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Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, Social Democrats around the world have been the victims of drastically changing fortunes. After 2015, these mixed fortunes took in…
Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, Social Democrats around the world have been the victims of drastically changing fortunes. After 2015, these mixed fortunes took in several instances, in Greece, France and the Netherlands most prominently, the form of an outright collapse in terms of electoral support. At the same time, the world economy is increasingly dominated by an unfettered brand of international financial capitalism, leading to a progressively more ruthless exploitation of workers around the world. Both these trends entail that Social Democrats need to come up with new answers to the most pressing political issues of our time. In this introductory chapter, the first order of business is to provide the reader with an idea of what Social Democracy might signify in the twenty-first century, focussing on the basic ideas of human rights, democracy and personal freedom. The chapter then moves on to describe and discuss some of the problems facing the world today. Global warming and resource depletion, poverty and economic inequality, as well as sudden shocks to the political system such as the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 will likely continue to set a large part of the political agenda for the remainder of this century. If Social Democrats continue to be part of a truly world-transforming labour movement, they must address and engage with these issues, and with the yet unknown political problems of tomorrow.
The ideational connections between social democracy and basic income is the theme of this article. Social democracy is not a fixed doctrine, but as a movement it shares…
The ideational connections between social democracy and basic income is the theme of this article. Social democracy is not a fixed doctrine, but as a movement it shares some key ideas with the policy of basic income, like solidarity, equal opportunity, freedom and social security. Due to current challenges emerging from waves of digitalisation, globalisation, etc., the support for a universal basic income has taken off, but not among social democratic politicians. The article argues that the social democratic policy of full employment implies an increasingly tough work orientation that is challenging to reconcile with de-commodifying social rights, which has characterized social democratic welfare states. It is further argued that a strict reciprocity-based policy has not proven effective in getting people into work on a permanent basis, and that the current challenges require new policy ideas. Two alternatives are discussed: guaranteed jobs and a basic income. The article argues that the lack of enthusiasm for the last option among social democrats is based on the misconception that a basic income will harm people's motivation to work, their self-respect, the social economy and the principle of justice. The article sheds light on this misconception. In the closing remarks, the proposal for an ‘emergency basic income’ is considered in view of the current global corona crisis.
Immigration represents one of the most contentious and complicated issues for social democracy in many national contexts. In Scandinavia, the social democratic parties…
Immigration represents one of the most contentious and complicated issues for social democracy in many national contexts. In Scandinavia, the social democratic parties have been particularly tormented, being split internally on central concerns related to immigration policy. Social democratic parties in Scandinavia have had a basically ambiguous relationship to the issue from the initiation of the era of ‘new immigration’. This chapter argues that this can be explained by the specifically strong attachment and ‘ownership’ of these parties to the Scandinavian welfare model, with its particular claims on a strong tax base and an orderly labour market. ‘Social democracy’ is dealt with mainly as an institutional and political entity, close to what goes as ‘The Nordic Model’ in the international literature. The chapter describes and analyses similarities and differences between the three Scandinavian countries, through a historical exposé of the period after the early 1970s; on the one hand, the institutional and normative prerequisites for social democracies in handling migration, and on the other hand, the way in which recent flows of migrants have influenced the very same social democracies. Theoretically, the chapter is drawing on conceptual tools from political economy, citizenship discourse and institutional theory.
This study focuses on ad hoc policy advisory committees that bring together experts and stakeholders to propose public policies on the basis of consensus. These kinds of…
This study focuses on ad hoc policy advisory committees that bring together experts and stakeholders to propose public policies on the basis of consensus. These kinds of committees are often considered to be a typical governance mechanism of the social democratic model of regulation and policy-making known from the Nordic countries. We challenge this view by comparing the Norwegian system of committee governance with those of Germany and the European Union and point out the central role of coordination and consensus in all three systems. Relying on existing and original research, and contrary to the assumption of a distinct Nordic regime, we find significant similarities between the three committee governance systems when it comes to organisational features, the kind of expertise produced and the committees' governance functions. Most remarkable is the prevalence of hybrid, tripartite committees that draw together interest groups, civil servants and researchers in all three systems. We show that these kinds of ad hoc advisory committees tend to generate a kind of coordinated, negotiated expertise where notions of validity and objectivity are connected not only to cognitive quality but also to the breadth of viewpoints that are integrated. Moreover, the Nordic committee system of Norway stands out with only few distinctive qualities, and it is not obvious how the notion of ‘social democracy’ helps illuminating these features. To help shed light on the striking resemblances we find across systems, we develop a notion of consensus-oriented political and epistemological systems, which may be a useful complement to the notion of Nordic social democracy.
