otherworldliness of a past considered to be forever present in the unchanging spirit of the people, carried from the ancestors to the present and projected into the future. Oliver (2001: 25) captures these dual and contradictory purposes with his comment that the Tribunal ‘looks for a revival of traditional tribal politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries through the creation of a tribal economic base’ through an approach which reasserts, ‘to the point of reinventing, the evidences of continuity and denying the significance, if not quite the actuality, of change’.
In contrast to culturalism, a world systemic analysis (Friedman, 1994; Bunge, 1998) locates causation in the actions of real people living in historically specific circumstances. Traditional revival and other fundamentalist movements are understood, not as responses to nineteenth century colonisation but as contemporary responses to contemporary circumstances. In the case of neotribal capitalism the context is the post-1970s’ restructuring of the global economy, the corresponding shift from universal class-based politics to identity politics, and the re-emergence of traditional elites as a capitalist ruling class. Treaty politics expresses the New Zealand experience of the global elite repositioning.
THE NEOTRIBAL ELITE
New Zealand biculturalism is a local version of the identity movements that replaced the universalist class-based politics of the prosperous post-war decades. Identity politics enabled the most vulnerable of the new professional class (its most recent entrants, such as women and ethnic minorities), to respond actively to global economic contraction and its accompanying ideological shifts. Local movements were built around identity politics to ensure that the gains women and minority groups had made in the prosperous fifties and sixties were maintained in sites of identity recognition. These sites include women’s studies and Maori studies in academia along with government policies that targeted the marginalised groups.
In the early 1970s a small group of tertiary educated Maori became the leaders of the cultural revival (Fitzgerald, 1971) that signalled the first stage of ‘glocal’ identity politics in New Zealand. With the galvanising of the 1960s’ pan-Maori cultural renaissance into a political movement in the 1970s, the base was established for further transformation into neotribalism under the control of the elite. This group had entered the political arena through their leadership roles in the pan-Maori movement. The shift to tribal identification meant that they could use their political connections acquired in the earlier radical protests in the cause of specific tribal interests (O’Regan, 1994: 43). They became recognised as brokers between the government site and the tribal site, a brokerage role provided access to economic resources of the settlements on behalf of the tribes rather than pan-Maori.
By the end of the 1980s Maori revivalist leaders had successfully defined indigenous recognition in terms of the new identity politics and achieved important political gains, particularly the government’s willingness to revive and honour the treaty. The 1985 Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Act that allowed claims to be backdated to 1840 established the Waitangi Tribunal as the main brokerage site between the emergent neotribal elite and the government. Political recognition and institutionalisation were extended throughout the 1990s to include the concept of a political equal ‘partnership’ between the tribes and the government. For instance the principle of partnership was first identified explicitly in the Tribunal’s Manukau Report (1985) (see TPK, 2001: 80). By 1987 the Court of Appeal could say that the treaty established a relationship ‘akin to a partnership’ (TPK, 2001: 78). And by the time of the publication of the Muriwhenua Land Report of 1997, the Tribunal ‘anchored its view of the equal status of the treaty partners in likely Maori perspectives at the time of signing of the Treaty: “That Maori and the Governor would be equal, not one above the other”’ (TPK, 2001: 81).
Culturalist beliefs informed the interpretation of the treaty held by both the Tribunal and the courts. As early in the brokerage process as 1988, a government document Environmental Management and the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (1988: 19, reprinted by the Dunedin Law Community Centre, 1995) contains a chart ‘Summary of Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi defined by the Waitangi Tribunal and the Court of Appeal’. Column one summarises the Tribunal’s interpretation of the principles. Column two is the Court of Appeal’s summary. Both interpret treaty partnership as an unproblematic reality. In the Tribunal column ‘the Treaty implies a partnership, exercised with utmost good faith’. The Court of Appeal statement is even stronger. ‘The Treaty requires a partnership and the duty to act reasonably and in good faith (the responsibilities of the parties being analogous to fiduciary duties)’ (Dunedin Community Law Centre, 1995: 13).
Tribal institutions, such as the Ngai Tahu and Tainui Trust Boards, given renewed impetus by the treaty reparation settlements, provided the structures for the materialisation of this politicised ‘partner’ identity. As previously noted, some of the leaders who had led the cultural and indigenous movements become tribal brokers, a comprador bourgeoisie, on behalf of the newly established tribal economies (Rata, 2003a). It was a transformation that occurred within the brokerage process itself as institutional sites (for example, the Waitangi Tribunal, the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission) were established. The positions within the new sites provided privileging roles for the brokers: ‘Brokerage produces new advantages for the parties, especially for the brokers’ (Burt cited in McAdam et al, 2001: 142).
The first generation of the emergent neotribal elite include individuals who acted on behalf of neotribal interests. Amongst this group are: Sir Tipene O’Regan, Hon. Matiu Rata, Sir Robert Mahuta, Sir Graham Latimer, Justice E. Taihakurei Durie, Professor Mason Durie, Professor Whatarangi Winiata, Api Mahuika, Professor Tamati Reedy, Sir Hepi Te Heuheu, Professor Ngatata Love, Sir Paul Reeves, and Professor Hirini Sidney Mead. They negotiated for political and economic (including knowledge) resources across the newly created sites of treaty partnership discourse: the ‘revived’ tribes on the one hand, and, on the other, the state institutions committed to recognising the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Individuals and families within the emergent elite may be at different stages in the trajectory of elite emergence. Some will maintain their place in this structural class and continue along the trajectory over the course of several generations while others may not. (Indeed Laslett  has observed that upward and downward social mobility is a distinguishing feature of societies structured according to capitalist relations). What is important is the creation of the structural position itself. However individuals are important in that the new class structured position is the result of their role in the brokerage function.
Their control of the main brokerage site, the Waitangi Tribunal, was pivotal in establishing, then naturalising, the concepts of treaty partnership and principles. Mason Durie (2003a: 94) has referred to the Tribunal’s role in ‘rewriting New Zealand’s history’. The Tribunal intentionally and actively undertook this task. Oliver (2001: 10) describes how E. T. Durie, chair of the Tribunal from 1981 to 2000 ‘made clear his belief that the Tribunal should help to rewrite New Zealand history “from a Maori point of view”’. Also important was the elite’s control over knowledge production, attested to by the number of neotribalists who hold professorial chairs in the universities and directorships of the whare wanangas. In publications, conference presentations, reports, masters and doctoral dissertations, and speeches, neotribal intellectuals defined and codified the parameters and content of neotraditionalism.
The most influential publications include Ranginui Walker’s 1990 Ka Whawhai Tonu, Struggle Without End. More recent publications draw on several decades of articles, presentations and postgraduate dissertations. These include three recent books by Professor Mason Durie, Te Mana, Te Kawanatanga, The Politics of Maori Self-Determination, 1998, Mauri Ora: The Dynamics of Maori Health, 2001, and Launching Maori Futures, 2003. Professor Sidney Mead’s Landmarks, Bridges and Visions, 1997 and Tikanga Maori, 2003, and Professor Linda Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies, published in 1999, are major neotraditionalist texts.
These writings exemplify the symbolic use of tradition to justify and legitimise the elite’s political role and the material benefits that accrue to them. Neotraditionalism is entrenched as its symbolic content or ideology ‘masks or “mystifies” those interests for the group members themselves’ (Turton, 1997: 11). The use of spiritual symbolism in neotraditionalist writings such as Mead’s Tikanga Maori and in treaty rhetoric serve this mystifying purpose. The symbolism of oppressor and victim is a strong theme in neotribal revisionist writing (Bishop, Berryman, Tiakiwai and Richardson, 2003; G. H. Smith, 1997). It underpins the redemptive and reparative beliefs used to justify treaty claims. In his analysis of the Taranaki and Muriwhenua Reports, W. H. Oliver (2001: 26-27) discusses the Tribunal’s ‘redemptive history’, in its ‘depiction of a “possible” past is a “known” future, a kind of paradise lost at the dawn of colonial time. It is not altogether strange to find in its history some of the elements of a religion of the oppressed and the promise of delivery from bondage into the promised land’.
One short section of the Taranaki Report (Wai, 143, 1996: 12.2) shows how the narrative style of the tribunal reports identified by Oliver (2001) evokes the good versus evil struggle found in all mythological epics. The use and number of words and phrases describing the government create a vivid caricature of evil: ‘macabre’, ‘fraud’, ‘corruption’, ‘cruel’, ‘machinations’, ‘violations’, ‘war of aggression’. The good versus evil struggle is played out in heightened poetic imagery: ‘emblazons in vivid relief’, ‘protests of desperation’, ‘to destroy, by stealth and by arms’. The dramatic effect produced by this writing is not just in the word meaning. The rhythmic phrasing and periodic sentences of the syntax itself contributes to the binary opposition between oppressor and victim with active and passive voices supporting the ascribed roles of each protagonist.
