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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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Contents 9

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9Contents List of figures and tables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 1. The struggle over market society: from economic liberalism to the defence of politics . . . . . . . . . 35 2. Industrial society and social democratic politics: political organisation in Sweden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 3. Wigforss’s democratic commitment: repositioning socialist politics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 4. The democratisation and politicisation of capitalism: from British collectivist liberalism to Swedish social democracy in the 1920s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 5. Statecraft, employment and welfare in the 1930s and 1940s . . . . 139 6. Citizenship and the social question in the postwar period . . . . 187 7. Union organisation as the bearer of substantive rationality . . . 225 8. Comparative evolution of social democratic possibilities . . . . . 277 9. The responsibilities of labour in social democratic politics . . . . 343 10. The state and deliberation: on the economic possibilities of politics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 383 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 431 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 435 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 463 10

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