Social democracy

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What really scares the pro-plutocrats on both sides of the political aisle about...Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and other democratic socialists is that they have... an actual vision — the simple idea that it’s up to government to intervene and equalize the playing field between the capital that owns the politicians, the system and the rewards, and the general public toiling to provide those rewards Krystal Ball
Within the Western democracies, especially in Europe, the main challenge to the liberal conception is social democracy. This view is linked to the ideology of socialism. From a “social democratic” or “democratic socialist” perspective, the key to democracy is equality, especially equal power in society and government. ~ Terence Ball, Richard Dagger, with the assistance of Daniel O’Neil

Social Democracy is a political, social and economic ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity and capitalist economy. The protocols and norms used to accomplish this involve: a commitment to representative and participatory democracy; measures for income redistribution and regulation of the economy in the general interest; and welfare state provisions


  • In the best of cases, these two dimensions of Social Democracy were mutually reinforcing — welfare reforms promoting class confidence and organization, class mobilization giving renewed electoral mandates for further reformism, through a dense network of trade-union and party structures.
  • ...Polls show 70 percent of Americans support Medicare-for-all, 74 percent support a wealth tax such as the one proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70 percent marginal tax rate finds comfortable majority support. But … socialism! Surely not...
  • Trump would have us believe that these are our only two choices: We can either have smash-and-grab capitalism, where so many hands in the cookie jar has resulted in so many government scandals, and where the top 1 percent have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, or we can have what’s happening in Venezuela, where the economy has collapsed and humanitarian and political crises have ensued...
  • Trump’s dig on socialism means he’s scared, Ocasio-Cortez said after his speech. What really scares the pro-plutocrats on both sides of the political aisle about her, Sanders and other democratic socialists is that they have become messengers for a compelling message with an actual vision — the simple idea that it’s up to government to intervene and equalize the playing field between the capital that owns the politicians, the system and the rewards, and the general public toiling to provide those rewards.
  • Everybody deserves to live a life of dignity, with their bare-minimum needs met in... “the richest society in history of the world.” It’s an idea whose time has come...
  • Within the Western democracies, especially in Europe, the main challenge to the liberal conception is social democracy. This view is linked to the ideology of socialism. From a “social democratic” or “democratic socialist” perspective, the key to democracy is equality, especially equal power in society and government. Social democrats argue that liberal democracy puts poor and working-class people at the mercy of the rich. In the modern world, they say, money is a major source of power, and those who have wealth have power over those who do not. Wealth makes it possible to run for office and to influence government policies, so the rich exercise much greater influence when public policies are made. Yet this advantage, social democrats insist, is hardly democratic. Democracy is rule by the people, and such rule requires that every person have a roughly equal influence over the government, in keeping with the principle “one person, one vote.” But we will not really have this equal influence, social democrats say, unless we take steps to distribute power— including economic power—in a more nearly equal fashion. That is why the program of social democrats typically calls for the redistribution of wealth to promote equality, public rather than private control of natural resources and major industries, and workers’ control of the workplace. Like liberals, then, social democrats want to preserve civil liberties and promote fair competition for political office. Unlike liberals, however, they deny that most people can be truly free or political competition fair when great inequalities of wealth and power prevail.
    • Terence Ball, Richard Dagger, with the assistance of Daniel O’Neil, Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal (9th ed., 2014), Ch. 2 : The Democratic Ideal
  • 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. That these accomplishments were no more than partial should not trouble us. If we have learned nothing else from the twentieth century, we should at least have grasped that the more perfect the answer, the more terrifying its consequences. Imperfect improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best that we can hope for, and probably all we should seek. Others have spent the last three decades methodically unraveling and destabilizing those same improvements: this should make us much angrier than we are. It ought also to worry us, if only on prudential grounds: Why have we been in such a hurry to tear down the dikes laboriously set in place by our predecessors? Are we so sure that there are no floods to come? A social democracy of fear is something to fight for. To abandon the labors of a century is to betray those who came before us as well as generations yet to come. It would be pleasing—but misleading—to report that social democracy, or something like it, represents the future that we would paint for ourselves in an ideal world. It does not even represent the ideal past. But among the options available to us in the present, it is better than anything else to hand.
  • Social democrats, on the other hand, are something of a hybrid. They share with liberals a commitment to cultural and religious tolerance. But in public policy social democrats believe in the possibility and virtue of collective action for the collective good. Like most liberals, social democrats favor progressive taxation in order to pay for public services and other social goods that individuals cannot provide themselves; but whereas many liberals might see such taxation or public provision as a necessary evil, a social democratic vision of the good society entails from the outset a greater role for the state and the public sector.