This use of syntactical phrasing to add to the dramatic quality of the writing and to build tension is clearly demonstrated in the following quotation (taken from the same short section of the Taranaki Report, the italics are mine) ‘. . . . Maori custom, law and institutions were judged by those who did not know them, and the judgments were wrong. The right of Maori to make their own decisions about who controlled the dispossession of land and the nature of the interests held was negated, and the immediate result was war. The long-term consequence was that the Government enforced a plan to alter Maori land tenure and to destroy, by stealth and by arms, the capacity of Maori to manage their own properties and to determine rights with them. The relationship the Government imposed was that of dominance and sub-servience.’
A final example, also from section 12.2 of the Taranaki Report (Wai 143, 1996), captures vividly the range of language techniques used in the reports (despite being only a sentence fragment): ‘the invasion and sacking of Parihaka must rank with the most heinous action of any government, in any country, in the last century.’ The build-up of qualifiers ‘must’, ‘most’, ‘any’ and ‘any’ in such a short space empowers the sentence with authority. ‘Invasion’, ‘sacking’, ‘heinous’ evoke poetic epics of battles between the forces of good and evil. Finally, the periodic triple construction of the final phrases ‘of any government, in any country, in the last century’ is one of the most effective and evocative oratorical devices used in persuasive language.
THE BROKERAGE OF TREATY PRINCIPLES
The development of treaty principles to express the putative partnership led to a major extension of the neotribal elite’s control of treaty interpretation. The following description of the development and inclusion of Treaty principles in legislation provides a vivid account of what is probably one of the main brokerage ‘events’ – the brokerage of the principles of the treaty into New Zealand’s democratic institutions.
Section 9 of the State-owned Enterprises Act 1986 provides: ‘Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’. That is the first reference in legislation or policy to the principles of the Treaty – indeed, the first indication that the Treaty has principles. Their history began when in 1986 Ministers were considering the SOE legislation, then in Bill form. Concern was felt that its passage might lead, or be perceived to lead, to infringement of rights guaranteed to Maori by the Treaty as Crown assets were transferred to the new enterprises to become assets of the enterprises. That concern led to the Deputy Prime Minister, Geoffrey Palmer, traveling to meet Sir Hepi Te Heuheu, the paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, at his home. Sir Hepi expressed that concern directly to Mr Palmer, and told him that it would be allayed if the Bill were to provide as the Act now does. This was agreed to, and section 9 was duly enacted.’ However as Parliament did not indicate what the principles of the Treaty are, it fell to the Courts to discover them. (Berthold, 2003).
The development of principles to express the treaty partnership and the inclusion of these principles in legislation activated the march through the institutions of a non-democratic neotraditionalist ideology. The process was quick. ‘As of May 2001 there were over thirty pieces of legislation that refer to the Treaty of Waitangi or its principles’ (TPK, 2001: 20). Fourteen acts of legislation ‘contained clauses requiring some action in respect of the Treaty’. These include the Conservation Act 1987 (section 4), the Hazardous Substances and new Organisms Act 1996 (section 8), the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 1996 (section 4) and the Resource Management Act, 1991. A further eighteen acts contained ‘treaty references not amounting to a direction to act’ (TPK, 2001: 111). The latter were Waitangi Tribunal reports.
These legislative acts carried neotraditionalism into many areas of government life. Policy and practice at all levels of government institutional operation were affected. The following examples of the influence are from several areas in the education sector. They show the consequences for policy and practice that follow from the legislative requirement to acknowledge the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (Education Act 1989 (see section 181(b) added in 1990). The National Education Guidelines (Ministry of Education, 1999: 1) require that school programmes ‘for increased participation and success through the advancement of Maori education initiatives (be) consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’. The Group Special Education Maori Strategy (Ministry of Education, 2004) opens with the brokerage-facilitating statement ‘The Treaty of Waitangi is the principal founding document of our land’.
The early childhood education document Quality in Action (Ministry of Education, 1998) asks educators to ‘reflect (on) the unique place of Maori as Tangata whenua and the principle of partnership inherent in Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ (ibid 1998: 63) along with recommending that ‘Management ensure that their service’s budget and financial policies reflect a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ (ibid 1998: 81). Policy distinctions between Maori and non-Maori contribute to naturalising the culturalist ‘two worlds’ view of New Zealand society and to consolidating ideological boundaries between people on the basis of race. Emerging practices that treat children differently according to their race reinforces these race boundaries.
Widespread beliefs had developed among teachers that Maori children have a different ‘way of knowing’ and different learning styles from other children. According to Cormack (1997: 165): ‘Maori children generally work best as individuals when they know that they are part of a group which in turn is part of a larger groups, a secure hapu and iwi base in the classroom’. The previously cited Quality in Action (Ministry of Education 1998: 64) refers to a ‘Maori pedagogy (that) incorporates philosophical and spiritual beliefs, preferred learning styles, conditions conducive to learning, methods of transmitting knowledge, and appropriate people to pass on this knowledge.’ References are made to ‘Maori theories of human development’, and to the need to ‘recognise that different whanau, hapu and iwi vary in their views on the roles and significance of gender, ability and age’ (ibid 1998: 46).
There are examples from outside education of the far reach of treaty principles legislation into policy and practice such as requirements for Maori representatives to serve on committees and for consultation with iwi groups. The Royal Commission’s Report on Genetic Modification recommends that Institutional Biological Safety Committees (IBSCs) include at least one Maori member, appointed on the nomination of the hapu or iwi with manawhenua in the locality affected by an application’ (Report of the Royal Commission, 2001: 353).
A further example can be supplied from the Health Research Council of New Zealand which in its ‘Partnership Programme Request for proposals Expression of Interest Form EO1204-OHS’ (HRC, 2004) requires applicants to ‘meet at least the minimum requirements for Maori responsiveness’. These include the identification of ‘the Maori group(s) that were consulted regarding the proposal’, a description of ‘the ongoing role they will have in the further development and/or implementation’ of the research project’, an explanation if ‘any Maori participants’ are involved in the research, and the requirement to ‘identity any Maori researchers or research staff named’ on the proposal (HRC, 2004: 3).
As the brokerage function became institutionalised into government departments with the legislative requirement to acknowledge the principles of the treaty, several layers of brokers emerged below that of the elite themselves. These were people ‘on the ground’ who served as Maori advisers, iwi consultants and representatives, and kaumatua. They worked, often tirelessly, on numerous committees at national and local level in all areas of government activity including education, health, social welfare, local government, and conservation.
Such brokerage mediated the relationship between Maori revivalists and government biculturalists altering both groups in significant ways in the process. Citing Burt (1992), McAdam et al (2001: 142) argue that the brokerage process is itself transforming. ‘Brokerage produces new advantages for the parties, especially for the brokers.’ This was especially so for those Maori who moved from leadership of a pan-Maori cultural revival to leadership of tribal treaty claims. It was also true for those Maori who filled the new structural positions of advisor, kaumatua, and tangata whenua representative on the various councils, committees and panels that opened up as a result of the treaty partnership idea.
Structural mobility on such a scale meant that many new professional Maori were promoted rapidly in order to fill the positions available. In some cases, it could be argued, individuals were promoted over and above their qualifications and experience. The rationale for such promotion was the candidate’s Maori ethnicity and understanding of Maori tikanga, acceptable by neotraditionalist standards but at odds with the achievement-based meritocracy of New Zealand democracy.
MARCHING THROUGH THE INSTITUTIONS
Hazlehurst (1993: 74 – 75) locates the early development of the neotribal strategic project for institutional change in the 1980 – 1981 formation of the Maori Mana Motuhake Party. She refers to Ranginui Walker’s program of institutional transformation ‘. . . responsibility was to be firmly located in whanau, hapu and iwi’. By the end of the 1990s another highly influential neotribal broker, Professor Mason Durie, has successfully brokered the ‘Durie Principles’ into every area of Maori educational policy. The three Hui Taumata Matauranga (the first, in February 2001 was convened by Tumu Te Heuheu) show the driving force of neotribal ambitions for education (M. Durie, 2003a). The hui also show the strategic direction moving beyond education, possibly into a broader constitutional partnership including all government sectors as indicated below:
The Hui Taumata process has been innovative and appealing as a practical demonstration of the Treaty of Waitangi relationship, it has also provided a model for the articulation of collective Maori aspirations. . . in order to understand the interface between te ao Maori and the wider society , whether it is linked to education or health or employment or the economy, Maori need to have a clearer framework within which sectoral endeavours can be conceptualised. Thinking in sectors such as the education sector, the health sector, the social services sector – can distort te ao Maori. To that end it may be timely to consider creating an opportunity for Maori to identify their own priorities and plans on a broader front, using a similar process to the Hui Taumata Matauranga but focussing on higher level aspirations and goals, including constitutional arrangements. (Durie, 2003a: 18).
