The roots and rationale of social democracy

Social Philosophy and Policy 20 (1):113-144 (2003)
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Abstract

Two related themes have dominated discussions about the Left in advanced industrial democracies in recent years. The first is that an increasingly integrated world economy is creating a fundamentally new situation for leaders and publics, imposing burdens and constraining choices. You can either opt out of the system and languish, or put on what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has called neoliberalism's “Golden Straightjacket”—at which point “two things tend to happen: your economy grows and your politics shrinks.” The second is that traditional social democracy has played itself out as a political ideology, creating a vacuum that can and should be filled by some new progressive movement with greater contemporary relevance. For example, Ralf Dahrendorf has argued that “socialism is dead, and … none of its variants can be revived,” while Anthony Giddens has written that reformist socialism has become “defensive” and perhaps even “moribund.”

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