Home > Poslovno svetovanje > Anthony Giddens: The Third Way, The Renewal of Social Democracy

Anthony Giddens: The Third Way, The Renewal of Social Democracy

In February 1998, Tony Blair spoke of his ambition to create an international consensus of the Centre-left for the twenty-first century. The new approach would be developed a policy of framework to respond to change in the global order. The old left resisted that change. The new right did not want to manage it. We have to manage that change to produce social solidarity and prosperity.

Public debate is dominated by worries. The only groups which appear resolutely optimistic are those that place their faith in technology to resolve our problems. In this moment theory in politics lags behind practice.

In history socialism was tied to early development of industrial society. It was first a philosophical and ethical impulse. Marx gave socialism an elaborated economic theory. For him socialism stood or fell by its capacity to deliver a society that would generate greater wealth than capitalism and spread that wealth in more equitable fashion. Socialism in West became dominated by social democracy.

European welfare states can be divided into four institutional group:

  • The UK system
  • Scandinavian or Nordic welfare states
  • Middle European systems
  • Southern systems

Keynesian theory paid relatively little attention to the supply side of the economy. The welfare state has two objectives: to create a more equal society, but also to protect individuals across the life cycle.

Hostility to big government is prime characteristic of neoliberal views. Neoliberals links unfettered market forces to a defense of traditional institutions. The traditional family is a functional necessity for social order, as it the traditional nations, for neoliberals. Those closer to liberalism, however see equality of opportunity as desirable and necessary. Antagonism to the welfare state is one of the most distinctive neoliberal traits.

Global society is still a society of nation-states, and in a world of nation-states it is power that counts. Neoliberalism is in trouble. Its two halves – market fundamentalism and conservatism – are in tension. Devotion to the free market on the one hand, and to traditional family and nation on the other, is self-contradictory.

From the collapse of East European communism in 1989, most Western communist parties changed their names and moved closer to social democratic, while in the East European countries new social democratic parties were formed. Social democratic parties began to concerns themselves with issues such as economic productivity participatory policies, community development and particularly, ecology. In Norway six themes were debated: the balance between the private and public, flexibility in the working day, educational opportunity, the environment, housing and economic democracy. In Germany a new Basic Programme for the SPD was instituted in 1989. The programme placed a heavy emphasis on ecological concerns. Program spoke of the need to reconcile economic performance with social security and stressed that individuality and solidarity should not be counterposed as opposites.

The class relations that used to define voting and political affiliation have shifted dramatically, owing to the steep decline in the blue-collar working class. John Blundell and Brian Gosschalk find social and political attitudes in the UK divide into four clusters, which they call conservative, libertarian, socialist and authoritarian. Belief in economic freedom – the free market – is measured on one axis and personal freedom on a second. Social democratic parties no longer have a consistent “class bloc” on which to rely.

In spite of their electoral successes social democrats have not yet created a new and integrated political outlook. Third way is a phrase that seem to have originated among right-wing groups in the 1920s. mostly it has been used by social democrats and socialists. It was a way to distinct from American market capitalism and Soviet communism. Ota Šik Czech economist used it to refer to market socialism. Swedish social democrats seem most often to have spoken of the third way, the last version, in the late 1980s. The most recent appropriation of third way by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair has met with a lukewarm reception from most Continental democrats.

Third way refers to a framework of thinking and policy-making that seeks to adapt social democracy to a world which has changed fundamentally over the past two or three decades. It is a third way in the sense that it is an attempt to transcend both old-style social democracy and neoliberalism.

Five dilemmas

The five dilemmas concern:

  • Globalization
  • Individualism
  • Left and right
  • Political agency
  • Ecological problems

Globalization is a term that went from being nowhere (ten years ago), to being everywhere. Two views are opposing. One that globalization is a myth and invention of neoliberals. Other are authors and policy-makers who say that globalization is not only real, but already far advanced. It is normally understood as economic. It is especially seen in financial markets. But it is misunderstood if it is only applied to economic. It is also about transformation of time and space in our lives. The communication revolution and the spread of information technology are deeply bound up with globalizing processes. Globalization is moving upwards and pushing on nation states and governments, downwards to local identities and sideways creating new cultural and economic regions that sometimes cross-cut the boundaries of nation-states. Globalization is quite often spoken of as if it were a force nature, but is it not. States, business corporation and other groups have actively promoted its advance. Governance becomes a more relevant concept to refer to some forms of administrative or regulatory capacities.