E. T. Durie’s long tenure as chair of the Waitangi Tribunal is an additional good example of an influential brokerage position within a pivotal government institution. The Tribunal played a major role in shifting the interpretation of the Treaty from its role as a grievance settlement mechanism to its role in justifying political, even constitutional, partnership. His strategic plan for the cultural change required for a constitutional ‘arrangement’ incorporating ‘the Treaty as a basic tenet’ (Wilson, 1998: 3-4) demonstrates the political aspirations of a broker in an institutional position with real driving power.
Brokerage into specific institutions such as government ministries and statutory organisations led to institutional links between the government, the neotribalists and the courts. This enabled the march through the institutions to proceed with relative ease. For example the link between the political and judicial areas of government is made explicit in E. T. Durie’s (1995: 3) suggestion of a political role for the judiciary in regard to indigenous issues:
The courts may be called upon to play a larger role in such political issues, at least where statute law has left some openings. In New Zealand for example, where the Waitangi Tribunal may direct the transfer of state properties to Maori in reparation for historical losses, there is the question of whether the Tribunal should compensate to the fullest extent of proven loss, or should consider it necessary to restore the tribe to a reasonable equilibrium. The issue may be seen as political, but given the lack of statutory direction to the Tribunal, the issue may fall to be determined by the courts, in High Court proceedings that are now current.
Comprehensive and forward-looking brokerage strategy has been driven by the neotribes. Andrew Sharp (1997: 452) has drawn attention to the unprecedented way in which ‘governments were losing control of policy formulation and execution’ in relation to the treaty. This is most clearly demonstrated by the way in which the treaty principles have been brokered into government legislation with enormous consequences for all sectors and levels of government activity.
Simon Upton’s description of the early 1990s National Government’s incorporation of treaty principles into legislation through the highly influential 1991 Resource Management Act reveals an almost cavalier approach to this most far-reaching of government activities. ‘I am quite sure that none of us knew what we meant when we signed up to that formula’. By ‘formula’, Upton (from the hindsight of 2003), referred to the requirement that local government, through the Resource Management Act, ‘take account of the “principles” of the treaty’.
Revealing further the extent of a government driven by the neotribes rather than its own policies, Upton added that ‘when it framed the Resource Management Act, the National Government was aware of treaty “principles” developed by the Court of Appeal in 1987 and by the Waitangi Tribunal in dealing with Maori land Claims. “But given the extraordinary wide reach of the act, handing over its implementation to local councils with no clear guidance on how those principles might intersect with the claimed rangatiratanga of any particular group amounted to a legislative evasion”.’ (Simon Upton quoted in the New Zealand Herald, 22-23 Feb. 2003). Until recently the Labour Government also appeared not to have grasped the significance of the brokerage of treaty principles into legislation. In 2000, Helen Clark, acknowledged that ‘there is no one in Cabinet actually co-ordinating the insertion of treaty clauses into new legislation’ (Listener, 2000: 22).
THE PROCESS OF TREATY RE-INTERPRETATION
Neotraditionalist ideology naturalises ethnic division to create the belief the New Zealand society is divided into two political partners, the tribes and the government, characterised by fundamental ethnic and cultural differences that must be recognised in distinctive socio-political structures. Furthermore this relationship between the two ‘partners’ was agreed to in 1840 and is considered to be ongoing.
The concept of partnership, authorised in the treaty’s timeless authority, was made concrete by legislating the treaty principles. With the legislative recognition of two separate entities, the way was opened for the next stage in the brokerage of neotribal influence and interests. Similarities can now be re-constructed. The partners can agree to relate in particular ways. For example iwi partnerships are created in health and education with iwi providers taking on some of the functions of government agencies. The whare wanangas are an example of the way in which the partnership is cemented into practice.
Brokerage too undergoes changes. Institutionalised partnership has greater permanency than the limited brokerage involved in one-off treaty settlements. Having become partners in government institutions (the result of the insertion of the principles into legislation), the neotribes are positioned to claim a fixed and permanent partnership – one located in constitutional inclusion. Treaty partnership has overtaken treaty settlements as the means by which the neotribal elite can continue and consolidate their march through the institutions. The final stage is that of neotribal brokerage into a constitutional arrangement.
Treaty interpretation changes throughout these stages. Treaty partnership was initially justified by extrapolating the possession guarantees in Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi into the concepts of governance and citizenship in the first and third treaty articles. There is a shift from claims based upon reparation for past wrongs (in reference to the Treaty of Waitangi, Article Two) to one of entitlement based upon a political partnership with reference to Article One. The new interpretation then enabled the neotribes to claim economic resources and political positioning on the basis of the political ‘partnership’ rather than on the basis of historical grievance claims only.
Extrapolating the concept of governance from Article One (regarding sovereignty secession) into Article Two (concerning economic resources), from where it acquired a determinacy which rebounded back upon Article One has enabled tribal members to be reconceptualised as subjects of the capitalised resource possessing tribe. In this interpretation (one driven by the Waitangi Tribunal), the right to govern (by establishing modes of regulation or tribal self-management institutions, policies, practice and beliefs) results from resource possession. In other words, if the neotribe is considered to be the owners of the capitalised economic resources, then the right of governance proceeds from that status. At this stage the neotribes have the economic and political platform to launch the campaign for constitutional recognition.
For over two decades a group of neotribal leaders have controlled the shifting interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi. That control has, through complex brokerage processes, led to the group’s own emergence as a self-interested political elite. The elite’s ‘strategic march through the institutions’ is now at the final constitutional stage. Mason Durie’s (2003: 105-116) recommendations for a new constitutional framework would create two separate socio-political organisations based upon race origins and justified according to culturalist beliefs that ‘race causes culture’ (Rata, 2004a).
The neotribal ‘side’ will be organised according to non-democratic principles of kinship, race heritage, and hierarchical leadership. Its policies and practices, justified by the neotraditionalist ideology of revived and romanticised communalism, will conceal the self-interested class character of the ruling elite. It is difficult to see how, given the incompatibility between the non-democratic race-based neotribal structure and the democratic institutions of the New Zealand state that both forms can be accommodated within the one nation. Yet that is the implicit assumption behind the idea of a treaty partnership and the brokerage of the treaty principles into legislation.
 Neotribal capitalism (Rata, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2003) refers to ‘the view of modern tribes as organizations of capitalist accumulation that are legitimised through a “neotraditionalist” ideology that re-create present-day class relations in colonial terms’ (Schroder, 2003: 435). The neotribe is not the revived traditional tribe but the new and non-democratic socio-political organisation of an emergent capitalist elite. Schroder (2003) uses the model of neotribal capitalism in his analysis of Native North America. Larson and Zalanga’s (2003) account of indigenous capitalism and elite class emergence in Malaysia and Fiji provides an excellent discussion of the complex connection between class and ethnic relations. In New Zealand, as in Malaysia and Fiji, ‘ the tension between class and ethnicity in relation to the emergence of the indigenous capitalists has been managed by downplaying the class-basis for political mobilization, emphasizing instead ethnic-based mobilization. Simultaneously, the connections between lower- and under- class individuals across ethnic lines are downplayed.’ (Larson and Zalanga, 2003: 95).
 For an analysis of the incompatibility between the reactionary non-democratic neotribal organisation and the democratic socio-political system institutionalised in New Zealand government see Rata (2004).
 An account of the ‘strategic march through the institutions’ and the transformation of Maori revivalism from a prefigurative to a strategic political movement is available in Rata (2000: 93-109).