    Understandably, social democracy is a hard sell in the United States. One of my goals is to suggest that government can play an enhanced role in our lives without threatening our liberties—and to argue that, since the state is going to be with us for the foreseeable future, we would do well to think about what sort of a state we want. In any case, much that was best in American legislation and social policy over the course of the 20th century—and that we are now urged to dismantle in the name of efficiency and “less government”—corresponds in practice to what Europeans have called ‘social democracy’. Our problem is not what to do; it is how to talk about it.

    The European dilemma is somewhat different. Many European countries have long practiced something resembling social democracy: but they have forgotten how to preach it. Social democrats today are defensive and apologetic. Critics who claim that the European model is too expensive or economically inefficient have been allowed to pass unchallenged. And yet, the welfare state is as popular as ever with its beneficiaries: nowhere in Europe is there a constituency for abolishing public health services, ending free or subsidized education or reducing public provision of transport and other essential services.

    • Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land (2010), Introduction
  • Social democracy was always a mongrel politics. In the first place, it blended socialist dreams of a post-capitalist utopia with practical recognition of the need to live and work in a capitalist world that was demonstrably not on its last legs, as Marx had enthusiastically projected back in 1848. But secondly, social democracy took seriously the ‘democracy’ part: in contrast to the revolutionary socialists of the early 20th century and their communist successors, social democrats in free countries accepted the rules of the democratic game and compromised from early on with their critics and opponents as the price of competing for power.
    • Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land (2010), Ch. 2 : The World We Have Los
  • To say that all over the world social democracy is not just a political lobby voicing the aspirations and grievances of workers, of underdogs and the oppressed, but an idea of a better human community as well is neither controversial nor very enlightening. The trouble with the social-democratic idea is that it does not stock or sell any of the exciting ideological commodities which totalitarian movements — communist, fascist, or leftist — offer dream-hungry youth. It has no ultimate solution for all human misfortune; it has no prescription for the total salvation of mankind; it cannot promise the firework of the final revolution to settle definitively all the conflict and struggles; it has invented no miraculous devices to bring about the perfect unity of men or universal brotherhood; it believes in no final, easy victory over evil. It is not fun; it is difficult and unrewarding, and it does not suffer from self-inflicted blindness. It requires the commitment to a number of basic values — freedom, equal opportunity, a human-oriented and publicly supervised economy — and it demands hard knowledge and rational calculation, as we need to be aware of, and to investigate as deeply as possible, the historical and economic conditions in which these values are to be implemented. It has an obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed and vindictive envy, yet it is aware of the narrow limits within which this struggle is being waged, limits imposed by the natural framework of human existence, by innumerable historical accidents, and by various forces that have shaped for centuries today's social institutions.
    • Leszek Kołakowski, ”The Social Democratic Challenge” (c. 1978): article adapted from a lecture given by Kołakowski to the national convention of Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA), printed as part of the University of Michigan and reprinted by SDUSA. Available online at The Social Democratic Challenge; A Response to Conservatism.
  • Democratic socialism turns out to be an inherently unstable compound, a contradiction in terms. Every social-democratic party, once in power, soon finds itself choosing, at one point after another, between the socialist society it aspires to and the liberal society that lathered [sic] it... [S]ocialist movements end up [in] a society where liberty is the property of the state, and is (or is not) doled out to its citizens along with other contingent 'benefits'.
  • The West has unfortunately already started to go along this path. I know, to many it may sound ridiculous to suggest that the West has turned to socialism, but it's only ridiculous if you only limit yourself to the traditional economic definition of socialism, which says that it's an economic system where the state owns the means of production. This definition in my view, should be updated in the light of current circumstances. Today, states don't need to directly control the means of production to control every aspect of the lives of individuals. With tools such as printing money, debt, subsidies, controlling the interest rate, price controls, and regulations to correct so-called market failures, they can control the lives and fates of millions of individuals. This is how we come to the point where, by using different names or guises, a good deal of the generally accepted ideologies in most Western countries are collectivist variants, whether they proclaim to be openly communist, fascist, socialist, social democrats, national socialists, Christian democrats, neo-Keynesians, progressives, populists, nationalists or globalists. Ultimately, there are no major differences. They all say that the state should steer all aspects of the lives of individuals. They all defend a model contrary to the one that led humanity to the most spectacular progress in its history.
  • Thus social democracy is neither pro-capitalist nor, for the present, rigidly anti-capitalist. Indeed, social democracy (and in the United States, a roughly analogous coalition of labor, liberals, and minorities) has already greatly transformed capitalism. Social democracy adopts a flexible approach to institutional arrangements and social reforms; it has no unalterable blueprint to impose on society. Every social-democratic proposal is motivated and tested by its probable consequences for the democratic life of the community. Social democracy is more a method of social change than a definition of what society should look like.
  • Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. There is no ground for assuming that the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of Social-Democracy… These organisations do not negate, but supplement each other. They are not antipodes, they are twins.
    • J. V. Stalin, “Concerning the International Situation,” Works, Vol. 6, (January–November, 1924), pp. 293-314[1]
  • Any social democrat, no matter their intentions, will always find it easier to move to the right than to the left. ON one side lie guarantees of stability from powerful interests, on the other capital strikes and stubborn resistance.

