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Elizabeth Humphrys


UTS Assistant Student Ombud

Elizabeth's research is on state and civil society responses to economic crisis and change, with a focus on trade unions and social movements. Her latest research is on the phenomena of 'anti-politics', and the crisis of representation that leads people to increasingly see politics as detached from their lives. Elizabeth's PhD examined the implementation of neoliberalism in Australia, and its relationship to the 1983-1996 social contract between the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Her MA Research examined the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Global Justice Movement in Australia.


Elizabeth is co-convenor of The Australian Sociological Association’s 'Work, Employment and Social Movements' thematic group. She is a founding and current co-editor of Interface: A Journal For and About Social Movements. Elizabeth held an Australian Postgraduate Award at the University of Sydney (2011-2015), and in 2013 was awarded the WZB/Sydney Fellowship at the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre.

Prior to completing her PhD, Elizabeth worked as an investigator for the NSW Ombudsman, in research and policy for a number of universities and non-government organisations, and as an advisor to a member of the NSW Parliament. 

Image of Elizabeth Humphrys
Scholarly Teaching Fellow, School of Communication
BA (Deakin), Grad Cert Social Inquiry (UTS), MA (Research) (UTS), PhD (University of Sydney)
+61 2 9514 3777

Research Interests

Political economy and neoliberalism

Politics and anti-politics


Social and labour movements

Can supervise: Yes

54052 Economy, Society and Globalism

54082 Sex, Race and Empire

54004 Future of Work

54001 Digital Literacies 


Humphrys, E., Rundle, G. & Tietze, T. 2011, On Utøya: Anders Breivik, Right Terror, Racism and Europe, Elguta Press, London.
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Humphrys, E. 2014, 'The Primacy of Politics: Stilwell, the Accord and the Critique of the State' in Schroeder, S. & Chester, L. (eds), Challenging the Orthodoxy. Reflections on Frank Stilwell's Contribution to Political Economy, Springer-Verlag, pp. 151-172.
Humphrys, E. 2014, 'The primacy of politics: Stilwell, the accord and the critique of the state' in Challenging the Orthodoxy: Reflections on Frank Stilwell's Contribution to Political Economy, pp. 173-180.
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© 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. All rights are reserved. This paper re-evaluates Frank Stilwell's still unmatched, detailed intellectual engagement with the Australian Labor Party and Australian Council of Trade Union's Accord. Stilwell's was an indispensible critique of the Accord's failure to fulfil expectations that it would provide a political-economic solution to both the economic crisis that ended the long boom, and the Left's resulting impasse. Stilwell's key contribution was to pose sharply the necessity of a political response to the crisis-of the economy, politics and the Left-when competing radical (including Marxist) analyses failed to respond to this challenge adequately. From this recognition, the analysis asks how we might extend Stilwell's work on the Accord from the vantage point of today's (post)-neoliberal era. It seeks to open up the question of the state in relation to the Accord, and to consider how progressive and working class movements related to it. The chapter proceeds from analysis that there was a protracted assimilation of the unions and labour into capitalist state imperatives via the Accord. Furthermore, that this incorporation into a hegemonic state project cannot be separated from the implementation of neoliberalism in Australia-a process ultimately counter to the interests of labour and which contributed to the political defeat of the working class movement.
Humphrys, E. 2013, 'Organic Intellectuals and the Australian Global Justice Movement: The Weight of 9/11' in Baker, C., Cox, L., Krinsky, J. & Nielsen, A. (eds), Marxism and Social Movements, Brill, Leiden.
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Tietze, T. & Humphrys, E. 2012, 'The Science Cannot Save Us' in Loewenstein, A. & Sparrow, J. (eds), Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left, Melbourne University Press, pp. 10-26.
Humphrys, E. 2011, 'Your 'terrorists', Our 'lone wolves': Utøya in the shadow of 9/11' in Humphrys, E., Rundle, G. & Tietze, T. (eds), On Utøya: Anders Breivik, right terror, racism and Europe, Elguta Press, London, pp. 69-75.
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Humphrys, E.T. 2016, 'How Labour Made Neoliberalism', The Association of American Geographers, San Francisco.
Humphrys, E.T. 2016, 'Destabilising Neoliberalism's Dominant Narrative', Australian Political Studies Association (APSA) Annual Conference, University of New South Wales.
Humphrys, E.T. 2016, 'Anti-politics: From the Early Marx to Gramsci's Integral State', Australasian Historical Materialism Conference, University of Sydney.
Humphrys, E.T. 2016, 'Australia Under the Accord: Simultaneously Deepening Corporatism and Advancing Neoliberalism', The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Annual Conference, Australian Catholic University (Melbourne).
Humphrys, E. 2015, 'Gramsci's 'Integral State': Securing Neoliberalism in Australia', On 'Heroic Fury' and Questions of Method in Antonio Gramsci, University of Sydney.
Humphrys, E. 2015, 'Anti-Politics: The Antagonism Between Social and Political Logics', Australian Political Studies Association, University of Canberra.
Humphrys, E. 2015, 'Neoliberalism: Dominant Narratives and Counter Cases', The Australian Sociological Association, Cairns.
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Humphrys, E. 2015, 'The Accord after Thirty Years: Corporatism in the Neoliberal Era', 14th Biennial Australian Labour History Conference, University of Melbourne.
Humphrys, E. 2014, 'For a New State Debate', Historical Materialism Australasia, Sydney Mechanics' Institute of the Arts.
Humphrys, E. 2014, ''Abolishing the present state of things: Reconstructing Marx's critique of politics and the state', Historical Materialism, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
Humphrys, E. 2014, 'Labour and the Neoliberal Revolution', Australian Political Studies Association, University of Sydney.
Humphrys, E. 2013, 'The Lucky Country? The Impact of Global Protests in Australia', Reclaiming Democracy and Social Justice: From the Arab Spring to Occupy to…, University of Windsor, Canada.
Humphrys, E. 2013, 'How Labour Built Neoliberalism', Historical Materialism, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
Humphrys, E. 2011, 'Rethinking Gramsci's Organic Intellectuals', Alternative Futures and Popular Protest, Manchester Metropolitan University.
Humphrys, E. 2011, 'Understood in Their 'Originality and Uniqueness': Locating Gramsci's Organic Intellectuals in the Australian Global Justice Movement', Historical Materialism, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
Humphrys, E. 2010, 'The Naughties: The Rise and Fall of the Global Justice Movement in Australia', Empire to Commonwealth: Communist Theory and Contemporary Praxis, University of Wollongong.
Humphrys, E. 2012, 'To be Young Again: Social Movements in the Age of the Arab Revolutions Occupy and the Indignados', Historical Materialism Australasia, Sydney Mechanics' Institute of the Arts.
Humphrys, E. 2009, 'The Weight of the Event: The Crisis of the Global Justice Movement in Australia after 9/11', Crisis? Networks, Resilience, Disorder, University of Technology Sydney.
Humphrys, E. 2007, ''With their bodies on the line': activist space and sexuality in the Australian alter-globalisation movement', Queer Space: Centres and Peripheries, Queer Space: Centres and Peripheries, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, pp. 1-5.
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Humphrys, E. 2007, 'From offence to defense: the impact on the global justice movement in Australia', Alternative Futures and Popular Protest, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK, pp. 1-7.
Humphrys, E. 2006, 'GLAM, QUEER and Quace: Sexuality meets anti-capitalism an the streets of Melbourne', Alternative Futures and Popular Protest, Alternative Futures and Popular Protest, Manchester Metroppolitan University, Manchester, UK.

