In Britain, Labour's adoption of centrist rhetoric after 1994 proved compatible with so-called 'redistribution by stealth': a concerted attempt to engineer non-negligible but unpublicised improvements in the incomes of the working poor. This chapter identifies certain important features of the rhetoric used in the past to argue for progressive taxation, welfare programmes, the regulation of the labour market, and other policy measures intended to lighten the burdens of the poor by increasing burdens on the better off. It also identifies three important aspects of redistributive rhetoric. They are: its critique of prevailing distributive patterns via an appropriation of a populist understanding of the 'public interest'; the specific political ideals that redistribution was said to advance; and the assumptions about political agency that underpinned this rhetoric and that it helped to disseminate to a wider public. In the early twentieth century, security emerged as an authoritative word in the redistributive lexicon.

in In search of social democracy
Responses to crisis and modernisation

This book considers the underlying causes of the end of social democracy's golden age. It argues that the cross-national trend in social democratic parties since the 1970s has been towards an accommodation with neo-liberalism and a corresponding dilution of traditional social democratic commitments. The book looks at the impact of the change in economic conditions on social democracy in general, before examining the specific cases of Germany, Sweden and Australia. It examines the ideological crisis that engulfed social democracy. The book also looks at the post-1970 development of social policy, its fiscal implications and economic consequences in three European countries. It considers the evolution of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) from its re-emergence as a significant political force during the 1970s until the present day under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The book also examines the evolution of the Swedish model in conjunction with social democratic reformism and the party's relations to the union movement. It explores the latest debate about what the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) stands for. The SPD became the role model for programmatic modernisation for the European centre-left. The book considers how British socialist and social democratic thought from the late nineteenth century to the present has treated the objective of helping people to fulfil their potential, talents and ambitions. It aims to contribute to a broader conversation about the future of social democracy by considering ways in which the political thought of 'third way' social democracy might be radicalised for the twenty-first century.

Open Access (free)

The new world that social democrats confronted from the 1980s onwards - a world of tax-resistant electorates, the globalisation of capital, and Western deindustrialisation - was one that exercised substantial constraints on traditional social democratic politics. This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book aims to take stock of the crisis of classical social democracy in the 1970s and the consequent efforts to modernise social democracy so that it remained a going electoral concern. It argues that the cross-national trend in social democratic parties since the 1970s has been towards an accommodation with neo-liberalism and a corresponding dilution of traditional social democratic commitments. The book traces the evolution of international approaches to social democracy. It discusses the future of social democracy by considering ways in which the political thought of 'third way' social democracy might be radicalised for the twenty-first century.

in In search of social democracy