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Politics against pessimism

Social democratic possibilities since Ernst Wigforss

Geoff Dow and Winton Higgins

Neoliberalism has now failed, so can a social democratic resurgence replace it? This book retrieves the political thought of Swedish politician Ernst Wigforss to explore the unrealised potential of social democracy. Wigforss drew on many schools of thought to produce an alternative social democratic strategy.
It outflanked economic liberalism, allowed his party to dominate Swedish politics for a half-century, and his country to achieve affluence and social equity as converging rather than competing objectives.
OECD economies have since evolved political capacities – the welfare state, corporatist regulation, expanded citizen entitlements, civic amenity – far in excess of pessimistic evaluations offered by mainstream analyses. This book suggests that such developments confirm Wigforss’s ideas, confounding conventional pessimism.
Full employment, social equity, economic democracy, new political institutions, and transformative economic management are now more imaginable than ever in western countries. But their achievement depends on a radical reformist political mobilisation of the kind that Wigforss inspired, one which integrates these aspirations as mutually reinforcing goals.


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design: Eva Ede, Stockholm ISBN 978-3-0343-1445-9 pb. ISBN 978-3-0351-0582-7 eBook © Peter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers, Bern 2013 Hochfeldstrasse 32, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland, All rights reserved. All parts of this publication are protected by copyright. Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without the permission of the publisher, is forbidden and liable to prosecution. This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming, and storage and processing in electronic retrieval systems. Printed in Switzerland For Lena and Jane Acknowledgements This study has matured slowly, always in association with other projects of greater urgency but perhaps more modest importance. Thus it has spread itself over many years and several stints as guest researchers in Sweden. In this way it leaves us with many individuals and several institu- tions to thank. For help, support, guidance and exchange of ideas we particularly acknowledge the late Annika Baude, Christian Berggren, Stewart Clegg, Jennifer Curtin, Eva Ede, Lars Ekdahl, Lennart Erixon, Olle Hammarström, Ann-Britt Hellmark, Walter Korpi, the late Rudolf Meidner, Åsa Nelander, the late Gösta Rehn, Åke Sandberg, Frank Stilwell, Lennart Svensson, Andrew Vandenberg, Ann-Charlotte Viklund, Birger Viklund, Ylva Walde- marson, Bengt Åkermalm, and Cecilia Åse. We warmly thank them all, together with those – too numerous to name (but you know who you are) – who smoothed our way and welcomed us, not least in Sweden. We would also like to acknowledge our home institutions – the Trans- forming Cultures Research Centre at the University of Technology Syd- ney,...

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