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The Lucky Country

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  449 ratings  ·  42 reviews
When it was first published in 1964, 'The Lucky Country' caused a sensation. Horne took Australian society to task for its philistinism, provincialism and dependence. The book was a wake-up call to an unimaginative nation, an indictment of a country mired in mediocrity and manacled to its past. ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Published February 26th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published 1964)
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Pungent. Much of the analysis still applicable today 2015 with a conservative government in Canberra, a prime minister exhuming knighthoods on Australia Day. Is progress an illusion?

The chapter on Menzies, a valuable record for future reference.

The chapter 'Living with Asia' worth reading again today, gives an understanding of how Asia views Australia.

Other topics I'd highlight are:- Nation without a mind, The first suburban nation, Snobs, Women, Between Britain and America, Lost bearings, Prov
Justin Evans
Mainly an interesting period piece, but always good to know where hackneyed phrases come from, particularly if, as in this case, they get misused: Australia is a lucky country, it turns out, because even though our politicians and other 'leadership' types are entirely incompetent, the state somehow struggles on. Horne writes well, and he's funny, but it's unclear to me whether his fundamental argument was true: was Australia really a country being held back by a lack of ambition and gusto at the ...more
Apr 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology, australian
2 February 2011

One of the things that makes Australians feel so lucky is, having satisfactorily subjugated the indigenous population, it has never really faced an external threat. We have sent, I suspect, more than our fair share of men to fight other people's wars, if you like, but despite Japanese bombing of part of Australia in WWII, we are rarely concerned with such issues.

And yet.

We have this incredible balancing enemy within: the weather. To have watched the bushfires a couple of yea
who cares if donald horne meant it ironically, it bloody is a fucken lucky cuntree
Feb 26, 2014 rated it liked it
"The lucky country" is a phrase any Australian is familiar with, one often applied with beaming happiness to things like Vegemite advertisements or Australia Day speeches. Yet few Australians would be able to quote the sentence it originally appeared in: "Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck."

Donald Horne wrote The Lucky Country in the early 1960s as a stark assessment of a nation he felt had lost its way. Australia possessed fabulous natural resource
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Funny - I don't feel very lucky.

I know! Horne was just being sarcastic, much like Men At Work were when they wrote "Land Down Under".

But really, I don't feel lucky. We’re fast heading for a healthcare crisis, housing is unaffordable for most of the population, we are the most over-taxed, and over-governed nation in the world, yet we hand out way too much in welfare payments and of course, there’s Australia’s “Greed Tax”. Greed Tax? Anything we import (which is almost everything because we’ve
Andrew Carr
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
We are now fifty odd years since The Lucky Country's publication, and it's hard to see what all the fuss was about. Donald Horne provides rambling short essays about a dozen aspects of society (a form many of his other publications also take) . His greatest intellectual strength is a non-doctrinaire opinion, but other than not saying what has already been said, it's unclear what is valuable about what he does say.

If you've heard the book's most famous line, "Australia is a lucky country run main
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Horne's sprawling though concise work of social criticism exposed Australia and Australians not to sheer vitriol but to a reasoned lament of the mediocrity of it's "elites" and many the negative elements of Australian society in the 1960s, especially of general apathy and malaise.

Yet even today many of the things he talks about are not only as relevant as ever (for instance, his assessment of Australian republicanism still holds mostly true 50 years, which is actually quite sad) and even when th
Nicole Naunton
Jul 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book was written in the mid-1960s but is relevant today because Australia still faces similar dilemmas. Having said that, Australia has come a long way from those days so it is helpful and interesting to understand which paths we chose to take and why, and why we are the people we are.

I found the middle section dull because I am more interested in the social changes than politics. Although, it was interesting to learn about the role the Communists played in Australian politics and some of
Nico Battersby
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have a lot of issues with my country. And while it wouldn’t be possible to air these grievances with my fellow countrymen, it’s comforting to know that someone recognised those very same issues 60 years before.
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: social, cultural, history
as a time capsual yes it has some interest but read in todays light it's just 200 pages of whinging ...more
Horne's controversial 1964 book is a problematic read in 2018, because at times one is expected to know and understand the Australia that he was writing about, and at others one is diverted or focused on how different (or same) contemporary Australia is to the vision he posited 54 years ago.

The first thing that does need to be said is that Horne's criticisms 'feel' valid, insofar as they are the starting points for much of the critical discourse about Australia since the book was published. Thos
Lily Sharp
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
First published in 1964, The Lucky Country by Donald Horne reveals the typical character of the Australian people, their national spirit, their strengths, weaknesses and the possible direction for our future.