Solidarity has long been a theme of social democracy. Social democrats have struggled to accommodate to the rising importance of individualism and lifestyle diversity. Collectivism became one of the most prominent traits distinguishing social democracy from conservatism which ideologically placed a much stronger emphasis upon the individual. Both left and right have been worried about the me first society but social democrats see its origin in market forces, neoliberals and other conservatives on the other hand look instead to the permissiveness of the 1960s, which set in train a process of moral decay. But Ulrich Beck sees this new individualism not as a consequence of either market or atomization, but as institutionalized individualism. The new individualism is associated with the retreat of tradition and customs from our lives. We have to find a new balance between individual and collective responsibilities today.

The essence of politics is the struggle of opposing views according to Norberto Bobbio. Although what is “on the left” or “on the right” might change, nothing can be on the left and on the right at the same time. The distinction is a polarizing one. The political right dressed itself up in new clothing, for example, in the period after World War II, following the fall of fascism. In early 1980s things have been the other way around, because of ideological ascendancy of neoliberalism and the collapse of communism. One major criterion continually reappears in distinguishing left from right: attitude towards equality. Equality is a relative concept. Bobbio definition, however, needs some refining. Those on the left not only pursue social justice, but believe that government has to play a key role in furthering that aim. Inequalities can threaten social cohesion. Left and right alike have come to accept the double-edged nature of science and technology, which generate great benefits but also create new risks and uncertainties. New problems and possibilities have come to fore that are not within the reach of the left/right scheme. Ecological questions, changing nature of family, work and personal and cultural identity. Social democratic parties have moved towards the Centre largely for opportunistic reasons. The idea of the active middle or the radical Centre is discussed quite widely among social democrats recently and should be taken seriously. Social democrats should be left of Centre, but Centre should also have meaning. And welfare state is still big division in approaches, since most social democrats want to keep spending high and most neoliberals low.

The themes of the end of politics and the swapping of the state by the global marketplace, have been so prominent in recent debates, that it is good to state what governments can do:

  • Provide means for the representation of diverse interests.
  • Create and protect open public sphere
  • Provide a diversity of public goods, including forms of collective security and welfare.
  • Regulate markets in the public interest.
  • Foster social peace.
  • Promote the active development of human capital.
  • Sustain an effective system of law.
  • Have a direct economic role.
  • Foster regional and transnational alliances and pursue global goals.

Market, social movements or any other kind of NGO can’t replace government in any of these areas.

Institutions of global society are being reinvented as technology redefines relationships between individual and organizations. It is true that established parties had difficulties in dealing with new questions like ecology and new individual freedom of choices and that decline in trust was not only about politics, but all authorities, but the nation-state and national government are still important. Maybe they will change form, but they will still matter.

Ecological question is getting more and more important. Neoliberal view that market principals will ensure that there are no limits to growth, cause pressure on nature and its resources. Sustainable development is new buzz world. Brundtland Commission report in 1978 offers definition of it. It is a capability of the current generation to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Ecological modernization implies a partnership in which governments, business, moderate environmentalists and scientist cooperate in the restructuring of the capitalist political economy along more environmentally defensible lines. Too good to be true? It is.

Science and technology used to be seen outside politics, but this view has become obsolete. Science and technology cannot stay outside democratic processes. Experts cannot be relied upon automatically to know what is good for us. With many standard risks, trends are historically established. Risks can be calculated on the basis of past experience. The risk of a driver being involved in a traffic accident over a given period of time can easily be calculated on a statistical basis. The new risk situations aren’t like this. We don’t have past experience to guide us. Coping with ecological risk will be a problematic affair for foreseeable future. Sometimes scaring people might be necessary in order to persuade them either to alter their behavior, or to accept the steps that should be taken to avoid a particular danger or set of dangers. Risk is not just a negative phenomenon. It is at the same time the energizing principle of society that has broken away from traditional and nature. Opportunity and innovation are the positive side of risk. There is basic difference between the passive experience of risk and the active exploration of risk environments. Risk isn’t exactly the same as danger. Risk refers to dangers we seek actively to confront and assess. We need protection against risk, but also the capability to confront and take risks in a productive fashion.

Third way politics

The overall aim of third way politics should be to help citizens pilot their way through the major revolutions of our time: globalization, transformation in personal life and our relationship to nature.  Third way politics should not identify globalization with blanket endorsement of free trade. Third way politics should preserve a core concern with social justice. Freedom to social democrats should mean autonomy of action. One might suggest as prime motto for the new politics, no rights without responsibilities. Second percept should be no authority without democracy.

