Social Democrats: The Real Third Way?

  • Will Leggett


The relationship between social democracy and the Third Way is complex, and beset by problems of definition. Social democracy, of course, can lay claim to being the original ‘third way’ long before Giddens, Blair and New Labour. Since the nineteenth century, social democrats of various incarnations have sought to chart a way between the excesses of both state socialism and laissez-faire capitalism. The present Third Way has had a love-hate relationship with the social democratic tradition. On the one hand, glib Third Way criticisms of the ‘old left’ have lumped together the many versions of social democracy with communism, state socialism, democratic socialism, Eurocommunism and the New Left. But, having written off socialism altogether, the ‘first way’ that Third Wayers actually engage with and seek to move beyond (with neoliberalism being the second) is the figure of ‘old-style social democracy’. This is based on a rather sloppy characterisation of the post-1945 Keynesian welfare state which we explore shortly.


Social Change Social Democracy Social Democrat Social Solidarity Public Realm 
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Copyright information

© Will Leggett 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Will Leggett
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BirminghamUK

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