Excerpts from Lachlans PIP

Lachlan submitted his PIP in the 2015 HSC year. The Society and Culture Association have been fortunate enough to have Lachlan share his understanding of the course and knowledge gained throughout the PIP research and writing process. If you attended the  HSC PIP DAYS Held in November 2016 you would have been privy to Lachlan’s experiences and expertise. His PIP titled “Have we Capalised on Democracy” has been used to highlight some of the components expected of the A Range. The ability to unpack data, analyse and interpret it for meaning and draw synthesised conclusions are key reasons why Lachlan achieved a Band Six in Society and Culture.

Below are excerpts from his PIP


Modern western culture is popularly defined through two key concepts: Capitalism and Democracy. However, does growing inequality between differing socioeconomic groups disrupt the fundamentals of democracy, a system and belief partly instigated by the United States’ Declaration of Independence, which proclaims in its second section that “all men are created equal with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. My investigation into this matter revolves around the question ‘does the implementation of a full-scale capitalist economy (and capitalist values) harm traditional democratic belief?’ This investigation was inspired by my increasing global awareness of political and economic systems and their effect on society. As such, my research attempts to investigate whether capitalist and democratic values and institutions can truly coexist.

….. Essentially my Personal Interest Project shall explore the states of multiple societies and their approaches to political, economic and social structures. In particular it shall asses both the interconnectedness of capitalism and democracy and the impact of this relationship on society and individuals. Changing economic circumstance and cultural differences are also assessed and the impact of this noted. My social and cultural literacy will expand as a result of this project through a thorough understanding of domestic politics and economics, and an assessment of these factors as implemented abroad.


This increasing interest was driven by a combination of a very politically active family and global exposure to relevant issues via social media (as I’m sure any adolescent is influenced). Both my family and large portions of left leaning social media advocate for a society of more equality, and statistics which I have been introduced to in relation to wealth distribution, education, health and housing have heavily influenced my interest in the topic. Essentially I was driven by an inner compulsion which thought ‘this is not right’. An introduction to modern capitalism made me question the values which I associated with democracy, is Australia’s democracy truly equal? My first answer was of course ‘no’, but I soon realised that equality does not have the same meaning to everyone as it does to me, and I accepted my idea for a topic.


excerpt taken from ch 2

Quality of life across class is measured by income distribution and access to housing. Historian Alice Kessler-Harris again sheds light on this issue, “Many express their helplessness against the power of money “carries with it the control not of things only but of people, too.””20 Indeed just how powerful is money and more broadly capitalism? Figures show that wealth inequality in Australia is increasing, as noted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2011 “Income inequality among working-age people has been rising since 2000 and is today above the OECD average”.21 The OECD gives viable reasons for this continual growth, “Widening disparities of market incomes” and “weakening redistribution”. They go on to claim that globalisation and technological growth are major forces in increasing global economic disparity.22 The reasons given by the OECD attribute the growth of global and domestic inequality to capitalism, as its global form and influence in technological growth widen the gap between the hierarchical levels of society. As such, change is occurring on a global scale as the capitalist belief system manifests itself throughout multiple societies.

Weakening redistribution is an interesting factor, as it demonstrates that government intervention in inequality is reducing. A member of the focus group conducted noted that “Australia is, unfortunately, moving politically to the right and therefore becoming more Americanised.”23 The fact that this is recognised as “unfortunate” and that 70% of interview respondents24 claimed that societal equality is the most vital democratic principle reflects that typical Australian values depict growing inequality as not preferable. As government focus shifts from progressive-style economic measures to business growth, as seen in the recent 2014 federal budget, Australia is adopting a new form of political westernisation, ‘Americanisation’.

The wealth divide in America is testament to capitalist inequality. Sociologist Professor G. William Domhoff demonstrates the American situation in Figure 1. 25 He then notes change over time in the American environment in Figure 2. 26 Primary sources have demonstrated that Australians are averse to having this situation occur within our country. Unfortunately, as Peter notes, Australia’s inequality is growing at a rate faster than that of the United States, Figure 3. 27 The impact of federal policy, as outlined by the OECD as a major cause of growing inequality, has been exemplified by the 2014 federal budget. 100% of focus group participants agreed that this budget would exacerbate income inequality.28

….. Spence has a third addition invaluable to this investigation, “In an age where information has become a valuable marketable commodity” 42. Thus he represents the role of political and social corruption within a capitalist environment. The fact that information has become a “commodity” lends the idea that it is purely a capitalist belief system which instigates such corruption. Furthermore, change is apparent that dishonesty within Australia is growing over time, as exemplified by the many enquiries and instances of corruption in modern society. Australia’s education is clearly in a period of growth, the Australian Bureau of Statistics claiming that “59% of Australians aged 25-64 years had a non-school qualification, up from 46% in 1990”. 43 However, there are two prime issues concerning Australian educational equality-locational disadvantage and private schooling


The Personal Interest Project has expanded my micro and macro world views, opening me to new explorations in politics, history, economics and society (all of which my interest has steadily grown in). As such, I am growing empathy and understanding of the world around me and am quickly developing skills of sociocultural literacy. Particularly relating to Asian economies, my mind has explored new territory in understanding. Furthermore, I have grown in my understanding of myself through dedicating myself to this PIP, and as such questioning my own beliefs and their validity in both the micro and macro worlds. The PIP also heavily nurtured my ability to disregard my own beliefs and bias concerning the topic. This existed originally simply due to my interest in the topic. In addition to growing my social and cultural literacy, my exploration into this topic improved my organisation skills. Planning and undertaking a 6 month assignment, undergoing multiple drafts, edits and reviews, took an enormous amount of commitment and organisation and I am glad (albeit slightly surprised) that it is finally complete.



Focus group conducted in Glenorie, 31 May 2014,

Consisted of 6 adults of varying ages, places of employment, genders and beliefs. Questions were qualitative and as such gave important personalised information about the domestic environment and individual opinion on it. I placed importance on having 6 adults of varying ages, places of employment, genders and beliefs in an attempt to provide many different perspectives on the topic. This did occur, however many of the topics we discussed did come to consensus. As such, this primary method of research was proved valid and provided crucial, valid information. The fact that often consistency was found in opinion demonstrates that popular belief is common throughout individuals involved in the focus group. This method is limited through the number of opinions expressed (6 is hardly a large pool of data), however it is incredibly in-depth and as it supports other primary and secondary sources it is reliable


Larson, R (2012), Bleakonomics, Pluto Press, United States of America

A great advantage of Larson’s work is that Bleakonomics (published 2012) deals with current affairs issues, therefore keeping his subject matter up to date. This means that data is current and modern trends can be evaluated. Although it is an American publication, Bleakonomics has very much a global take on the subject of capitalist economic institution and management. Although I will focus primarily on the societal effect of the values of the two concepts, the institutions themselves physically need to be investigated and evaluated. Larson’s work explores this and therefore makes it very important to my project.