“A young person who isn’t a socialist hasn’t got a heart; an old person who is a socialist hasn’t got a head.” Is this true?
This old adage suggests that an attachment to the left is merely a romantic and naïve phase that should eventually pass as we mature and gain a more “realistic” understanding. Realism from this viewpoint involves the acceptance that There is No Alternative (TINA) to presently-existing capitalism and liberal democracy, that the most we can expect is some minor tinkering.
Social democracy is one of the vaguest terms in the political vocabulary, yet it refers to a regime of considerable importance. Originally, social democrats were socialists who thought the surest path to societal transformation in emergent liberal democracies lay in building popular support through competitive party politics and social-movement organization. Since the 1960s and 1970s, however, social democrats have dropped references to socialist goals in favour of promoting a progressive, domesticated form of capitalism. But what precisely does this latter goal entail? Today, “socialist” parties in competitive party systems often have platforms that suggest a social-democratic orientation, whereas parties labelled “social-democratic” or “labour” pursue policies little different from those of the neoliberals. How can we resolve this definitional riddle? Continue reading →