Social democratic decomposition

Gosta Esping-Andersen developed the concept of ‘social democratic decomposition’. Inspired by the differential success of the anti-tax populist right in Scandinavia in the 1970s he argued that the policies of a social democratic party in government could impact not only on its day to day popularity but more fundamentally on the party’s social base. Adam Przeworski also argued that parties do not just reflect class mobilisations but help to create them. The British Labour debacle (rivaled in recent history only by the collapse of the Polish left)  represents this decomposition in an extreme form. Where to begin? Gordon Brown, like Nathan Rees, seems a routine middle of the road of road Labor politician, but he has been handled an impossible task. Tony Blair and his acolytes believed with amazing hubris that they had by themselves resolved all of the previous dilemmas of left-wing thought and that most of the heritage of democratic socialism could be junked as simply wrong, they had found the magic synthesis of all political dichotomies. Whatever Rudd’s flaws he is not a member of this cult (whose memory is kept alive in Australia by the likes of Michael Costa and David Burchill). The Rudd-Gillard ALP will eventually lose, perhaps even fairly badly given the increasing volatility of the electorate, but Australian Labor should escape the British fate.

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