Journal articles

Humphrys, E.T. & Cahill, D. 2017, 'How Labour Made Neoliberalism', Critical Sociology.
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Critical explanations of neoliberalism regularly adhere to a dominant narrative as to the form and implementation of the neoliberal policy revolution, positing neoliberalism in its vanguard period as a project implemented by governments of the New Right, imposed coercively on civil society by state elites and only subsequently adopted by social democratic parties. In such accounts, labour is typically posited as the object and victim of neoliberalising processes. In contrast, this article focuses upon the active role of labour within the development of neoliberalism. The period of social democratic government in Australia (1983–1996) is used as a case study to illuminate labour's active role in constructing neoliberalism. Indicative evidence from the USA and UK is then presented to argue that the agency of labour can usefully be 'written in' to the presently dominant narrative regarding the rise of neoliberalism to provide a more satisfactory account of its nature and resilience over time.
Humphrys, E.T. & Tietze, T. 2016, 'Balancing Act: Correspondence (reply to George Megalogenis)', Quarterly Essay, vol. 62.
Humphrys, E. & Tietze, T. 2015, 'Anti-politics and the Illusions of Neoliberalism', Oxford Left Review, vol. 14, pp. 20-27.
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Humphrys, E. 2015, 'From global justice to occupy everywhere', Overland.
Humphrys, E. 2013, 'Global Justice Organising in Australia: Crisis and Realignment after 9/11', GLOBALIZATIONS, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 451-464.
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Humphrys, E. 2013, 'Review: Labour and the Politics of Empire: Britain and Australia, 1900 to the Present (by Neville Kirk)', Reviews in Australian Studies, vol. 7, no. 4.
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Humphrys, E. 2013, 'Within or Against the State', Jacobin.
Humphrys, E. 2012, 'From Global Justice to Occupy Everywhere: The Antecedents to a New Movement', Overland, vol. Special Issue: 'Occupy Overland'.
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Humphrys, E. 2012, 'The Birth of Australia: Non-Capitalist Social Relations in a Capitalist Mode of Production?', Journal of Australian Political Economy, vol. 70, pp. 110-129.
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In the final chapter of Capital: Volume 1, Karl Marx discusses E.G. Wakefield's insights into the colony in the Swan River district in Western Australia and pokes fun at the 'unhappy Mr Peel' (1976: 933). Despite Thomas Peel's foresight to bring 'means of subsistence and production to the amount of 50,000 [pounds sterling]', along with 300 working class persons, he failed to arrange for 'the export of English relations of production' to the isolated district (ibid.) (1). In the years that followed the colony's establishment in 1829, it approached collapse. Unable to generate capital and extract surplus labour, by the early 1840s colonists were petitioning for the first 'free' colony of Australia to introduce convict transportation (2). It was ultimately through the introduction of unfree labour to Swan River in 1850 that capitalist social relations were able to advance, and almost 10,000 convicts were relocated to the location by 1868, when transportation ceased (Battye, 1924: 197). A question that emerges from the story of Swan River, and from the early years of the other Australian colonies further east, is whether a land lacking virtually any 'doubly free' labour should be considered part of the capitalist mode of production. Marx notes double freedom was the necessary condition for labour-power to become commodified in order that surplus value could be extracted: a person is free to sell their labour-power (in that they are no longer bonded to another as under feudalism or slavery), but also free from the ability to subsist (lacking control of the means of production) (Marx, 1976: 272-73). Legal ownership over the means of production (the natural world, land and materials) and the separation of those from labour mean that capitalism is not only a technical or material process in which social classes are constituted but an irreducibly social one (Clarke, 1991: 68). Along with the organisation of work, which disciplines the classes, these relations ensure accu...
Humphrys, E. & Collerson, J. 2012, 'Capital Against Capitalism: New Research in Marxist Political Economy', Journal of Australian Political Economy, no. 70, pp. 5-10.
