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European regionalism and the left$
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Gerard Strange and Owen Worth

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780719085734

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719085734.001.0001

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The impossibility of social democracy: from unfailing optimism to enlightened pessimism in the ‘re-social democratisation’ debate

The impossibility of social democracy: from unfailing optimism to enlightened pessimism in the ‘re-social democratisation’ debate

Chapter:
(p.101) 5 The impossibility of social democracy: from unfailing optimism to enlightened pessimism in the ‘re-social democratisation’ debate
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European regionalism and the left
Author(s):

David J. Bailey

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719085734.003.0006

Since the mid-1970s European social democratic parties have seemed increasingly unable and/or unwilling to assert their ‘traditional’ social democratic programmes. In a process of adjustment, social democratic parties have adopted, to varying degrees, alternative economic policies that crystallized during the late-1990s into a ‘new’, or ‘third way’, model of social democracy. For many observers, this process consists of fundamental changes in the aims, roles and capabilities of social democratic parties, prompting concern over the extent to which egalitarian social democratic policies are still feasible, the extent to which meaningful social and economic reform can be achieved through social democratic parties, and the continued viability of a left-of-centre, equality-oriented, party politics. This chapter argues that it is only if we adopt a more pessimistic model of social democratic parties, one that is radically sceptical regarding the feasibility of ‘traditional’ social democracy, that we are able to understand and explain their recent transformation.

Keywords:   social democracy, varieties of capitalism, third way, regionalism

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