 I use the term ‘aristocracy’ to refer to the promotion by the new elite of the non-democratic concept of birth-ascribed authority in the neotribal socio-political organisation. According to Sidney Mead (1997: 203) ‘the social system of traditional times is still in place, though greatly changed. Waka, iwi, hapu and whanau still exist despite years of government efforts to undermine them. There is still a Maori leadership system’. Ranginui Walker has referred explicitly to ‘aristocracy’ in commenting on disputes amongst Tainui leaders. ‘Professor Walker dismissed the emphasis being placed on democracy. “ Tainui must adopt a more collegial and consensual leadership or they will continue to undermine the aristocracy”” (The New Zealand Herald, 19-20 August 2000). A further example of the non-democratic ‘aristocratic’ values of the neotribal elite is provided by E. T. Durie’s reference to Sidney Mead. In the Foreword to Mead’s book, Tikanga Maori, a work acknowledge by Durie as ‘scholarly’, the distinctly unscholarly reference is made to Mead’s ‘respected family lines’ (Durie, 2003: ix). The juxtaposition of ‘scholarly’ and ‘family lines’ reveals the non-democratic ideology of neotribal capitalism given that birth-ascribed authority is in opposition to the universalism and equality of modernist scholarship. Tikanga Maori is a very detailed example of the reactionary character of neotraditionalism. The ideology’s commitment to birth-ascribed authority explains the frequent use of ‘Crown’ rhetoric rather than the modernist terms of ‘government’ or ‘state’.
 ‘The tribunal became the institutional mechanism for legal processes to be undertaken between the government and the tribes. Crucially it systematised a tribal – state relationship by conferring a juridified identity upon the concept of tribe grounded in treaty partnership, thus legitimating and incorporating within the capitalist order the existence of a mode of regulation based upon a tribal form’ (Rata, 2000: 202). The Tribunal can be seen as the ideological ‘base’ for the march through the institutions.
 ‘Culturalism’ or the reification of tradition and culture is well documented in studies by Hobsbawm (1983). Handler (1983), Babadzan, (1988), Friedman (1994), Anderson (1991), Turton et. al. (1997), Giltin (1995) and Kuper (1999) among others. According to Hobsbawm (1983: 1) tradition is defined as ‘a set of practices . . . which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past’. ‘Concepts of culture and tradition (are divorced) from historical forces of economic change’ (Dirlik cited in White, 2001:140). ‘As an anthropological ideology, culturalism is ‘increasingly used as a privileged tool to legitimise political domination’ (Babadzan, 2000: 150) with its sacralisation of cultures and identities. Babadzan also refers to the way that culture is ‘transformed and essentialised (2000: 149) with ‘anthropologists appropriating the ethnic-culturalist discourse that actors themselves hold about the meaning of their practices’. Kolig (2002: 8) refers implicitly to the modernist character of cultural revival in his description of ‘retraditionalisation . . . supported by globalisation through the freedom of choice’.
 Barry (2001), Friedman (1994), Turton (1997), Turner (2003), Wallerstein (1991), Kuper (1999), Gitlin (1995), Nanda (2003), Sandall (2001), Ekholm Friedman (2003) and Martinelli (2002).
 Many brokerage relationships between Maori neotribalists and Pakeha biculturalists were formed in the days of radical student politics, in the shared protests against the Vietnam war and, particularly, the anti-Springbok rugby tour of 1981. The protests against racism in another country marked the shift from a shared political platform to a new relationship between Maori and Pakeha. Maori turned to their own protests against racism in New Zealand and the role of bicultural Pakeha changed from co-activist to supporter in respect to Maori issues.
 Larson and Zalanga (2003: 88) describe how the ‘new indigenous elites have political and economic involvement and connections that span across other capitalist groups and traditional indigenous authority’.
 This description, including the account of the meeting between Mr Palmer (later Sir Geoffrey) and Sir Hepi Te Heuheu, was provided to the writer by Mr Tom Berthold.
 Since the Leader of the Opposition, Don Brash’s, Orewa speech in January 2004 revealed the extent of the public’s disquiet with treaty politics, the Labour Government has indicated a willingness to reconsider treaty policies.
 See the Ministry of Education Statement of Intent 2003 – 2008: Iwi Education Partnerships, (Ministry of Education, 2003)
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How cultural essentialism threatens intellectual freedom in the New Zealand tertiary education sector
Roger Openshaw and Elizabeth Rata
A version of this paper was published in the New Zealand Journal of Tertiary Education Policy in 2008. It has been altered and posted here in response to increase interest in academic freedom in the university and free speech in New Zealand more broadly
As a consequence of the shift from class to identity politics that characterises multiculturalism, administrators and academics in a number of Western universities are now obliged to defer to politically powerful interest groups which derive their power to condemn from culturalist principles. The ways in which this dominant intellectual orthodoxy of cultural essentialism in university management structures threatens academic freedom is illustrated in a number of case studies taken from the New Zealand experience. These include cases where staff members have suffered threats and harassment, gate-keeping mechanisms in research funding processes, and examples of research and teaching constrained by the ideology. They show the extent to which such ideological conformity compromises the scientific and critical analysis of social phenomena, thereby limiting the university’s ability to serve as the critic and conscience of society.
Outlining New Zealand’s tertiary policy in April 2006, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Tertiary Education, and Minister of Finance observed that:
Universities are research-led institutions, and are expected to provide
a broad intellectual leadership within the community, as well as
equipping people with skills that go beyond the vocational and foster
critical thinking and innovation. Academic independence must be
protected, not only to ensure that universities can act as the
conscience and critic of society, but also to support the flexibility and
innovation that comes with independence of thought (Cullen, 2006).
For many New Zealand academics, these will be reassuring words from a senior politician and tertiary education policy-maker. In stark contrast, however, is the actual reality of intellectual repression that characterises a number of New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, one most vividly exemplified by the rather ominous phrase ‘Academic freedom is a Western concept’ that remained inscribed on a whiteboard for the edification of pre-service teacher education students in a leading New Zealand tertiary institution for much of 2005. This paper argues that, whilst for New Zealand tertiary institutions academic freedom remains essential to quality research of international standard, the concept is now seriously endangered as commitment to key stakeholders, adherence to various equity targets, and compliance to Treaty of Waitangi ‘partnership principles’ take precedence over academic independence and the university’s role as the conscience and critic of society. There are several reasons for what we see as a progressive erosion of academic freedom over the last decade in particular. Olssen argues that genuine academic freedom has been eroded by the recent introduction of the culture of managerialism in tertiary institutions. New forms of surveillance and control produce ‘a de-intellectualised discourse of competency-based training which displaces professional judgement and ethics, as well as the forms of scholarship associated traditionally with the activities of the public intellectual’ (Olssen, 2002, p. 55).
Whilst this managerial culture is commonly regarded as being an exclusive manifestation of right-wing neo-liberalism, it is our contention that the erosion of academic freedom in New Zealand has been powerfully reinforced, not just from without, but also from within the academy. A key factor here has been the way in which the liberal left itself has shifted decisively from providing strong support for academic freedom and upholding the necessity of vigorous debate over controversial issues, to an adherence to a narrow intellectual orthodoxy based largely on cultural essentialism (that is, the reification of culture, Rata, 2004), cultural relativism, and ethnic politicisation (for which we use the term ‘culturalism’).
Culturalism is the ideology of ethnic politics. In many respects it is aptly defined by the oxymoron, ‘secular religion’. In this ideology, as in religious fundamentalism, ethnic identity becomes a type of sacred identity, one blessed by tradition and evocative of a special destiny for those ‘of the faith’ (Rata and Openshaw, 2006; Nanda, 2003). Both offer the psychological security of group belonging and the stability of a known past (Friedman, 1994). The practitioners observe similar rituals and share in the use of evocative, almost mystical language to emphasise the group’s transcendence of the present into a timeless continuity between past, present and future (Keesing, 1989). Uma Narayan argues that, in Third World countries, this mindset results in the contemptuous labelling of any criticism of traditional cultural practices, even by groups such as indigenous feminists, as being foreign, Western, bourgeois and modernist. Narayan cautions us against uncritically accepting terms such as “cultural preservation” as innocuous descriptors. Rather she urges us to pay ‘critical attention to the agendas that are served by the deployment of these terms’ (Narayan, 1997, p.ix, p.6).
In those countries which have experienced relatively recent European colonisation, such as New Zealand and Australia, this intensity and wholeheartedly uncritical adoption of ritual deemed ‘traditional’ has become as much a feature of predominantly European new middle class professionals as it has amongst the indigenous groups whose culture they embrace (Rata, 2003a; Openshaw, 2006). In both instances there is manifested all too often an intensity of commitment that crosses easily into fanaticism, as the examples we provide from the tertiary education sector in New Zealand clearly illustrate. Furthermore, as these illustrations show, this doctrinal stance finds a ready ally in the consumer focused, market-orientated approach of our tertiary institutions, where good customer relations now go ‘hand-in-glove’ with the tenets of ‘cultural safety’.
