European social democracy in search of responses to challenges of the 21st century

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO)
Address: Moscow, Russian Federation
Journal nameMirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia
EditionVolume 62 Issue 11

The article is devoted to the main tendencies of the evolution of European social democracy in the 21st century. By the end of the 20th century, social democracy dealt with hard problems caused by social, economic, socio-psychological changes in the Western countries, dysfunctions of the “welfare state” and the crisis of Keynesian socio-economic model in the era of globalization. The market-oriented modernization of social democracy became a response to the challenges. The processes of ideological renovation actively developed in the British Labour Party (BLP) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Pro-market New Labour in Great Britain and supporters of “Neue Mitte” (The New Middle) in the German social democracy drew the principles of these parties nearer to social liberalism. Many other social democratic parties also adopted some elements of neo-liberal economics. However, the global financial crisis of 2008 stopped the shift of social democracy to the right. After 2008, social democracy began to return to more traditional agenda. Now European social democrats oppose neo-liberal “predatory” capitalism, defend the “welfare state” and social market economy, struggle against austerity. They criticize financial speculations and defend the regulation of financial markets, development of real sector and industrial policy. The BLP renounced promarket and pro-globalist doctrine of the New Labour, while the SPD placed social justice at the centre of its political philosophy. The author comes to a conclusion that European social democracy cannot renounce fully the vision of a new, post-capitalist society. The refusal from the vision can lead to intra-party crises and the success of such left-wing socialists like Jeremy Corbyn and Benoît Hamon. On the other hand, imperative demands of globalization and the “new economy” will push social democrats to move to the centre of the political spectrum. The electoral success of social democratic parties will depend on whether they will be able to solve this dilemma. In the author’s view, an important challenge for European social democracy is also a problem of migration regulation and integration of immigrants from the Third World into the Western society.

Keywordssocial democracy, democratic socialism, New Labour, Third Way, Neue Mitte, neo-liberalism, global financial crisis of 2008
Publication date14.12.2018
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