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Hard Choices: Social Democracy in the Twenty-First Century



Hard Choices: Social Democracy in the Twenty-First Century

Christopher Pierson

ISBN: 978-0-745-61985-9 May 2001 Polity 176 Pages

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As the twenty-first century dawned, social democratic parties across Europe and beyond found themselves newly, and rather surprisingly, in the ascendant. Britain's New Labour was only the most spectacular in a whole series of political restorations. For many, this renewal only became possible when 'modernizing' social democratic parties jettisoned their old ideological and institutional baggage, setting off down a 'third way' that rejected the outmoded ideas of both left and right. The argument of Hard Choices is that this view is doubly misleading: it misrepresents the past and misunderstands the present.

The first half of the book restores some of the complexity to social democracy's past and shows that it was much more subtle, varied and intelligent than its latter-day critics suppose. Turning to the present, the second half of the book shows how a few contemporary half-truths - relating to globalization and demographic change - have been used to justify the abandonment of the defining core of a social democratic politics. The book does not argue that 'nothing has really changed'. In fact, a great deal has changed and policy-makers have to adjust to a range of new circumstances, constraints (and opportunities). But those who exhort us simply to abandon the 'traditional' terrain of the centre-left are wrong. Social democracy remains just what it always was - a politics of messy compromises and hard choices.

This book will appeal to undergraduates, postgraduates and scholars in politics, social policy and political sociology, as well as the interested general reader.



Chapter 1 The Strange Death of Social Democracy.

Chapter 2 The Making of Social Democracy.

Chapter 3 "Classical" Social Democracy and the Alternatives.

Chapter 4 Globalization and the End of Social Democracy.

Chapter 5 The Challenge of Demographic Change.

Chapter 6 The Social Democratic Future.





'This is a very impressive survey and critique of the debates on social democracy and its future. Christopher Pierson has produced a text which is ahead of anything else in the field.' Andrew Gamble, University of Sheffield

‘An exceptionally intelligent, judicious and astute analysis of social democracy's past, present, and alternative futures. Avoiding both easy criticisms and bromide solutions, Pierson adds much needed clarity to the raging debate about the third way and social democracy. Hard Choices should be required reading not only for students, but for political leaders and policymakers as well! 'Joel Krieger, Norma Wilentz Hess Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College

"Well-written, witty and mercifully free of jargon, Hard Choices represents a compelling addition to the literature on social democracy." John Bartle, University of Essex

"[The book] offers an excellent sketch of the current backdrop to and arguments over social democratic policy options, and helpfully resists the temptation to offer us a one-size-fits-all guide for all countries where social democracy is struggling to remain relevant and distinctive...'Hard choices' should be of interest to a broad audience of social scientists and general readers interested in whether social democratic policy options can withstand the end of history...again."David Laycock, Canadian Journal of Political Science

"Christopher Pierson's careful, balanced review of the various debates surrounding the philosophy, policy and strategy of social democracy performs the important service of making clear precisely how much social democrats have conceded to the right in the course of this is an excellent contribution to the debate about the future of social democracy, offering a sensible clear-headed antidote to the wild simplifications present in much of the 'third way' genre" Ben Jackson, Democratization

"An essential read for the political science student." Brigadier Rahul K Bhonsle, SM, U.S.I. Journal

A Comprehensive introduction to debates about the limits and strengths of social democracy
A Traces social democracy from origins in 19th Century to present day
A Engages with Third Way debates and offers sharp criticism of them
A Ideal student text, especially for second and third year politics, political sociology and social policy students