Explanations for the neo-liberal direction of social democracy
Germany, Sweden and Australia compared
in In search of social democracy

Several explanations have been put forward as to why social democrats have adopted neo-liberal policies since at least the 1980s. Ideological trends, the consequences of globalisation and European integration, and electoral factors, all get a strong mention in the literature. This chapter suggests that a more persuasive explanation for social democrats' embrace of neo-liberalism lies with the end of the post-war boom in the early 1970s. It begins by looking at the impact of the change in economic conditions on social democracy in general, before examining the specific cases of Germany, Sweden and Australia. The SPD has steadily embraced policies that can be described as neo-liberal. Like its German counterpart, the Swedish Social Democratic party (Socialdemokratiska Arbetarpartiet - SAP) has increasingly adopted neoliberal policies. In achieving its most impressive reforms during the post-war years, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) conforms to the international social democratic pattern.

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In search of social democracy

Responses to crisis and modernisation

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