Category: Social Democratic Theory

The Precariat – The new dangerous class

by Guy Standing

For the first time in history, the mainstream left has no progressive agenda. It has forgotten a basic principle. Every progressive political movement has been built on the anger, needs and aspirations of the emerging major class. Today that class is the precariat.

So far, the precariat in Europe has been mostly engaged in EuroMayDay parades and loosely organised protests. But this is changing rapidly, as events in Spain and Greece are showing, following on the precariat-led uprisings in the middle-east. Remember that welfare states were built only when the working class mobilised through collective action to demand the relevant policies and institutions. The precariat is busy defining its demands.

The precariat has emerged from the liberalisation that underpinned globalisation. Politicians should beware. It is a new dangerous class, not yet what Karl Marx would have described as a class-for-itself, but a class-in-the-making, internally divided into angry and bitter factions.

Read more ...

What Antonio Gramsci offers to social democracy

by Sally Davison
 
Gramsci’s notion of hegemony offers social democrats an analytical framework within which to better understand and challenge the entrenched interests of capital in society and a way of thinking about creating the conditions for political change.

A key dilemma for social democrats today is to find a way of challenging the dominance of capital and business interests while remaining located within a gradualist framework that does not envisage any immediate prospect of fundamental change. If no serious alternative is on the cards, is there any point in critiquing the way that capitalism functions? If the left’s influence appears to be diminishing, why not accept that there is no alternative to the market? Without contemporary answers to these questions, social democrats face continuing decline: throughout the current financial crisis their popularity has been plummeting, largely because they have been unable to make a principled stand against those responsible for what has happened – for indeed many have largely embraced the same policies. Social democrats lack a politics that can simultaneously both act as a critique of capitalism and yet accept that it is the system in which they will continue to operate for the foreseeable future.

Read more ...

Republican liberty and the future of the centre-left

by Michael Lind

The dominant tradition in popular politics is infused with the values of republican liberalism.  The contemporary centre-left, influenced by a mix of residual Marxism and technocratic progressivism, has ceded this ground to conservatives and libertarians, losing elections and popular appeal in the process. A twenty-first century centre-left needs to reclaim the tradition of republican liberty as its own.

The centre-left in Europe and North America is in a state of political collapse and intellectual exhaustion. In recent elections the Labour party lost control of the British government to a centre-right coalition and in the US the Democrats lost the House of Representatives to a resurgent right.  Parties of the right already ruled Germany, France and Italy.  Even Sweden, long the flagship of social democracy, is now governed by conservatives.

The crumbling of social democratic parties on both sides of the Atlantic has much deeper causes than poor leadership or the voter discontent produced by the Great Recession.  It is the culmination of trends going back to the unraveling of postwar social democratic settlements in the 1970s. In Europe and America alike, the industrial working class that supported midcentury social democracy has contracted, as a result of the offshoring of industry, productivity growth and the shift toward services in employment. When the postwar boom came to an end in the 1970s, Keynesian full employment and demand management policies appeared to be discredited. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and their counterparts in other countries led a counter-revolution which failed to shrink the size of the state but succeeded in deregulating the economy and marginalising social democrats.

Read more ...

Is there a liberalism beyond social democracy?

by Colin Crouch
 
The liberal concern with challenging concentrated authority makes it a natural partner for social democrats; attempts to achieve this marriage have fallen short when economic power is neglected, but the unparalleled influence of corporate elites today makes this alliance more urgent than ever.

Traditional social democracy became doomed during the 1980s, and needed a new charge of liberalism to move it forward. In trying to do this while retaining the form of the mass party seeking to win national elections in a global economy, the Third Way movement was able to produce only a liberalism that fell short of social democracy’s fundamental values. Can there be a liberalism that “goes beyond” rather than “falls short” of social democracy? And can it be based on mass parties?

Read more ...

Liberal social democracy, fairness and good capitalism

by Will Hutton
 
The left needs a new language to differentiate between good and bad capitalism; a radical, shared conception of fairness – based on equity rather than equality – to underpin an economy of reciprocity, proportionate reward and mutual ownership

The European left is bewildered, in denial and in retreat. If electorates should have learned anything over the last two or three years it is that financial capitalism is a menace to itself and the economy and society beyond – and that governments are the peoples’ friend.  It is true that bankers are hardly popular, but opinion has not swung behind the liberal left. Instead, the enemy everywhere is government, debt and deficits − scant reward for being the saviour of the hour.

Opinion polls in Britain show that the majority believe that welfare cheats, immigrants and government waste are to blame for contemporary ills, with bankers a long way behind. It is not a dissimilar story across Europe. This is a tough climate in which to build any constituency for liberal left activism, and indeed the liberal left itself is not wholly certain what any such activism should be. What is socialism anyway? What would a good economy and society look like? And what would the popular values be that underpinned them? Does the left in any European country offer a convincing answer?

In this vacuum ugly nationalist movements are flourishing, and on the left one of the few dynamic elements are the Greens. The conventional left needs to do a great deal better, not least for the working people it purports to represent.

Read more ...

Connect now

Subscribe

Subscribe to LAWCRIMEPOLITICS.COM

Email address:

Search

Progressing the Social Democratic Agenda