ads without products

judt on social democracy

with 3 comments

Tony Judt’s “What Is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy,” a talk given at NYU and printed in the NYRB, is worth taking a look at for the clarity of its diagnosis and the ultimate argument, which I take to come in these late paragraphs:

If social democracy has a future, it will be as a social democracy of fear. Rather than seeking to restore a language of optimistic progress, we should begin by reacquainting ourselves with the recent past. The first task of radical dissenters today is to remind their audience of the achievements of the twentieth century, along with the likely consequences of our heedless rush to dismantle them.

The left, to be quite blunt about it, has something to conserve. It is the right that has inherited the ambitious modernist urge to destroy and innovate in the name of a universal project. Social democrats, characteristically modest in style and ambition, need to speak more assertively of past gains. The rise of the social service state, the century-long construction of a public sector whose goods and services illustrate and promote our collective identity and common purposes, the institution of welfare as a matter of right and its provision as a social duty: these were no mean accomplishments.

We all, I think, understand what Judt’s getting at with this argument in favour of conservative, “anti-modernist” social democracy, given the tenor of the neo-liberal and neo-conservative approaches with which we’ve been long familiar. (Remember the “reality-based community” stuff back from the beginning of the war?) But on the other hand, Judt’s suggestion seems to contradict his criticism, earlier in the paper, of social democratic parties for their defensiveness, the fact that they’ve long since had “nothing distinctive to offer.” Still, worth taking a look at…

Written by adswithoutproducts

December 25, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Posted in crisis, socialism

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Sorry, off topic, but what’s going on in that poster?

    Anthony Paul Smith

    December 28, 2009 at 4:59 am

  2. A propos, have you seen this piece in the chronicle?



    January 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm

  3. The poster is from Weimar Germany; Franz von Papen was the leader of the Catholic Centre Party, Ernst Thalmann led the Communists and Hitler you probably know.

    It is a great poster and a reminder that Social Democrats were the good guys. What the world needs know is a reminder that Social Democracy brought the world things like health and education, that we are still the good guys.

    Paul Litterick

    January 23, 2010 at 9:54 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: