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Social Democratic Challenges in the South – And Why They Matter for the North Too *

Social Democracy in the 21st Century

ISBN: 978-1-83909-953-3, eISBN: 978-1-83909-952-6

ISSN: 0195-6310

Publication date: 29 January 2021


In the 1970s, Olof Palme, Willy Brandt and others deemed market-driven globalisation a major threat against Social Democracy. Hence, they tried to build a New International Economic Order, but failed. In the 1980s, neo-liberal globalism gained hegemony. In the 2010s, the third wave of democracy faded. Today, there is not even an international alternative to xenophobic protection. The common neglected factor is the weakness of like-minded partners in the Global South. Why has Social Democracy been so difficult in the South? This chapter draws on longitudinal studies since the 1970s of Indonesia, India and the Philippines, with references to Brazil, South Africa and Sweden. It argues that after the struggle against colonialism, democratisation was neglected, along with the role of elitist politics in the rise of capitalism. As for the subsequent third wave of democracy, the prime factors were: (1) that uneven development caused further fragmentation among labour; (2) that bottom-up democracy movements were divisive and unable to scale up; (3) that decentralisation stumbled over localisation; (4) that democratic representation was avoided by internationally supported elites and civil society groups but also populist links between leaders and people; (5) that the Blairist-like efforts to combine market-driven growth and welfare were bifurcated; and (6) that transformative politics were downgraded. Fortunately, however, the negative insights also point to new opportunities in terms of broad alliances for social rights and welfare reforms as a basis for inclusive economic development by partnership governance. This would be crucial for Social Democracy in the North too.



Törnquist, O. (2021), "Social Democratic Challenges in the South – And Why They Matter for the North Too * ", Brandal, N., Bratberg, Ø. and Thorsen, D.E. (Ed.) Social Democracy in the 21st Century (Comparative Social Research, Vol. 35), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 15-36.



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