In 1999, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder issued a joint statement entitled The Third Way, Die neue Mitte. The statement committed itself to a “newly defined role for the active state” and stated that “the essential function of markets must be complemented and improved by political action, not hampered by it” , sometimes raising eyebrows among the European left, not least the French one, which thought that both SPD and Labour had abandoned their social-democratic commitments and embraced neo-liberal ideology. Recently, a clutch of welfare and labour market reforms was adopted in Germany, sparking protests and demonstrations. The Third Way has brought controversy among students of social-democracy when it comes to its relations with social-democracy and its positioning on a right-left spectrum. For its major academic theorist, Anthony Giddens, the Third Way is “social-democracy revived and modernised” , whereas for one of its most vocal critics, sociologist Stuart Hall, it stands for “deregulation of markets, the continued privatisation of public assets, low taxation, breaking the inhibitions to market flexibility and institutionalising the culture of private provision and personal risk” .
[...] Therefore, the concern with equality of opportunity has replaced the commitment to equality of outcome, a greater concern with flexibility has been brought to the idea of labour market protection, a new rhetoric links social rights with duties and responsibilities, and both parties have taken into account the rise of individualism among Western societies. However, what we have to bear in mind during this comparison is that the idea of a generous welfare state is much more entrenched in Germany than in Britain, and that the two countries face different economic contexts (which would mean that the British government has more room for manoeuvre, but to know whether the Blair government has initiated economic growth or has just beneficiated from favourable economic trends will not be discussed here). [...]
[...] 79-92 Martin Rhodes, “Desperately seeking a solution: social democracy, Thatcherism and the “Third in British Welfare”, West European Politics (Vol N 2000), pp. 161-186 Eric Shaw, “Britain: left abandoned? New Labour in power”, Parliamentary Affairs (Vol N 2003), pp. 6-23 Polly Toynbee and David Walker, “Social policy and inequality”, in Anthony Seldon and Kevin Hickson New Labour, Old Labour (Routledge, 2004), pp. 105-122 Stewart Wood, “Education and training: tensions at the heart of the British Third in Stuart White New Labour, The Progressive Future? [...]
[...] Therefore, since 1997 we have witnessed no retreat of the state, but rather a new way of thinking the state intervention, while sticking to strict financial rules. As Steven Fielding argues, there is still a continuity with Labour and an obvious change with the Thatcher years: New Labour has moved from its electoral strategy to present itself as more Thatcherite than it was, to become less shy about the virtues of public spending and the need for better-funded public services to reduce poverty and increase equality. [...]
[...] 47-62 “Continental drift”, The Economist, April 20th 2002 “From Third Way to Thatcherism”, The Economist, October 18th 2003 “Vive la difference”, The Economist, December 13th 2003 “Gordon's golden fudge”, The Economist, December 13th 2003 Quoted in Steven Fielding, The Labour Party, continuity and change in the making of Labour, (Palgrave, 2003), p Quoted in Eric Shaw, “Britain: left abandoned? New Labour in power”, Parliamentary Affairs (Vol N 2003), p Ibid. Ibid. Steven Fielding, Op. cit., p Ben Pimlott, future of the in Robert Skidelski Thatcherism (Basil Blackwell, 1989), p Steven Fielding, Op. [...]
[...] Eventually, as Harold Wilson stated once, a week is a long time in politics, and the changes in Labour's ideology can be reversed: Gordon Brown, the probable heir to the Prime Minister, is said to be less enthusiastic on the Third Way than Tony Blair. Like its British counterpart, the German social-democratic party, the SPD, is still in power, having been returned back into office in 2002. Despite growing unpopularity, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder managed to stay in power, thanks partly to his opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq and his display of compassion on the scene of flooding in East Germany. [...]
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