The Three Worlds of Social Democracy

April 5th, 2017 7:30 PM
Book Launch and discussion
Marxist Education Project
The Three Worlds of Social Democracy
Ingo Schmidt and Mariano Féliz

A book-launch and discussion 

Capitalists’ permanent pressure on the working and living conditions of the popular classes guarantees an equally permanent demand for social protections. Curiously enough, around the same time capitalists turned from class compromise to an all-out offensive against Western European welfare states, until then the showcase of social democratic success, popular classes in a number of post-colonial and post-communist countries turned to social democracy. Though the 1990s are usually seen as nothing but an age of neoliberal globalization, it is more accurate to say that the same decade also saw the globalization of social democracy. With Third Worldism in retreat under the pressure of the international debt crises and counterinsurgency measures and Soviet communism finally collapsing after an extended period of stagnation, social democracy was the last remaining project of the 20th century left.

The ANC in South Africa, the Workers Party in Brazil, Communists in India and the former ruling parties in Eastern Europe eventually turned onto the social democratic road. But they did that at a time when social democracy in Western Europe was relabeled as a Third Way somewhere between the redistributive welfare state of the past and the present of unfettered global competition. However, the globalization of this Third Way turned out to be a dead-end. Wherever parties were elected on a moderately social democratic platform, soon after taking office the same parties would tell their voters that it was belt-tightening time. Ensuing anger, disappointment and frustrations opened the way for left- and right-wing alternatives to social democracy but also a quest for social democracy before the Third Way.

The Three Worlds of Social Democracy presents the experiences of parties and governments of social democracy from Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America, India, and South Africa. The book offers cutting-edge case studies to present a truly global exploration of the methods, meanings, and limits of social democracy. It also explores the potential for left alternatives to social democracy and the dangers of surging right-wing populism.

Mariano Féliz (contributor) is an economist at the Instituto de Investigaciones en Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales and the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cient.ficas y Técnicas, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina.

Ingo Schmidt (editor) is the coordinator of the Labour Studies Programme at Athabasca University, Canada.

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