Chardonnay socialist is a derogatory Australasian term for those on the political left with comfortable middle or upper-class incomes, tertiary education, and a penchant for the finer things in life, Chardonnay being a form of white wine for example.
It is similar in thrust to the North American term limousine liberal, though without quite the same taint of great wealth attached to it. The term was modelled on the British term: Champagne socialist. When the term was coined around 1989, Chardonnay was seen as a drink of affluent people. It became a popular drink during the next decade and hence the term has lost some of its sting.
The term "chardonnay socialist" is regularly used by people from throughout the political spectrum to criticise opponents. For example, Australian left-wing "true believers" levelled it at supporters of the failed republic referendum of 1999 (where the vote was split not along conventional party lines but very much along socio-economic divides, with the rich overwhelmingly supporting the change while the less well-off were opposed – a superficially bizarre pattern for a non-economic issue). Staunch Australian right-wingers, on the other hand, level it at those who support such things as government funding for the arts, free tertiary education, and the ABC – all causes which are described by critics as "middle-class welfare."
The older term for this or a similar kind of person was "salon communist."
- "Australian Words: C-G". Australian National Dictionary. Australian National University - Australian National Dictionary Centre. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
- AAP: Australian Associated Press (25 January 2003). "Have a Captain Cook at this new Strine book". The Age. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
- Dale, David (12 November 2003). "Raise a glass to the big white". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
- Rolfe, Mark (2007). "Days of Wine and Poseurs: Stereotpypes of Class, Consumption & Competition in Democratic Discourse" (PDF). A Paper Delivered to the Australasian Political Studies Association Annual Conference 24th-26th September 2007, Monash University. Monash University. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
(from pages 24-5) From his first day in parliament as leader in March 1995 until the election, Howard courted the strong public perceptions of Keating arrogance that were evident in party polling. This was the context to the ad hominem of ‘chardonnay socialist’ that was extended to any Labor speaker and to the whole ALP in an attempt to undermine their ethos through associations with self-indulgence, selfishness and lack of concern for the people. Frequent deployment of these terms by the media provided a further convincing context for this rhetoric. Kim Carr was called a ‘Bollinger Bolshevik’ by Vanstone (Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates [CPD], Senate, 13 May 1997) and there was ‘Chardonnay Cheryl’ Kernot, the ‘shadow minister for the selfish “me generation” yuppies’ with her ‘list of hors d’oeuvres for the next caucus radical chic soiree’, said Richard Alston (CPD, Senate, 4 March 1998; 23 March 1998; 30 March 1998). She could be seen with Mark Latham, said David Kemp, ‘on the patio sipping their wine, complaining about the excesses of capitalism’ (CPD, Senate, 22 October 1997).
- Byrnes, Andrew. "Law, Lawyers and Lattes: The (Ir)relevance of the Chattering Classes in a Time of Insecurity: Law Week Lecture 29 March 2006". University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series 2007 (6). Retrieved 2008-09-11.
The political origins and the use of terms such as the ‘chattering classes’ -- and its close friends ‘chardonnay socialist’ and ‘latte liberal’ – have been carefully analysed by Australian and overseas scholars of political science. They locate the origins of the term ‘chattering classes’ in England of the early 1980s and its use as a common derogatory term against political opponents to the time of Margaret Thatcher, and trace its emergence in Australia in the form of an anti-elitist discourse (‘new class’ discourse) which takes on those members of elites identified as members of the ‘chattering classes’.
- The Case Against Wittfogel - "Salon bolshevik"