Third way values:

  • Equality
  • Protection of the vulnerable
  • Freedom as autonomy
  • No rights without responsibilities
  • No authority without democracy
  • Cosmopolitan pluralism
  • Philosophic conservatism

Issue of modernization is a basic one for the new politics. Need for re-establishing of continuity and development of social cohesion in a world of erratic transformation.

Third way programme is:

  • The radical Centre
  • The new democratic state (the state without enemies)
  • Active civil society
  • The democratic family
  • The new mixed economy
  • Equality as inclusion
  • Positive welfare
  • The social investment state
  • The cosmopolitan nation
  • Cosmopolitan democracy

The issue is not more government or less, but adjustment of it. The state must respond structurally to globalization. The state should expand the role of the public sphere. Greater transparency and openness. States have to elevate administrative efficiency. New forms of democracy other than orthodox voting process should be considered. State depends for their legitimacy on their capacity for risk management. State must have cosmopolitan outlook.

Active civil society is a must. It should create partnership with government, should include democratic family and renewal of communities. Third sector or voluntary work must be involved into society and frameworks for inclusion should be developed either through social entrepreneurship or through consensual agreements that will reward voluntary work. The state could not devolve into civil society, if the state is everywhere, it is nowhere.

Nostalgia for traditional family idealizes the past. The traditional family was based above all an economic and kinship unit. Traditional marriage was based upon the inequality of sexes. Children were raison d’etre of marriage. Recapturing the traditional family is a non-starter. Democratization in the context of the family implies equality, mutual respect, autonomy, decision-making through communication and freedom from violence. The capability to sustain relationships through change, even radical changes such as divorce, becomes central not only to individuals’ happiness, but to the achievement of continuity in relationships with children. Family relations are part of the wider fabric of social life.

The Social Investment State

Government has an essential role to play in investing in the human resources and infrastructure needed to develop an entrepreneurial culture. Third way politics advocated new mixed economy. The new mixed economy looks for synergy between public and private sectors, utilizing the dynamism of markets but with the public interest in mind.

The issue of equality needs to be thought through carefully. Equality and individual liberty can come into conflict. Redistribution is still important of social democrats, but emphasis should be on redistribution of possibilities. A meritocratic society is likely to be highly unequal on the level of outcome.

Access to work and education are important fields of opportunities. Only a welfare system that benefits most of the population will generate a common morality of citizenship. Fighting pollution also have general benefits. Conventional poverty programmes need to be replaced with community-focused approaches.

Welfare state as it exists at the time of writing in Europe was produced in and by war, as were many aspects of national citizenship. The biggest issue and criticism towards welfare state is their top-down distribution of benefits. Third way should use critics to better reconstruct welfare state, not dismantle it. It is not so much that some forms of welfare provision create dependency cultures as that people take rational advantage of opportunities offered. Once established, benefits have their own autonomy, regardless of whether or not they meet the purposes for which they were originally designed.

Welfare state is a pooling of risk rather than resources. We should speak today of positive welfare, to which individuals themselves and other agencies besides government contribute and which is functional for wealth creation. In place of welfare state, we should put the social investment state. The reconstruction of welfare provision has to be integrated with programmes for the active development of civil society.

The interest of pensions issue, stretches more broadly than the questions of who should pay, at what level and by what means. It should go along with rethinking what old age is and how changes in the wider society affect the position of older people. We should regard older people are resources rather than a problem. Burke famously observed that society is a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born. The young should be willing to look to the old for models and older people should see themselves as in the service of future generations.

Global age

Social democrats should seek a new role for the nation in a cosmopolitan world. The emerging global order cannot sustain itself as a pure marketplace. The strong state used to be one well prepared for war. It must mean something different today: a nation sure enough of itself to accept the new limits of sovereignty. Can the idea of the nation be compatible with ethnic and cultural pluralism? Today national identities must be sustained in a collaborative milieu.

A cosmopolitan outlook is the necessary condition of a multicultural society in a globalizing order. Cosmopolitan nationalism is the only form of national identity compatible with that order. Globalizing processes have transferred powers away from nations and into depoliticized global space. This new space needs regulation, the introduction of rights and obligation.

The expansion of cosmopolitan democracy is a condition for effectively regulating the world economy, attacking global economic inequalities and controlling ecological risks. It makes no sense to contest market fundamentalism on the local level but leave it to reign on the global one. The regulation of financial markets is the single most pressing issue in the world economy. There are many issues, including governance of currency markets and responding to ecological risks, that cannot be resolved without collective action involving many countries and groups.

You may also like
Anthony Giddens: Runaway World; How Globalization is reshaping our lives

Leave a Reply