Friday, September 23, 2011
Do Social Democrats Think Any More?
I didn’t actually send a nomination to Social Europe for "the thinker who most influenced the European social democratic agenda last year” – simply because it’s so obvious that thought has no real place in the construction of social democratic party agendas and activities these days. It’s all a question of focus groups, sound-bites and clandestine negotiations with media and financial interests. I was tempted therefore to suggest the name of Peter Mandelson who first concocted this diabolic formula. But an additional reason is that I didn’t want to add to the anglo bias of the Social Europe website. There must be many interesting German, French, Dutch and Scandinavian "writers” who have some useful thoughts to offer reform parties. Sadly, however, I have not been able to find my way to their blogs and papers – until now! Rene Cuperus is a Dutchman who has written well and provocatively about the causes of social democratic decline – and it was through following links to him that I came across two websites which are actually devoted to the revitalisation of social democratic thinking at a European indeed global level. The first is Policy Network which, at first glance, seems too focussed on political leaders for my taste. But their publications are worthwhile – particularly a recent one Priorities for a new political economy - Memos to the left which has introductory essays by Will Hutton and Colin Crouch amongst others and then 19 short essays by European (British, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian and Spanish) and North and Latin American writers. Interesting that Germans don’t really figure in such books – they are not anguishing the way the rest of us do. They just get on with sustaining a system which is, broadly, working?
Another title which looks interesting is Social Progress in the 21st Century – social invetsment, labour market reform and inter-generational inequality which was also funded by the second useful website I came across - the European progressive political foundation (FEPS). Set up in 2008 and close to the Party of European Socialists (PES), FEPS explores new ways of thinking on the social democratic, socialist and labour scene in Europe. Its publications look interesting and I hope to report on one in particular which I have downloaded – a tribute to Tony Judt and the challenge he posed us in his penultimate book "Ill Fares the Land".
I have just found (and added to the links on the right-side) a great blog devoted to superb, off-beat examples of Romanian architecture. It’s bilingual and called A patriot’s Guide to Romania.