What I liked
✅ witty, robust, insightful writing

✅ lays bare the basic truths of Australian life which linger under the surface, expressing it in an easy-to-digest way

✅ valid and insightful criticisms on the weaknesses of Australia and its people

What I didn't like
✖ the book overestimated the
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly interesting and relevant for a book about Australia written over 50 years ago.
- insights into the society in which I was being raised and which clearly implanted certain notions
- a tart assessment of Australian intellectual, business, and political leadership (or lack thereof), that is not entirely unrecognisable today
- some excellent predictions of where the country needed to go and which have held up strongly
- some others that thankfully didn’t pan out
- a window into conventions,
Lennox Nicholson
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Menzies orientated (that was the time) but there is a classic passage toward the end of the text where University lecturers stated the quality of graduates in their basic writing and mathematics is diminishing. This was published in 1961.
My cousin, a Professor at a prominent tertiary institution, told me the exact same thing a week ago at a family bbq. So it has been a problem for over 50 years and it doesn't seem to have changed. Best someone pass this on to the Minister for Education?
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
"What is lacking among Australians is a real feel for the history of the human race, and a sense of belonging to a long-lasting intellectual community that reaches its great moments when it seeks out in wonder towards the mysteries of its environment, that has concerned itself with more momentous problems than the nature of Australia but whose present members could well take this question up in the light of the history of human knowledge." (pp. 213) ...more
N. N. Santiago
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australia-nz
A lot has changed, happily mostly for the better (and often along the lines Horne has laid out). This is a significant book both for historical background and for understanding the Australia of today. Horne is a witty, weighty and incisive writer with rare perspective, both in 1964 and in the excellent preface to the 5th edition, written in 1998.
Stephen Wall
Jan 04, 2021 rated it liked it
I read this book in 2018 in my 20s for the first time and although it was well written and had some interesting points I found it anachronistic and not really worth reading out of the context it was written in. I wouldn't read again. Maybe for those who lived in the era it holds some enduring truths however anyone under 40 need not bother ...more
John Nowlan
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book has aged without a doubt as Australia is now more multicultural with a more diverse set of values but it's key tenet of the county being lucky and ran by second rate individuals remains true. ...more
Steven Alencar Mullavey
The first 5 chapters are instant classic (thogh I am biased as it hit particularly home for me as part of my family hails from Australia). The last 5 chapters are a bit more dry but still interesting nonetheless. Ends wonderfully. Almost feels like a masterpiece.
Julian Bu
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Funny and insightful at times.
Sübi Polat
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The contents of the book is still relevant in 2018. Worth your time!
Bill Brown
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A significant period piece where surprisingly many of the sections raised by Donald Horne still ring true today.
William David
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
justifies my alcoholism
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am an immigrant in Australia. Having arrived and settled here in 2017, I am still struggling to understand Australian identity and culture. The Lucky Country answered a lot of questions for me regarding Australian history and culture. I believe that Australia today is not so different from Australia in the book of Donald Horne. A lot of the same problems still exist, in particular in the education sector. I love the discussion of the tall poppy syndrome and I believe is still present these day ...more
Matt Mallard
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I was surprised to learn that the title of this book was actually meant to be ironic back in 1964. I can confidently say, like most Australians, that I am from the "lucky country". e.g This has become a common catchphrase amongst Australians traveling overseas.
Thank God we have shaken off the apparent inferiority complex and cultural desert that Horne writes about as Australia in the 1950s & 1960s. Australian entertainers are now some of the highest profile musicians & actors on the planet. The
"The lucky country" is a phrase so overused and, as Horne notes in his foreword, so abused; while understood clearly at the time of its original publication, Horne's heavy irony somehow became lost over the subsequent decades, no matter how often we are reminded that he didn't mean it as a good thing.

Shamefully, this is the first time I have read this book, despite having made blithe reference to it in class for years. What is astonishing - and I think several other reviews have noted this - is
Anthony Stell
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Hmm... Pretty scathing critique of Australia, and though they claim it's a timeless classic I think it's heavy opinions were showing their age a bit (and it is properly old: for instance, PNG was still a colony). The idea of Australia being run by second-rates, hardly any intellectuals, and a pervasive sense of it still being "British" certainly doesn't strike me as true (though I don't know if urban Melbourne gives the most representative view on that). Plus the writing was pretty tricky to wad ...more
This book got a lot right about Australia, sometime surprisingly so for something written a few decades ago now. The sections on our cities, immigration, society, our position in relation to Great Britain, America and Asia, religion, and "the Australian dream" were interesting and well written. I got a little lost in the political sections though, too much talk of Menzies, and in the final sections where Horne really tries to nail in his thesis. ...more
Michael O'Donnell
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The writing is wonderful. A good read.

If you are interested in Australian history and Australian politics and lived through the 60's this is a 5 star book.

Can all of it be believed as truth? No. Call all of it be believed as a 60's point of view? Yes.

Compare its assessment of Australia with your assessment of Australia today. Government, Economy, Asia presence. USA/UK. Aborigines.

If you are not interested in Australian history and Australian politics do not bother.

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