Politics and Society, Gavin McLean

The 1990 Election: Perspectives on Political Change in New Zealand
E M McLeay (ed),
Department of Politics, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, 1991

The 1990 election was the dullest in recent decades, with a battered, cynical electorate sensing the inevitability of defeat for Labour, but feeling far from enthusiastic about National. This desk-topped monograph packages papers presented in December 1990 when politicians and academics gathered to inspect the entrails. It has four sections: party campaigns (all written by politicians), leadership (political scientists and a journalist), issues (academics) and studies of voting trends (more academics). Once again Colin James runs rings around the political scientists as a communicator, although the warning buried in James Lamare’s wooden prose about our low levels of political confidence should not be ignored. An index would have made this book more useful.

 

Controlling interests: Business, the State and Society in New Zealand
John Deeks and Nick Perry (eds),
Auckland University Press, Auckland, 1992, $29.95

This multidisciplinary collection of essays is meant to complement Brian Easton’s The Making of Rogernomics (AUP, 1989). Inevitably, it poses more questions than it answers; nevertheless, it makes a useful start by examining some of the more important economic, social and political changes in New Zealand since Rogernomics started reshaping things in 1984. The 12 pieces range over a broad ground – the economy, economic penetration by multinationals, Maori resource issues, employment equity issues, workplace health and safety, the media and the legal profession. The book was compiled for tertiary students and includes some fine writing from contributors such as Nigel Hurworth (‘National Sovereignty, Deregulation and the Multinational’) and Margaret Wilson (‘Employment Equity Act 1990’).

 

Human Resources Management in New Zealand: Contexts and Processes
Richard Rudman,
Longman Paul, Auckland, 1991, $59.95

Don’t be put off by the dull packaging and the bulk of this hefty paperback, both of which shriek ‘textbook’. Rudman, a businessperson turned educator, has penned a surprisingly accessible introduction to human resources management in what must be one of the western world’s most controversial frontier economics. His 600 pages of text interleave a discussion of current theory with practical case studies and local information on legislation on issues such as the Employment Contracts Act. After looking at society and the economy, Rudman takes readers through industrial relations, organisational theory and employment matters from recruitment to exit. It even passes its own FOG readability test (p261) in most places!

 

Whose News?
Margie Comrie and Judy McGregor (eds),
Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 1992, $29.95

The fourth estate gets the second degree in this timely collection of essays. In 237 tightly-written pages, Whose News? examines media ownership, journalist training, reporting standards and industry ethics from the standpoints of practitioners, the public and politicians. Like any such collection of essays, it’s a mixed bag. The contributions range from the shallow and self-serving (Muldoon and Bob Harvey) through to arresting pieces by doyens such as Brian Edwards, Hugh Rennie and Jack Shallcrass. Indeed, Edward’s analysis of Television One’s ‘Cootchie Coo News’ should be required reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in the topic. Essential reading and of more general interest than its academic packaging may suggest.

 

Survival Skills for New Managers
Geoffrey Moss,
GP Publications/ Moss Associates, Wellington, 1991

Management consultant Geoffrey Moss’s ninth book is for the scientist or salesperson newly-promoted into the nebulous world of management. After demystifying the concept of management by explaining that it really is about helping people do their work better, Moss explains how to get the best from staff, manage time, make decisions, delegate work, communicate ideas and manage stress. Other books go into these areas in more depth, and New Zealand ones written for the purely local market provide more help on issues such as redundancy and legislation, but Survival Skills for New Managers would be an excellent first choice for the first timer. It is clear and brief. Jargon is confined to a helpful 18-page glossary and the layout is generally inviting. Pity, though, that the designers did not know that using sans-serif type for the body of the text of a book this size hampers readability.

 

Gavin McLean is a historian with the Historic Places Trust.

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