Social democracy seeks compromise between capitalism and socialism, advocating democratic collective action to achieve political and economic freedoms. Recent social democrats have made mistakes, presiding over deregulation and unordered immigration. This is related to globalization, a process estranging social-democratic elites from concerns of traditional supporters. Social-democratic acceptance of capitalism, a long-standing left-wing criticism, is associated with such failures. Despite mistakes of social-democratic politicians and the challenge of globalization, social democracy has redeeming features. Emphasis on economic security means that it averts the instability associated with conservatism, while respect for individual rights counters national-populist stigmatization. Social democracy also avoids difficulties associated with the new left; restrained patriotism appeals to lower classes, while preference for gradual change avoids potential instability. In a way which other worldviews are not, social democracy is based on compromise, making it an appropriate governing tactic. Because of divisions in its base, between authoritarian lower classes and liberal middle classes, social democracy may have entered terminal decline. If this is the case, the ability of social democracy to reconcile separate interests might be emulated by alternative positions.
The new left advocates redistribution and equality. Though the new left is descended from socialism, important differences in support bases mean that the two are distinct. Working classes dominated socialist parties; young middle classes are relatively prominent in the new left. The new left advocates economic justice, yet there are good reasons for suspecting that its programme will primarily shift resources from the rich to the young middle classes, leaving the poorest in a similar position. This results from the new-left support base; no theory of redistribution, least of all the Marxist approaches which many in the new left favour, predicts that political movements will transfer resources away from supporters. This offers fascinating insight into the way in which self-interest furtively hijacks policy. Though talk is easy, the new left naturally emphasizing the justice of its programme, limited resources and subliminal tendency to prioritize personal need mean that resources tend to be transferred to supporters. The 2017 and 2019 Labour manifestos thus pledged to abolish tuition fees, a measure benefiting the middle classes, while doing little to reverse Conservative benefit cuts.
A central task of any electoral system is to achieve representation. But representation of what, and for who – and how do voters want to be represented? The chapter looks at some key issues. Should MPs be independent decision makers, simple delegate for local preferences, or primarily agents of their parties? Do voters feel their MPs understand them – and what sorts of people do they think should be MPs?
Representational democracy is at the heart of the UK’s political constitution, and the electoral system is central to achieving it. But is the first-past-the-post system used to elect the UK parliament truly representative? To answer that question requires an understanding of several factors: debates over the nature of representation; the evolution of the current electoral system; how first-past-the-post distorts electoral politics; and how else elections might be conducted. Running through all these debates are issues over the representation not only of people but also of places. The book examines all of these issues and focuses on the effect of geography on the operation of the electoral system.
The first chapter elaborates the problem of self-interest and sets out the approach of the book, arguing that most of us gain something from our political views. We are evolved animals and, consistent with the premises of several fields, tend to act in our self-interest. Though the link between self-interest and specific worldviews may often be indirect, associations become clearer if three influences are understood. Firstly, people sometimes express interests in non-material terms. Secondly, human cognition is limited, meaning that we fail to appreciate the extent to which our preferences benefit ourselves. Thirdly, individual worldviews have separate constituent parts, reflecting long-term historical development. The chapter introduces five worldviews (conservatism, national populism, liberalism, the new left and social democracy) with reference to these points and elaborates tenets of institutional theory, a crucial explanatory framework. Finally, the chapter argues that understanding of self-interest makes us more tolerant and improves the quality of politics.
This punchy and provocative book asks a simple but overlooked question: why do we have the political views that we do? Offering a lively and original analysis of five worldviews – conservatism, national populism, liberalism, the new left and social democracy – Thomas Prosser argues that our views tend to satisfy self-interest, albeit indirectly, and that progressive worldviews are not as altruistic as their adherents believe. But What’s in it for me? is far from pessimistic. Prosser contends that recognition of self-interest makes us more self-reflective, allowing us to see humanity in adversaries and countering the influence of echo chambers. As populist parties rise and liberalism and social democracy decline, this timely intervention argues that to solve our political differences, we must first realise what we have in common.
The first part of the chapter summarizes the main findings of the book and
discuss their theoretical implications for network governance theory. A key
point is that political and administrative practices do not divide
themselves into any orderly distinction between government and governance.
