What is social democracy?
April 27, 2010 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Are there any good sources to read up on modern social democracy, as a political ideology? Educate me on "social democrats"

So, maybe I'm dumb or out of the loop, but I never really knew what "social democrat" as a movement was until I did some reading today… I know, I know. Either way, it definitely appeals heavily to me, and a lot of the things I'm reading are arguments I've made to others based on what I think could be a positive way to create more justice and equality in political systems: I especially like the emphasis on developing the model from within existing systems (instead of through revolutions) because it seems much more practical.

This thread is not to debate where or not this is a good thing…what I would like are compelling sources (in english or spanish, really, I'd love to know about the state of movements that could fall under this umbrella in spanish speaking countries) of information developing the merits and defects of this political orientation (and if you guys have anything on whether Socialist International is a good organization, I'd love that too).

So if you hate socialism in all forms, produce a good document detailing why and I'll read it. Ideally, I'd love some articles talking about policies that have been implemented (especially analysis of the nordic models), their failure or success, and possible strategies that could be taken for maximum benefit in other countries. That or anything speaking to the failures and successes of the modern movement. I've basically read everything on wikipedia and sites like socialistinternational.org, but would love some deeper documents and analysis…I can follow wikipedia citations I guess but there are a ton and would love some recommendations from people who know. Detailed web resources are best, because I don't have a good source of books readily available. Good documentaries are also very welcome.
posted by wooh to Law & Government (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From a history perspective, social democrats have changed somewhat so you might find that some beliefs you agree with more than others. From the second half of the eighteenth century up to the end of WWII social democrats were working for a sort of SocialismLite, and were in fact despised by the communists and some other socialists for being bourgeois and collaborators with the capitalists instead of revolutionaries, if you want to see where they fit on the political scale at this point.

After WWII social democracy had a tough time and split into people who still wanted to work towards a socialist state and some other sellouts who wanted to keep capitalism but in essence create a welfare state mixed economy, which is what most left wing parties in Europe at least are like now in their current form.

Be mindful that there is a distinction between Social Democrats and Democratic Socialists. The latter would be part of the group that see social democrats as bourgeois capitalists, and democratic socialists tend to have much more planned economic and redistributive policies than social democrats.

Sorry I don't have anything substantial for you, and I hope it makes sense. I've just finished a 10,000 word history essay which draws on so many different topics from this era that it just seems relevant when my mind is in history mode.
posted by tumples at 12:23 PM on April 27, 2010

Response by poster: tumples, that is actually really in the vein of something I'd love to know more about. I had picked up somewhat on the disdain from communists and other socialists, and would also be curious how that plays out in the current day.

And does anyone have a source that better explains the difference between social democrats and democratic socialists? I've checked the wiki but it doesn't seem super clear.

posted by wooh at 12:47 PM on April 27, 2010

Response by poster: Argh I hate to double post but would socialist international and organizations like that then be social democrat or democratic socialists? I imagine the former, because it sounds like democratic socialists are more "non-revolutionary socialists who stress the democratic element" whereas social democrats are more "non-revolutionary socialists who believe in reforming capitalist economies to provide welfare for all while exploiting the benefits of capitalism."
posted by wooh at 12:50 PM on April 27, 2010

Here is a little bit to get you started
The Swedish Social Policy Model (http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/2061/a/122937)
posted by digividal at 2:09 PM on April 27, 2010

Instead of studying ideology, start with the history of the British Labour party, the German Social Democratic Party, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party and the Swedish Social Democratic Party.
posted by iviken at 3:08 PM on April 27, 2010

Sounds like you are talking about the Third Way, so maybe you want to look at Anthony Giddens or Joseph Stiglitz. Stiglitz has written a lot recently about the economic crisis, and I think there are videos of their lectures on Google Video. Another book I know about is Joseph Heath's Economics Without Illusions: Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism. This is a more lay-oriented book, the premise is that both left and right pundits misunderstand economics in different ways, and debunks them both. Since you don't want books, here is an interview with the author (They talk about "Filty Lucre", the book's Canadian title). I think he's basically progressive, center-leftish. He was also on BloggingHeads.tv with Will Wilkinson.
posted by AlsoMike at 3:50 PM on April 27, 2010

> And does anyone have a source that better explains the difference between social democrats and democratic socialists? I've checked the wiki but it doesn't seem super clear.

That's because the terms are neither clear nor used consistently. "Social democrat" used to be more or less synonymous with "Marxist" (the Communist Party of Russia started out as the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party), but now it's as vague as "democrat" itself. You should worry less about the specific terms and concentrate on reading up on particular parties to see if you can find one whose platform makes sense to you (while bearing in mind that learning more about all this stuff may cause you to change your views—it's a big topic and takes quite a while to know your way around in).
posted by languagehat at 5:39 PM on April 27, 2010

There was a recent link about an article by Tony Judt, a historian, where he describes his ideas about social democracy.
posted by Valet at 7:06 PM on April 27, 2010

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