The Danish Social Democrats have been through a lengthy period of ideological change and transformation, whose effects have become particularly manifest in recent times…
The Danish Social Democrats have been through a lengthy period of ideological change and transformation, whose effects have become particularly manifest in recent times. This chapter argues that these developments are to be seen in the light of the particular Danish political context and developments, already prefigured at the dawn of the century. Notably, the populist and anti-immigration right in Denmark which quickly made use of the political opportunities to exploit the weaknesses, indecision and the ambiguities on the Right and the Left to gain support. The strategy repertoires activated by the Social Democrats to stem the electoral appeal of the right-wing populist anti-immigration have shifted from attempts to isolate, ignore and dismiss the saliency of some policy issues, towards efforts to adverse and recently to accommodate and co-opt stricter positions on immigration and tougher integration politics. While it is premature to tell whether the Social Democratic right wing turn on immigration helped undermining the populist right-wing momentum, the party has not yet managed to take back the support it hoped for. Moreover, the paradigm shift on immigration and the opening up to transversal alliances might mobilise new friends, but also shed old ones. The new pattern undertaken by the Danish Social Democrats seems also to require internal consent, more control and party discipline to avoid internal disagreements and criticism from within the party. Our interviews unravel some discontent with the restrictive right turn on immigration bubbling under the surface among the party ranks and files.
In the 1990s, European social democrats coalesced around a set of principles often referred to as the third way – characterised by prudent economic governance, a slimmer…
In the 1990s, European social democrats coalesced around a set of principles often referred to as the third way – characterised by prudent economic governance, a slimmer public sector, ‘productive’ welfare services and attraction to inward investment. Third way proponents perceived fairness as supporting opportunity rather than redistributing welfare. On the way to the late 2000s, their sense of direction was lost. The final phase, one might argue, ended with the 2008–2009 financial crisis. Henceforth, the challenge for the Left concerned how to define a social democracy with less revenue and limited scope for expanding public services, while reaching out to the so-called left-behinds through better jobs and a renewed sense of common purpose.
Jeremy Corbyn and Emmanuel Macron represent two distinctly different attempts at forging a new way forward from the impasse. During Corbyn's tenure as a leader (2015–2020), Labour carved out space by moving leftwards on key economic policies while proffering communitarianism as the antidote to globalised capitalism. Across the English Channel, Macron's new party, La République En Marche, sought to generate a new form of politics that had clear similarities with the centrism of third way social democracy, supplemented by an emphasis on social dialogue and enhanced European integration as a strategy for harnessing globalisation.
Corbynism and Macronism represent two distinct attempts at centre-left renewal, both personalised yet evolving on the back of mass movements. This chapter summarises the trajectory of both in terms of ideological content and organisational change and asks what lessons they convey about the future of social democracy in the twenty-first century.
It is often said that we live in a time of crisis for social democracy. Many of the West European centre-left parties that seemed the natural parties of government in the…
It is often said that we live in a time of crisis for social democracy. Many of the West European centre-left parties that seemed the natural parties of government in the second half of the twentieth century are in decline. The most common long-term explanations centre on a shrinking working class, a widening gap between the party elite and their core voters, and the challenges from new populist parties and/or greens. Short-term policy factors include the failure to address the recent financial and refugee crises. None of these factors carry much explanatory weight for developments in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the three decades since the transition from communism. We find that much of the explanation for the rise and the fall of the five social democratic parties in these countries lies in the dynamics of party competition and party system change. All parties face dilemmas of policy, electoral appeal and coalition-building. The Central European cases suggest that it is how social democrats handle such challenges and make difficult choices about strategy and tactics that ultimately shapes their long-term fate. Centre-left parties are stronger masters of their fortunes than much of the literature on the decline of social democracy suggests. Consequently, seeking a common structural explanation for the rise and decline of social democratic parties might be a double fallacy: both empirically misleading and a poor base for policy advice.
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…
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.
Social democratic unionism has arguably been one of the most successful worker organisations in modern history. Through collective bargaining and political influence, this…
Social democratic unionism has arguably been one of the most successful worker organisations in modern history. Through collective bargaining and political influence, this type of unionism has been effective in redistributing the gains from capitalist markets. This paper reviews the challenges, pathways and dilemmas social democratic unions face in the knowledge economy. Similar to industrialisation, the knowledge economy has the potential to fundamentally change the social fabric that trade unions derive their power resources from. There are three major and interrelated challenges: (1) technological change and the knowledge economy, (2) new socio-political coalitions and (3) keeping employers in. Focussing on Denmark and Sweden, it is argued that these three challenges strike the core of social democratic unionism, as they can undermine the ability to encompass the whole labour market because of polarisation or upgrading of jobs. The paper goes on to outline three possible pathways: ‘going radical’, ‘going academic’ and ‘going old-school’. ‘Going radical’ entails a sharper focus on fighting precarious work with other regulatory means other than collective bargaining. ‘Going academic’ entails a focus on education and lifting all occupational groups. ‘Going old-school’ entails adapting the principle of collective bargaining to new types of companies and occupations while sticking to the regulatory means as before. It is argued that none of the strategies is a silver bullet to the challenges, but that a key to the success of any of the strategies is that minimum wage levels are defended, as this will fuel investment in education for lower-paid work.