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The Politics of the New Centre

Bodo Hombach

ISBN: 978-0-745-62460-0 July 2000 Polity 232 Pages


Europe is entering a new political epoch. The centre-left, now in government in many EU countries, has struggled to modernize itself and is now defining the shape of politics for the future.

Bodo Hombach's book is one of the most important early attempts to flesh out the Third Way - moving it from being a successful electoral project to become a governing philosophy. Hombach, one of Gerhard Schr"der's closest advisers, who was Minister of State in the Chancellor's office, is a colourful and controversial figure. He has been described as the 'German Peter Mandelson' because he was the architect of Schr"der's election victory in 1997, which brought the Social Democrats to power after a decade and a half in opposition. His book, a bestseller in Germany, is the clearest definition of the popular 'Die Neue Mitte' project on which Schröder was elected, and on which the German voters will judge the government. It is striking in its bold rejection of many of the left's traditional approaches - the confrontational traditions of employers versus workers, the private sector versus the public sector, free market forces versus state direction - and this explains why Hombach and his book have been at the centre of the fierce debate about the soul and the future direction of social democracy.

Professor Anthony Giddens and Mark Leonard, in the preface and introduction, put the book in the context of the global debate about the development of the Third Way, and also draw comparisons with events in the United Kingdom.

Hombach's book is destined to become a key text on the future of European social democracy, of interest to political activists, policy-makers and students of politics.

Preface: Anthony Giddens.

Introduction: Mark Leonard.

Foreword to the Original German edition.

1. Breaking the Mould.

2. The Maxims of a Proactive State.

3. The Future of the Parties.

4. The Beginnings of a New Corporatism.

5. What Can We Learn From Others?.

6. New Paths to Growth and Full Employment.

7. Policies for a Proactive Society.

Postscript: Gerhard Schröder.

Appendix: The Third Way, Die Neue Mitte: Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder.


"Bodo Hombach had a major role in the reconstruction of leftist politics in Germany that led to the electoral victory of the Social Democractic Party in 1998. The history of German social democracy over the past two decades or so quite closely resembles that of the Labour Party in Britain and it isn't surprising that in The Politics of the New Centre the author makes considerable play with the changes initiated by New Labour in the UK.

The ideas presented in this book give form and substance to the evolutuion of the debate about third way politics in the English-speaking world. This translation of Hombach's book is a welcome event. His work should provoke as much interest, and controversy, as it did on its initial appearance in Germany."

Anthony Giddens, London School of Economics and Poltical Science.

* Bodo Hombach is one of the most prominent figures in Third Way politics. He is a key adviser to Schroder and a leading exponent of social democratic principles.

* The Politics of the New Centre is a theoretically innovative text which sets out the meaning of the Third Way for political and economic policy.

* The book has sold over 15 000 copies so far in Germany, and is destined to become a key text on the future of social democracy in Europe as a whole.