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It is now obvious to all but the most deluded supporters of the dominant economic order that a promised global economic recovery has not occurred. At the time of writing more than five years have passed since the collapse of the US subprime mortgage market. Economic stagnation and unemployment dominate American politics, repeated efforts to use austerity to stabilize the Eurozone have not just brought peripheral nations like Greece and Spain closer to default but threaten the ruination of entire societies, and international trade and financial transactions remain volatile and depressed. All these phenomena are symptomatic of a deep and prolonged global recession, surpassed in historical terms only by the Great Depression. While most focus in the mainstream media is on the world's advanced capitalist economies, the Global South's situation (with only a few exceptions) is stagnant and has in most places regressed. Even continued expansion in China, seen as a potential new powerhouse of global growth, needs to be set in the context of its relatively small economic size when compared with the vast swathes of rich capitalism that have sunk into protracted malaise.
Humphrys, E. 2009, 'Thinking and theorising about activism', Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Jo..., vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 166-179.
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This article overviews the following three articles in the journal, which arise from the 2008 conference Other Worlds 2: After the Neo-Con Men. The article responds to an issue raised across the papers regarding social movement knowledge and theory: what is the tension between analysis produced inside the academy and that which arises from within movements. And how can theory can be developed in a way that both takes into account the viewpoint and needs of the historical players whose activity is shaping the future (social movement actors) and the wider social forces that give rise to and shape the struggles those players are involved in. It is argued that the new movements around globalisation and global justice have reasserted 'activism' as a key component of social movement analysis, challenging academics to engage with social movements in a more direct way and to ensure their output is relevant to that audience. It is argued that the concept of the `organic intellectuals, outlined by Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, has particular utility.


Humphrys, E.T. 2016, 'The Corporatist Origins of Neoliberalism: Australia's Accord, the Labour Movement and the Neoliberal Project'.
This thesis examines the relationship of the vanguard period of neoliberalism in Australia to the Accord social contract, the latter being an agreement between the Australian Labor Party and Australian Council of Trade Unions from 1983 to 1996. The investigation focuses on the consensual incorporation of organised labour into a state-centred political project to revive capital accumulation after the economic crisis of the 1970s. It develops a theoretical framework regarding the state–civil society relationship, utilising the perspectives of Marx and Gramsci. It then deploys this in support and extension of Panitch's theorisation of corporatism. The thesis finds that the Accord and vanguard neoliberalism were internally-related elements of class rule, challenging the predominant view that they were distinct or competing policy frameworks. The coterminal relationship is described as simultaneously deepening corporatism and advancing neoliberalism. The thesis finds that the origins of vanguard neoliberalism in Australia, sit uncomfortably alongside the dominant understanding in the scholarly literature of neoliberalism's global development. The prevailing account posits that neoliberalism's global origins are based in a project of the New Right and chiefly coercively imposed on trade unions. While vanguard neoliberalism in Australia did share many of the key elements attributed to it by the dominant narrative—most particularly the multi-layered disorganisation of labour and state-led restructuring of the economy to restore conditions for stable capital accumulation—the thesis establishes, by way of contrast, that a social democratic government in a consensual agreement with the labour movement was primarily responsible for its implementation. The thesis finds that destabilising the dominant narrative, through highlighting commonality and divergence across geographic locations, can further specify and enrich the conceptualisation of neoliberalism.
Humphrys, E.T. & Tietze, T. 2014, 'Qantas and job losses: the reality of union decline must be faced', The Guardian.
Humphrys, E. 2011, 'From Offence to Defence: The Australian Global Justice Movement and the Impact of 9/11'.
Humphrys, E.T. 2011, 'Beyond a Joke: Bogan Loathing Brings us All to Shame', ABC The Drum Opinion.
Humphrys, E.T. & Tietze, T. 2011, 'The Carbon Price Debate as Smokescreen for Inaction', ABC The Drum Opinion.