Consequently, the author argues that the two categories should rather be
treated as conceptual metaphors that enable an analysis of the coexisting
institutional logics regulating municipal policy processes. The chapter
further addresses a number of key propositions from the network governance
literature, including the transformation thesis and metagovernance. While
the author nuances most of these propositions, the goal is not to provide a
new and comprehensive account of governance. Rather, the empirical
investigation in the book demonstrates how political practices are informed
by a contingent mix of different traditions and developments. The author
therefore provides a warning against uncritically transporting theoretical
conceptualizations as comprehensive explanatory devices across
contexts. The author also summarizes the analysis of pragmatic policy
alliances, arguing that such alignments are made up of individual actors
mediating between organizational and individual goals, thereby operating in
tension with the hierarchical command chain of the municipal organization.
However, such alignments can also find an alternative source of legitimacy
rooted in a sense of pragmatism and egalitarian trust. This observation is
carried into the end of the chapter, where the author concludes the book
with a discussion of the historical and cultural conditions underpinning
relations in municipal policy development.
Based on the author´s experiences of a mismatch between the collaborative
governing practices encountered during fieldwork and their representations
in the network governance literature, the first part of the chapter develops
a critique of contemporary governance theory. The author argues that the
normative implications of the so-called “transformation thesis,” depicting a
transformation from government to governance, have led to several
problematic biases in the literature, including the tendency to
overemphasize government and governance as separate modes of governing.
Instead, the author argues that a mix of hierarchies and networks is
axiomatic to any system of governing and that changes to practices of
governance take more diverse forms and paths. In line with recent
perspectives from interpretive political science, the author argues a need
for ethnographic accounts of governance that can unveil this larger
diversity of practices, actions and strategies in play. The second part
of the chapter details the multi-sited research strategy, ethnographic
methods and analytical perspectives applied in the study. The author argues
that doing interdisciplinary work entails an analytical reconstruction of
the research object itself and discusses how perspectives from political
anthropology inform the perspectives on political practices in the book.
Here the author also introduces F. G. Bailey´s classical game approach to
analyzing political struggle, which inspires the action-oriented analytical
approach applied throughout the book.
The chapter gives an introduction to the main themes addressed in the book
and the analytical perspectives applied. The author argues that the
Norwegian municipality provides a particularly interesting case for
exploring some key tensions and dilemmas in how actors in bureaucratic
organizations interact with their surroundings through both formal and
informal ties. The specific ways of resolving such these tensions and
dilemmas, as well as their consequences for political life, are introduced
as key topics for the ethnographic analysis developed in the book. Another
topic introduced is the relation between the political-science-derived
concepts of government and governance. By centering the focus on their
interconnectedness, the author argues, these two concepts enable analysis of
a central tension in the examples of political struggle and the policy
processes investigated: that is, the tension between adherence to the
hierarchical command chain of the municipal organization and alternative
alliances found both within and beyond the formal municipal
organization. The chapter also provides a brief overview of the
ethnographic methods applied in the study and introduces some of the
analytical perspectives from political anthropology in the analysis. In the
final parts of the chapter, the author gives a brief overview of the book’s
structure and ends by addressing some of the limitations of the study
presented in the book.
The chapter is an introduction to the organizational landscape of the
municipal organization and some key features of municipal policy processes
that will be further analyzed and discussed in the succeeding chapters. In
the first part of the chapter, the reader is introduced to the ambiguous
borders of the municipal organization by visiting three different offices
and the persons occupying them in the municipal hall. The second part of the
chapter gives two examples of policy processes and associated political
struggles that will also be revisited in the subsequent chapters. The first
example describes the political and administrative process surrounding the
building of a sporting arena while the second example concerns a process of
centralizing healthcare services in one of the municipalities
studied. The two examples illustrate three points related to the main
themes covered in the book. First, both cases entail a degree of controversy
and show how the political and administrative spheres of the municipal
organization become arenas of political struggle during policy processes.
Second, while demonstrating how both political and administrative actors can
become the prime movers of policy processes, they also show how successful
“municipal entrepreneurship” depends on a dialectic relationship between the
two roles. Third, and important to the ambition of exploring the
relationship between government and governance, the two cases display how
internal and external relations (and resources) are interwoven during policy
processes, and how external relations become an integral part of policy
struggles within the municipal organization.