GOODNESS, POWER AND LEFT-LIBERAL MILITANT ADVOCACY:
The embracement of cultural essentialism by the liberal left in its own interests has been a phenomenon common to many Western nations since the late 1960s. Gouldner (1979) and other critical scholars (e.g. Kellner and Heuberger, 1992; Eder, 1993; Lasch, 1995) have argued that the liberal left’s own ambivalent position in society as a relatively privileged ‘new middle class’ of ‘caring’ professionals has been responsible for its retreat from class politics. As early as 1968, Parkin identified the nature of the retreat by describing how many ‘middle-class radicals trained in the humanities and social sciences’ now found ‘acceptable sanctuaries in the welfare and creative professions’. In this way they benefited ‘from capitalism’s operation while at the same time avoiding direct involvement in capitalist enterprises’. It was a way to ‘exercise their talents without compromising their radical political ideals’ (Parkin, 1968, p. 192). With its liberal guilt hoisted on the uncomfortable petard (Rata, 1996) of that ‘goodness and power’ paradox described so succinctly by Gouldner (1979, p. 36), the radicalised new middle class of the 1970s and 80s made the decisive shift from class to cultural politics – a shift that enabled this class to maintain its appearance as the ‘legitimate defenders of the common good’ (Kellner and Berger, 1992, p. 11) without relinquishing its economic position.
But the shift to cultural politics did more than provide these new middle class humanists with a diversion from confronting the consequences of abandoning democratic politics based in the nation state. It also weakened the political project that had originally enabled a working class intellectual vanguard to emerge as a new professional class, the radicalised section of the mass middle class’, described by Cornel West (2005, p. 32) as ‘prosperous working class with bourgeois identity’. The ‘19th century project of reform and control, an attempt by working class movements to domesticate capital and its elites in the name of the people and their transparent democratic representative body, the state’, (Friedman, unpublished mss) was now denounced as unrepresentative – a white male club that excluded and marginalised minorities. In the new understandings of identity politics, it was no longer the proletariat (the rapidly forgotten origins of the new middle class) that experienced the oppression of capitalist exploitation. Instead ethnic groups, indigenous peoples, women, gays, the disabled, religious minorities, were the victims in a new discourse of oppressor: colonisation, the patriarchy, and ‘Western’ culture.
The liberal left of the new professional class particularly championed direct participation by minority groups in the nation’s political life on the grounds that new voices were not only heard and respected for the first time but that they contributed to the diversity of a common political culture. Ironically however, the new participatory politics of multiculturalism, whereby governments consulted directly with traditional (or in some cases, self-appointed) leaders representing the various ethnic and religious groups, proved not to be a more direct route to democracy of liberal left expectations. Instead, the brokerage functions and mechanisms of consultation, advice and appointment that accompanied cultural and ethnic politicisation transformed ethnic and religious leaders into self-interested elites whose very claims to ‘represent’ their respective groups depended upon maintaining the groups’ distinctive separateness, ensuring that only they, its leaders, crossed the erected boundaries as the legitimate voice of the group (Rata, 2003a).
Despite the increasingly undemocratic nature of multicultural politics, ‘diversity’ became the favoured discourse of left wing politics, not least for its role in deflecting attention from the liberal left’s discomfort with the contradiction between its own intellectual idealism and its relative economic privilege. This new alliance between the liberal left and identity politics portrayed in Lukes’ (2003, p. 92) ‘holistic Herderian picture’ of cultural wholes, together with its abandonment of class politics, is undoubtedly the reason for what Friedman (in press), citing Jacoby’s The End of Utopia, argues is ‘not simply the defeat of the left, but its conversion and perhaps inversion’. Earlier, Bloom had argued that these ‘mutant Marxists’, ‘de-rationalise(d) Marx and turned Nietzsche into a leftist’ (1987, p. 222) as a way to simultaneously expiate the guilt of privilege and to champion the poor in an ingenious resolution of the ‘goodness and power’ paradox.
This transformation of the liberal left through its conversion from class to cultural politics was thus justified through the intellectual strand of identity politics: postcolonial theory, postmodernism and the numerous forms of cultural studies that subsequently proliferated throughout universities (Kimball, 1998). Academics, drawing upon cultural theories that insisted upon the primacy of culture, also played a major role in the boundary-making strategies that increasingly characterised ethnic politics. Turton (1997, p. 37) has acknowledged the role played by scholars in creating ideologies. ‘Whether we like it or not, our disciplines – especially, perhaps, history and anthropology provide what Hobsbawn calls the “raw material” of nationalist and ethnic ideologies’. Jonathan Friedman cites an insider critique of ‘British cultural sociology, epitomised by the Birmingham School’s move from Marxism via a culturalist version of Gramsci to ethnic and now hybrid discourse, as a shift from the ”class struggle to the politics of pleasure”’ (Friedman, mss). Indeed, as we shall shortly see, Gramsci’s notion of ‘organic intellectuals’ was hugely influential in seminal writings by New Zealand’s indigenous educationalists (L. T. Smith, 1999; G. H. Smith, 1997).
Ironically, whilst cultural relativism rapidly became a dominant force in universities, Western culture and Enlightenment values were regularly denounced as racist and sexist, even as non-Western traditionalism and tribalism were uncritically held up as examples of freedom, diversity and tolerance (Bloom, 1987, pp. 216-237). Former radical culturalist activists now turned university managers thus resolved their ideological conflicts in that role through the exercise of more limited campus hegemony (D’Souza, 1992, pp.18-19). The result for many campuses has been a climate of fear leading many scholars and students to adopt the rhetoric of anti-elitism, anti-sexism and anti-racism to avoid being labelled rightists or racists (Kimball, 1998: 351).
BICULTURALISM IN TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS
As the foregoing discussion clearly demonstrates, the rise of cultural essentialism has been a global phenomenon, not confined to any particular country. This does not mean, however, that its impact has been uniformly felt. What makes the New Zealand experience of cultural essentialism especially distinctive is its development of biculturalism1, and its justification in a new interpretation of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Biculturalism was the main vehicle through which culturalism as an ideology has become embedded in its tertiary institutions, and particularly its colleges of education (Rata, 2008). This process is documented in a forthcoming study which traces the beginnings of bicultural policy from the 1960s to the present to show how New Zealand’s liberal educators became transformed into radical biculturalists to the point where it became unquestioning (and unquestionable) doctrine (Openshaw, 2006).
The tendency for biculturalism to be wielded as a weapon to isolate and to condemn those who do not step into line is particularly prevalent in tertiary institutions which do not have university status. It is in such institutions that left-liberal ‘goodness and power’ contradictions critically intersect with feelings of academic inferiority to precipitate the zealous embracement of culturalism that both distinguishes such institutions from universities, whilst at the same time furnishing staff with the appropriate ideological credentials to be accepted as radical academics. Although the Wanganui Polytechnic case discussed below is not an isolated example of this phenomenon at work, it is one of few that reached the media and hence received extensive coverage.
In 1996 two pakeha (white) Wanganui Polytechnic students, Hanne Jacobsen and Barbara Osbourne, complained of racial harassment on their social work course. Among their concerns were intimidation by classmates, separate classes for Maori and tauiwi (literally ‘foreigners’, sometimes used instead of ‘pakeha’), a demand that a karakia (prayer) be said over a photocopier before Maori articles could be copied, a Maori woman being told she could enter the course half-way through the year if she baked her tutors a cake, Maori students being allowed to start a course a week before pakeha students, because they had been disadvantaged all their lives, and all students being made to wear labels promoting issues of Maori sovereignty (Morgan, 1998, p.1). A subsequent favourable review concluded that though the incidents had taken place, the course was not racist, hence the complaints were not valid and any restrictions on free speech had been self-imposed. Incensed by this dubious outcome from a supposedly neutral body, the two pakeha students took their complaints to the Race Relations Conciliator, Rajen Prasad, who, despite strong criticism from culturalists, found that the Polytechnic had breached the Human Rights Act. Thus, some two years after the initial complaint had been laid, the students concerns were finally upheld. Looking back on the lengthy case, The Dominion newspaper argued that Osbourne and Jakobsen deserved ‘the nation’s thanks for their courage in persisting with their complaint despite the original finding and despite the attempts of the polytechnic to sweep the issue under the carpet with offers of compensation.’ The editorial further observed that whilst all people of goodwill supported closing the gap between Maori and non-Maori performance and achievement, ‘Racism is racism, and is unacceptable whether the necks of those practising it are red or brown’. (‘End polytech racism, The Dominion, 8 September 1998, p.8).