Social Democracy Is 100-Percent American, Harvey J. Kaye


Social Democracy Is 100-Percent American,Harvey J. Kaye, (3 July 2015)

  • As Paine put it in the latter work, since God has provided the earth and the land upon it as a collective endowment for humanity, those who have come to possess the land as private property owe the dispossessed an annual rent for it. Specifically, Paine delineated a limited redistribution of income by way of a tax on landed wealth and property. The funds collected were to provide both grants for young people to get started in life and pensions for the elderly.
  • The social-democratic tradition was nurtured by Americans both immigrant and native-born... German Americans who helped to build the Midwest...By the Jewish and Italian workers..the farmers and laborers... By African-Americans who came north in the Great Migration to build new lives for themselves and... the greatest president of the 20th century, Franklin Roosevelt, whose grand, social-democratic New Deal initiatives... reduced inequality and poverty and helped ready the United States to... become the... most prosperous nation on earth...
  • Polls conducted in 1943 showed that 94 percent of Americans endorsed old-age pensions; 84 percent, job insurance; 83 percent, universal national health insurance; and 79 percent, aid for students — leading FDR in his 1944 State of the Union message to propose a Second Bill of Rights that would guarantee those very things to all Americans. All of which would be blocked by a conservative coalition of pro-corporate Republicans and white supremacist southern Democrats... Americans may once again be remembering who they are and what they need to do to recapture a government now in thrall to the Money Power. And that ain’t extreme. It’s fundamentally American.

See also


Social and political philosophy
Ideologies Anarchism ⦿ Aristocratic Radicalism (NietzscheBrandes...) ⦿ Autarchism ⦿ Ba'athism (• Aflaqal-AssadHussein) ⦿ Communism ⦿ (Neo-)Confucianism ⦿ Conservatism ⦿ Constitutionalism ⦿ Dark Enlightenment ⦿ Environmentalism ⦿ Fascism (• Islamo-Eco-Francoism...) vs. Nazism ⦿ Feminism (• Anarcha-RadicalGender-criticalSecond-wave...) ⦿ Formalism/(Neo-)cameralism ⦿ Freudo-Marxism ⦿ Gaddafism/Third International Theory ⦿ Legalism ⦿ Leninism/Vanguardism ⦿ Juche (• Kim Il-sungKim Jong IlKim Jong Un...) ⦿ Liberalism ⦿ Libertarianism/Laissez-faire Capitalism ⦿ Maoism ⦿ Marxism ⦿ Mohism ⦿ Republicanism ⦿ Social democracy ⦿ Socialism ⦿ Stalinism ⦿ Straussianism ⦿ Syndicalism ⦿ Xi Jinping thought ⦿ New Monasticism (• MacIntyreDreher...)
Modalities Absolutism vs. Social constructionism/Relativism ⦿ Autarky/Autonomy vs. Heteronomy ⦿ Authoritarianism/Totalitarianism ⦿ Colonialism vs. Imperialism ⦿ Communitarianism vs. Liberalism ⦿ Elitism vs. Populism/Majoritarianism/Egalitarianism ⦿ Individualism vs. Collectivism ⦿ Nationalism vs. Cosmopolitanism ⦿ Particularism vs. Universalism ⦿ Modernism/Progressivism vs. Postmodernism ⦿ Reactionism/Traditionalism vs. Futurism/Transhumanism
Concepts Alienation ⦿ Anarcho-tyranny ⦿ Anomie ⦿ Authority ⦿ Conquest's Laws of Politics ⦿ Duty ⦿ Eugenics ⦿ Elite ⦿ Elite theory ⦿ Emancipation ⦿ Equality ⦿ Freedom ⦿ Government ⦿ Hegemony ⦿ Hierarchy ⦿ Iron law of oligarchy ⦿ Justice ⦿ Law ⦿ Monopoly ⦿ Natural law ⦿ Noblesse oblige ⦿ Norms ⦿ Obedience ⦿ Peace ⦿ Pluralism ⦿ Polyarchy ⦿ Power ⦿ Propaganda ⦿ Property ⦿ Revolt ⦿ Rebellion ⦿ Revolution ⦿ Rights ⦿ Ruling class ⦿ Social contract ⦿ Social inequality ⦿ Society ⦿ State ⦿ Tocqueville effect ⦿ Totalitarian democracy ⦿ War ⦿ Utopia
Government Aristocracy ⦿ Autocracy ⦿ Bureaucracy ⦿ Dictatorship ⦿ Democracy ⦿ Meritocracy ⦿ Monarchy ⦿ Ochlocracy ⦿ Oligarchy ⦿ Plutocracy ⦿ Technocracy ⦿ Theocracy ⦿ Tyranny