Economic integration across the territory of the European Union (EU) precludes the adoption of national-level redistributive measures. This chapter works with a conceptualisation of 'social democracy' as a political ideal and assumes that we are therefore able to evaluate the degree to which a particular political programme is social democratic or otherwise. EU social policy developments during the Great Recession fall into three key areas: labour market regulations, pro-employment policies and anti-poverty initiatives. Much debate within social democratic parties has focused on potential opportunities through which to achieve a 're-social democratisation' of social democratic party programmes, and especially the opportunities presented by the process of European integration. This debate provides us with an insight into the question of how we might understand social democratic parties' supranational-level responses to the Great Recession.
This book makes an important contribution to the existing literature on European social democracy in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and ensuing recession. It considers ways in which European social democratic parties at both the national and European level have responded to the global economic crisis (GEC). The book also considers the extent to which the authors might envisage alternatives to the neo-liberal consensus being successfully promoted by those parties within the European Union (EU). The book first explores some of the broader thematic issues underpinning questions of the political economy of social democracy during the GEC. Then, it addresses some of the social democratic party responses that have been witnessed at the level of the nation state across Europe. The book focuses in particular on some of the countries with the longest tradition of social democratic and centre-left party politics, and therefore focuses on western and southern Europe. In contrast to the proclaimed social democratic (and especially Party of European Socialists) ambitions, the outcomes witnessed at the EU level have been less promising for those seeking a supranational re-social democratization. In order to understand the EU-level response of social democratic party actors to the Great Recession, the book situates social democratic parties historically. In the case of the British Labour Party, it also identifies the absence of ideological alternatives to the 'there is no alternative' (TINA)-logic that prevailed under the leadership of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
The historical relationship between economic crisis and social democracy is both intrinsic and far from straightforward. In terms of electoral performance, an overview suggests that social democratic parties have fared badly as a result of the global economic crisis. The crisis of neo-liberalism creates the potential to consider a shift towards an alternative socio-economic model and set of ideas. This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book discusses the relationship between social democratic parties and what they claim were two 'Faustian pacts' entered into: one with European integration, and the other with the knowledge-based economy. In the case of the British Labour Party, the book further identifies the absence of ideological alternatives to the 'there is no alternative' (TINA)-logic that prevailed under the leadership of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.