The tendency towards collective coercion of both staff and students, especially where bicultural issues are concerned, has also been noticeable within the former colleges of education, themselves descended from the older teachers’ training colleges. One reason for the strong presence of cultural essentialism within colleges of education lay in their institutional positioning, poised awkwardly between the practical world of the classroom, and the more theoretical world of university-based faculties of education, whilst at the same time obliged to implement the views of their Wellington-based political authorities. Given the ever-increasing criticism from all three sources, the adoption of biculturalism, especially when it could be readily allied to existing educational principles based on progressivism and constructivism, appeared to offer colleges considerable advantages, enabling them to forge a distinctive role within an increasingly threatening political environment (Openshaw, 1996).
Such widespread adoption of biculturalism by teacher education institutions did not go entirely unchallenged however. The Partington Report (1997) strongly critiqued ‘what may be called “Waitangism” …the doctrine that places the Treaty of Waitangi as a critical reference point in all teacher education courses as in many aspects of public life in New Zealand’ (p. 191). The Report singled out both the Wellington College of Education and the Christchurch College of Education as having responded with particular zeal to the demands of partnership between Maori and pakeha in accordance with the Treaty of Waitangi, with every course now having a Treaty and equity statement (pp. 192-94), with the effect that ‘there seems no place where you would not be expected to accept without question a very contestable interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi and its supposed educational implications’ (p. 221). The extent of ideological capture by cultural essentialist principles was said to be epitomised in the Wellington College of Education’s Early Childhood Handbook, which compared its integrated curriculum to a:
… flax rope with the learner at the centre. The rope uncoils in an endless spiral. As it uncoils it touches on three areas: Personal growth as a member of the community; Early Childhood curriculum; and Professional Development. The strands of the rope are theory, practice and the curriculum. Interwoven through the strands are the threads of issues: Bi-culturalism, Partnership with Parents/Whanau, Mainstreaming, Gender Equity, and Assessment and Evaluation. (Partington, p.98).
Such critiques, however, were to go largely unheeded when, beginning in the 1990s, the increasingly rapid pace of university-college of education mergers resulted in previously cushioned university faculties of education facing similar pressures to their polytechnic and college of education counterparts. Thus by 2006, the historically unjustified notion that the Treaty of Waitangi is a ‘partnership’ with educational implications was thoroughly naturalised in the new Bachelor of Education (Teaching) and Diploma of Teaching (ECE) programmes of the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland. The programmes contain the principle: ‘Teacher education programmes will develop the knowledge and skills necessary to practise in ways that are consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi’, and the related outcome; ‘Graduates of initial teacher education programmes will be able to practise in ways that are consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi’ (Programme Handbook, 2006, p. 4).
Such superficially bland policy rhetoric conceals the fact that newly-merged faculties of education are in their turn, uncritically incorporating highly contestable and numerous views about the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand. Separately or in various combinations, the Treaty is understood as: an ongoing political ‘partnership’ between the tribes and the government; New Zealand’s founding document; an historical document recording the strategy used by the British to annex New Zealand; a symbol of two separate cultures – Maori and pakeha; a living symbol of two fundamentally different social and political systems, indigenous and Western; a contract between Maori and pakeha; a contract between the tribes and the British Crown; the agreement allowing pakeha to live in New Zealand; an historical document of little or no relevance to contemporary New Zealand; and a political ideology of the neotribal elite (Rata, 2003b) – to articulate just a few of the conflicting views on the Treaty of Waitangi and its meaning.
Given the current range and diversity of views about the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi, its study as a highly contested document is undoubtedly an academic task of crucial importance. For this reason alone, the promotion of one single ‘correct’ view within academic programmes is highly undesirable. However, the extent of uncritical self-representation and intellectual orthodoxy found in many of the new professional degrees which include a Treaty component means that the ‘correct’ view rapidly becomes unchallengeable doctrine. The reason for such orthodoxy lies in the politicisation of culture whereby many academics in teacher education can be described in the same way that Babadzan described anthropologists, observing that (2000, p. 149), ‘anthropologists tend to appropriate the essentialist ethnic-culturalist discourse that actors hold about the meaning of their own practices rather than provide the critique that enables reflection and scrutiny’.
This problem of intellectual orthodoxy is compounded further by the recent tendency for new professions, such as teacher education, nursing, social work, and business studies, to expect their members to have higher education qualifications specific to the profession, rather than an undergraduate diploma or a postgraduate diploma in the professional area underpinned by a degree in the liberal arts, humanities and social sciences. Certainly, these new degree courses are able to draw on the intellectual ideas of the more established social sciences and humanities which, through their wider theoretical base, have the potential to provide greater intellectual rigour. On the other hand, without constantly delving back into that intellectual well to ensure that the theoretical framework of the new subjects remains under constant scrutiny, those frameworks rapidly become rigid orthodoxies.
A specific problem here is that the intellectual framework for these vocational subjects was laid down during the high point of culturalism in the 1980s. There it seems likely to remain, as academics in these subjects tend to concentrate on issues pertinent to the profession itself, rather than attempt to rework the established intellectual framework which would involve wrestling with the philosophical issues of causality and concept definition. One indication of this shortcoming is that the ‘culture wars’ (Kuper, 1999; Sandall, 2001) raging in anthropology, history and sociology since the mid-1990s are almost unknown in New Zealand teacher education studies.
Considering this intellectually depressing situation it is perhaps hardly surprising that in New Zealand several decades of vocational studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in subjects based upon rigidified social science theoretical positions have produced an uncritical conformity to culturalism with highly disputed concepts of ethnicity, culture, and increasingly ‘diversity’ taken as givens. It seems likely that the separation of vocational studies from their intellectual roots will lead to greater ideological conformity amongst professionals, as new generations of professionals take their first degrees in the vocational subjects themselves rather than acquiring a more general bachelor’s degree in the humanities, social sciences or general sciences, followed by a post-graduate qualification in the professional subject.
The limited intellectual legacy and hierarchical management style typical of many former colleges of education is not the only culprit involved in the increasing assault on basic academic freedoms within New Zealand universities. The tendency of cultural essentialism to permeate both university management structures and university student organisations already noted by a number of overseas commentators, continues to be demonstrated in several recent New Zealand cases where staff have suffered threats and harassment. At Wellington’s Victoria University in February 2000, Paul Dunmore, an associate professor in accounting and commercial law, refused to attend a Maori blessing of Rutherford House. He argued in an interdepartmental email that an institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge was inaugurating its new premises with ‘an act of animist superstition’, adding that he would have opposed other religious superstitions on similar grounds. The following month, the editor of Victoria University’s student magazine Salient denounced Dunmore as ‘bigoted’ and ‘ill-educated’, ominously warning that ‘academic freedom is not the right of academics to speak out on any issue, no matter who it might harm, embarrass, demean, belittle, or ridicule’, and calling for the recalcitrant professor to be disciplined by the university (‘”Bigoted” prof under fire. Row over Maori blessing boycott.’ Manawatu Evening Standard, 6 March 2000, p.3). A senior academic and philosopher at the University of Canterbury compared this disciplinary call to those of Nazi Germany’s brownshirts, arguing that the editor was following a long tradition that stretched back from Pol Pot, through Mao Tse-tung, to Hitler. A subsequent article by Peter Rochford, Maori Vice-president of the Association of University Staff, however, strongly upheld the dominant culturalist perspective also embraced by the university’s management. Rochford condemned both dissenting academics and supported the call for disciplinary action on the grounds that New Zealand was a bicultural society within which each culture had the right to its own world-view, without denigration. In Rochford’s view, senior university staff had a particular responsibility to uphold the University’s conduct statute which specifically prohibited causing racial disharmony whilst insisting that all staff consider the University’s role, values and standing (Rochford, 2000, p.4).
