Monday, October 04, 2010

Wallerstein: Does Social-Democracy Have a Future?

Immanuel Wallerstein, Commentary No. 290, October 1, 2010

This past month, two important events marked the world of Social-Democratic parties. In Sweden, on September 19, the party lost the election badly. It received 30.9% of the vote, its worst showing since 1914. Since 1932, it has governed the country 80% of the time, and this is the first time since then that a center-right party won reelection. And to compound the bad showing, a far right, anti-immigrant party entered the Swedish parliament for the first time.

Why is this so dramatic? In 1936, Marquis Childs wrote a famous book, entitled Sweden: The Middle Way. Childs presented Sweden under its Social-Democratic regime as the virtuous middle way between the two extremes represented by the United States and the Soviet Union. Sweden was a country that effectively combined egalitarian redistribution with internal democratic politics. Sweden has been, at least since the 1930s, the world poster child of Social-Democracy, its true success story. And so it seemed to remain until rather recently. It is a poster child no more.

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