It is not just outspoken staff members who are put at risk by the continuing dominance of culturalist ideology within university management structures. Ongoing research itself is also threatened, as recent events at the University of Otago demonstrate. In the South Island, Ngai Tahu is the recognised Treaty partner and tertiary institutions are obliged to work with the tribe to ensure ‘a functional relationship based on the Treaty of Waitangi’. In 2003, a paper entitled ‘Treaty-based Guidelines and protocols for tertiary educated institutions’, attempted a much-needed scholarly analysis of the relationship between traditional societies as represented by Ngai Tahu, and modernism, as represented by western science and social sciences taught within the university (Tau, et al., 2003). In contrast to much university-based research by both Maori and pakeha academics that asserted the primacy of cultural relativism and cultural safety, the document strongly upheld the principals of academic freedom and critical rationalism (p.6). Pointing out that tribal systems were essentially ‘closed,’ it was argued that Ngai Tahu would be best to accept that its knowledge system had been superseded by one that was vastly superior. Its authors also correctly viewed the system as being global rather than wholly Western or pakeha-specific, in that other cultures (Babylonian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese, Arab) had materially contributed to its development. The only sensible option was therefore to regard Ngai Tahu’s traditional belief system as a cultural construct that deserved preservation and study, whilst accepting the need to modernise. Thus in science, the authors argued, the problem was essentially one of ensuring suitable Maori academic leadership and presenting knowledge in culturally relevant ways rather than attempting to define knowledge in a way that located it, ”within the infinitely regressive slops of relativity’ (p. 22)
Notwithstanding this sensible document, however, the consultative process is still prone to capture by excessively culturalist-minded university bureaucracies. The University of Otago’s recent policy decision to consult Ngai Tahu over, not just research concerning or involving Maori, but all research undertaken by employees of the university, is a case in point. An Otago Daily Times editorial entitled ‘Research Restricted’ (Friday 22 August 2003), whilst welcoming the debate and the principle of wide research consultation, warned of the immense bureaucracy involved in having all research considered in this manner, not to mention the privileged position a single group now enjoyed regarding the control of researchers.
The extent to which the research bureaucracy has grown exponentially to the point of being ‘anti-research’ is exemplified by the recent experience of a Masters student in seeking to gain ethics approval for a small research study about the challenges faced by three nurses working in remote rural areas in New Zealand in respect to emergency call outs (personal communication). For reasons which were not made clear to the student, the ethics approval must be authorised by the National Health and Disability Ethics Committee (HDE), not the university where the student is actually enrolled. Questions about what this means for a university’s control over its own research policy aside, the research has been considerably delayed by the HDE Committee’s requirement that the researcher consult with the regional Maori Health Manager before ethics approval is given. This is notwithstanding the crucial fact that the researcher will not be asking any of her three participants if they identify as Maori. The powerless student’s frustrations are compounded and the research further delayed by the HDE Committee’s insistence that written evidence be provided of the consultation with Maori before ethics approval enables the interviews to take place. The Maori Health Manager’s failure to put his verbal agreement in writing despite repeated requests means that the research is threatened and the student’s degree completion put at risk. The consultancy role of such positions as Maori Health Manager provides a clear example of the gate-keeping power implicit in the brokerage function which operates as a result of the politicisation of ethnicity. In addition the HDE Committee’s insistence on frequent and regular progress reports, despite the delay caused by its insistence on written evidence of consultation with Maori, means that a small research study and all the student’s financial and career commitment to acquiring postgraduate qualifications are in jeopardy. The bureaucratic gatekeeping operated by ethnicised brokers at all levels of research activity, of which this is just one example, leads to an ‘anti-research’ culture, one quite at odds with the claims made by New Zealand universities to spear-head a research-driven society.
Despite the dominance of culturalist ideology in all areas of New Zealand’s intellectual life, there are a small but growing number of academics who are publishing critical analyses. John Clark’s (2006) examination of the action of New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa, in suppressing in a display any references to the massacre of the Chatham Islands people by Maori invaders from the mainland follows an earlier work by the historian, Peter Munz (2000) which discussed the objection of four eminent New Zealand historians to the museum’s display. Both objected to the museum’s justification that there was no real objective truth and that Matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge) must be protected at all costs. Munz referred to the museum’s portrayal of Moriori history as political propaganda’ (p. 16) and ‘gross historical misrepresentation’ (p. 13). He ascribed the museum’s approach to academics’ ‘propagation of widespread delusions’ which happen to be “politically correct” (p. 16). Similarly, Clark critiqued the tendency within tertiary institutions to claim the equal validity of different knowledge bases which are held to be mirror opposites. Thus, typically (western) science is characterised as analytic, sceptical, and evidence-based, whilst the other is said to be holistic, has accepted truths, is close to the natural environment and emphasises relationships. A particularly vivid example of this Western-indigenous dualism comes from a Maori education administrator’s invited speech to senior officials of the New Zealand Treasury.
The Päkehä world is clearly compartmentalized. There is a compartment for the mundane and another for the spirit. This allows good Christians to rob and pillage during the week and to go to church on Sunday all with a clear conscience. For indigenous peoples the compartmentalization of one’s life and mind is not customarily part of their makeup; the world of the spirit and the world of the mundane are not clearly separated although today as a result of colonization separation has begun and sometimes with dire consequences. (Hook, 2006)
A recent paper by Dannette Marie and Brian Haig (2006) reveals the extent of culturalist orthodoxy in controlling research funding. They express concern that New Zealand’s ‘Health Research Council describes kaupapa Maori research (ie Maori science, paradigms and methodologies) as ‘world-class’ when its methodology has not been subject to critical evaluation, and little of that research has been published in peer-reviewed journals’. Their analysis demonstrates just how pervasive adherence to culturalism is throughout all stages of the research process. ‘Statements requiring research scientists to endorse this methodology are now variously found in government science policies, national-level research funding guidelines, national and university ethics committees guidelines, and professional bodies’ research codes of conduct. Further, many departments in the state services sector have commissioned KMR (Kaupapa Maori Research), and a wide range of disciplines within the tertiary sector now teach KMR methodology as a stand-alone, fully-fledged conception of inquiry’ (p. 18). Indeed, so institutionalised is the uncritiqued idea of kaupapa Maori research that it is incorporated into the system for determining the allocation of research funding to tertiary education organisations (the Performance-Based Research Fund – PBRF), where it plays a significant role in the assessment of the quality of researchers and the resulting career development opportunities. According to Alcorn, Bishop, Cardno et al (2004) ‘the quality of Maori research in education is high. Many Maori education academics were among those receiving the highest quality rating (12% of all A and B grades were in Maori education)’ (p. 281). This success is directly tied to the acceptance by academia of kaupapa Maori research. ‘Perhaps the most obvious feature was the success of Maori academics in education in developing alternative and critical epistemological models and research methodologies’ (p. 281). Within such a repressive ideological climate, it becomes almost impossible for researchers who wish to develop a critique of culturalism, or even to resist its adherence criteria, to undertake or develop research projects given the extent of the gate-keeping at all stages of the research funding approval process.
Christopher Tremewan’s 2005 article, ‘Ideological Conformity: A Fundamental Challenge to the Social Sciences in New Zealand’ is another provocative challenge to social scientists about the considerable implications of ideological conformity to cultural essentialism. He asks that social scientists engage with ‘the ideological verities which have become aligned with government social policy, which (are) legislatively programmed and ideologically policed.’ Tremewan also perceptively refers to the social sciences as ‘the dead hand that stifled rather that promoted critical debate’ and failed ‘to provide an adequate critique of social norms’ in New Zealand (p. 2).
These papers join earlier work by Nash (1990), Openshaw et al. (1993), Rata (1996, 2000); Oliver (2001), Chapple (2000, 2004) and others in resisting the demands of current intellectual doctrine for a scientific and critical analysis of social phemomena. The current impact of culturalism, however, is such that questions of who controls what counts as legitimate knowledge – and who counts as knowledge-brokers – have become central issues for the maintenance of academic freedom. Ironically, the politics of so-called inclusion, whereby every course development committee and every research ethics and funding committee is required to include a Maori representative, has resulted in the politics of exclusion.
The situation is exacerbated when state agencies continue to act on culturalist principles, frequently fusing them with the rhetoric of the global marketplace to give them added power. The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology for ‘instance, has recently announced that it is to spend more than $1 million a year on research projects into indigenous Maori knowledge. Justifying the expenditure, the Foundation’s Strategy Manager, John Kupe, claimed that New Zealand could be ‘a world leader in understanding the contribution that indigenous knowledge could make to science and innovation, through traditional technologies which have the potential to deliver products and processes that are globally unique and will give New Zealand a marketing edge’ (Dominion Post, 20 April 2006).
The links between cultural essentialism, indigenous science, and global entrepreneurship are noteworthy in the above press release. Maori business has also taken on a life of its own, with people now believing there is such a thing as Maori business (Devlin, 2006). Even in tertiary institutions the concept is promoted on the basis of frequently unsubstantiated assertions which, in turn, are based on essentialist ideology. Academic positions are created; academic courses proliferate, in turn creating the need for advisers and consultants. The growing brokerage infrastructure must be administered, employing more people, necessitating further funding, and further institutional commitment – all without the term and its underlying culturalist ideology being critically examined.
Yet what exactly is Maori knowledge? Many education faculties in New Zealand’s tertiary institutions seem all too willing to include such knowledge, uncritically. One example of this is Auckland University’s Faculty of Education, which recently stated as its goal that ‘Teacher education programmes will develop flexible and accurate understanding of subject matter knowledge, and related to te ao Maori dimensions, associated with the core activities of teaching in curriculum areas’ (Programme Handbook, p.4). (‘Te ao Maori dimensions’ refers to knowledge and understandings of the Maori world.) And if education faculties and even whole universities are culpable in this respect, then who can blame New Zealand’s Energy Safety Service for recently issuing a ludicrous household safety pamphlet outlining the current electrical code of practice recently issued for household use as follows:
From a Maori perspective, the term “earth” or Papatuanuku translates as Earth Mother – the source of all energy. When aligning this concept to the flow of electricity, a useful parallel can be made to the 3-pin plug
Active (phase) Spiritual element, active, tapu
Neutral Physical element, neutral, noa
Earth Mauri or life force derived from
Papatuanuku or Earth Mother
(Deputy Secretary, Energy Safety Service, 2004).
Juxtaposing science and mythology in this way, does justice to neither. Rather, it leads to the mockery of both. Mythology is indeed important as the symbolic code that creates social and historical consciousness and cements the important social bonds that enable societies to cohere. However, as Marie and Haig note (2006, p.17), ‘the unsatisfactory conclusion drawn by epistemological relativism is that one group’s belief in supernatural causation, for example, is epistemologically equivalent to another group’s belief in naturalistic causation’. But science surely has a separate function; one jealously guarded in the secularism of the university. Indeed if this separation of belief and science were not the case, pakeha academics would still legitimately be debating key traditionalist questions that reflect a European medieval world view – such as: ‘How many Angels candance on a pin head?’ Indeed, if advocates were being really consistent about applying bicultural and culturally essentialist principles, it could be argued that the Energy Safety Service pamphlet requires urgent revision in the interests of Treaty partnership to incorporate a third column based on traditional Christian cosmology, thus relegating the so-called ‘scientific’ point of view to one of three equally valid world views.
EXPANDING THE WEB OF CULTURAL SAFETY:
Whilst biculturalism stands out as the dominant New Zealand variation of a now dominant Western ideology, cultural essentialism as a doctrine has also had a significant impact on research and teaching to the extent where academic freedom has been strongly threatened. As a result tertiary administrations are now obliged to defer to politically powerful interest groups that derive their power to condemn from culturalist principles. This paper concludes by briefly examining two seemingly different events, – the first concerning an academic and the Mormon Church, and the second, concerning supposedly insulting portrayals of Chairman Mao. It should be emphasised that we are not attempting to defend or to justify the positions taken by the individuals involved in these controversies. Rather, our intention is to further illustrate how essentialist concerns have come to increasingly dictate the way tertiary institutions respond to controversy.
In August 1998 Raymond Richards, a Senior Lecturer in History and American Studies, taught a first-year course in the history of the United States. This course included a lecture on Mormonism which, Richards contended, was based on the research of many respected historians in the field that held Mormonism was a cult, and that its founder, Joseph Smith, was a conman, fraudster and megalomaniac (Dominion, 2 October 1998, p.5). Following this lecture, Richards was informed by the University’s Mediator, that some students had formally charged him with harassment. They demanded an apology and equal time in which to present the Mormon view. According to Richards, he subsequently received threatening calls but received no support from university management. His letter to Vice-Chancellor, Bryan Gould, which made reference to the concept of academic freedom, allegedly received the response that he would try to ‘provide some satisfaction to the complainants.’ Richards subsequently related that he was obliged to consent to a public debate with the Mormon Church which resulted in a lecture theatre confrontation in which he was accused of being both incompetent and unprofessional. Although Richards kept his job, and the students later withdrew their complaint, one result of the furor was that several of his colleagues told him that they would drop controversial topics from their programmes to avoid harassment charges (Richards, 2002).
In May 2006, the Manawatu Standard reported a furor on Massey University’s Turitea Campus when angry Chinese students protested over the alleged ‘send-up’ of Chairman Mao in the student magazine Chaff (Issue 10, May 2006, front cover). A number of Chinese students termed the article racist and likened it to the portrayal of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper the preceding February, warning that Chinese students spent a lot of money in New Zealand, and implying that this beneficial practice could be endangered. Perhaps with similar threats in mind, the Massey University Officer, Bruce Graham, claimed that the cover showed a lack of respect and was in extremely poor taste, though he accepted the magazine’s editorial independence (Manawatu Standard 1 May 2006, p.1). Despite considerable pressure including a warning from New Zealand’s Race Relations Conciliator, Joris De Bres, that student magazines should be responsible, the editors of Chaff bravely refused to apologise. It is noteworthy, however, that a subsequent Chaff issue featuring an article on world cup soccer that identified one player’s weakness as ‘being French’, whilst questioning whether readers could really trust anyone playing from Germany because Hitler had come from that country, apparently attracted no adverse comment. Doubtless, American students too, would be expected to show the same forbearance regarding satirical portrayals of President Bush. Culturalism, it seems, disavows even the cultural relativism its own supporters claim to embrace.
Unfortunately, the otherwise worthy sentiments expressed by Dr Cullen concerning the role and mission of New Zealand universities cited at the beginning of this article are being undermined, largely because the academic freedom essential for progress is both hampered and threatened by the uncritical acceptance and promotion of culturalism.
At the heart of cultural essentialism, and biculturalism, lies an essential contradiction that make them dubious approaches for universities to embrace uncritically, especially given their oft-stated goals of promoting intellectual leadership, critical thinking and independence of thought. Culturalists insist that all ways of knowing are inherently equal. In practice, however, they embrace an inverse cultural hierarchy with indigenous knowledge at the top, Western, secular, pakeha culture at the bottom, and the various other cultures strung out in between these polarities. In the hands of tertiary bureaucracies predominantly concerned with keeping their clients happy, however, the case studies we have presented suggests that the dominant response to this contradiction has been the adoption of a somewhat pragmatic cultural hierarchy in respect to which particular cultures enjoy priority in the enforcement of its viewpoints and the suppression of others. If true, then the formulation of some rules of engagement for tertiary staff is probably possible. Hence, university staff who come under fire for supposedly ridiculing Maori culture, especially spirituality, would be unlikely to survive, but would be on fairly safe ground in critiquing say, Protestantism or Roman Catholicism. Attacking Mormons would probably have a variable outcome for the perpetrator, depending on the grounds the complainants based their case on, and their ability to form alliances with more politically influential groups around common interests. Satirising Chairman Mao is apparently off-limits, but Americans, Hitler, and Germans generally, are legitimate – and safe – subjects for denigration.
This paper, however, is ultimately not about scoring cheap points off dominant ideologies. Neither should our critique of the impact of culturalism on New Zealand’s tertiary institutions in its various guises imply a rejection of the role of academics in identifying and critiquing the social reality – including the reality of social inequalities and the fact that groups self-identify or are identified by others in ethnic terms. We are not asserting that specific groups do not experience a particular social reality as a consequence. Neither are we in favour of ‘Maori-bashing’, or deliberately seeking to insult either Chinese or Mormons. Rather, our concern lies with the issue of power, especially with the way power is currently being wielded and its consequences for academic freedom. For instance, it is noteworthy that although the historical experience of women in New Zealand in some ways parallels that of Maori, direct constraints upon researchers has only occasionally occurred. Moreover, widespread formal requirements that women as an identifiable group be widely consulted by tertiary management, much less vested with the power to effectively discourage research deemed inappropriate, has been far less evident. For these reasons, as critical academics in the social sciences, we are increasingly concerned that the ideology of culture and biculturalism not only hampers us in examining other possibilities, but that institutionalised culturalism has made any serious criticism a risky task.
Instead of meekly surrendering what previous generations of academics have fought so hard to protect to those cultural groups deemed to have the most justification for defining the nature of the academic task, we wish to endorse a tertiary climate where academic objectivity has been restored, as opposed to the prevailing ‘I know because I am’ rhetoric. Only within such a climate will it again become possible within the academy for biculturalism in all its guises to be critically examined as a political approach based upon cultural essentialist values, that in turn, are contestable – the same as we would wish to do for any other ideology, value or creed. Only in this way can we return to the ideal of the university as a true market place where ideas, theories and innovations can be critically examined in a true spirit of academic freedom.
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1 ‘Originally a progressive project committed to incorporating Maori culture into the nation’s symbolic identity, biculturalism became the vehicle for separatist ethnic politics and a fundamentalist ‘blood and soil’ ideology under the control of an emergent neotribal elite’. (Rata, 2005: 267). The post-1987 interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi as a political ‘partnership’ between the revived tribes and the government played a crucial role in reshaping biculturalism.