Monday, March 13, 2006

A fun and respectful visit at Timbro, II

During my visit at Timbro yesterday one student asked me a very good question: which three books should he read if he wants to know more about social democracy [how I think]? I mentioned these three books:
1. “En studie i rött. Socialdemokratins idéer” by Henry Pettersson (Premiss förlag). Or the thesis Henry wrote for his PhD: “Den försiktiga kameleonten. Europeisk socialdemokrati och brittiska Labour” (Örebro studies in Political Science).
2. “Why Europe will run the 21st century” by Mark Leonard (called “Utmaning Europa” in Swedish, Prisma förlag).
3. “Det måtfulla upproret. Lindh, Sahlin, Wallström och 20 år av politisk förnyelse” by Jesper Bengtsson (Norstedts).

If you as a reader of this blog have other suggestions, please write them down in the commentary box below!


Anonymous Matthew said...

The best book from a British social democrat's point of view must be "The Future of Socialism" by Tony Crosland. He was a minister in the 1970s, and was seen as being on the right of the party then. He wasn't actually and opposed many of the Labour Government's monetarist policies of the 76-79 crisis period, and even then - when he is viewed with hindsight of the Blairite era he is positively leftist.

Anyway, he wrote the book in 1956 when we had been out of power some years. His argument was that social democrats are too programmatic about measures to be used, and that we should only be ideological about goals, not means. Therefore, equality (of outcome) and social justice are non-negotiable and must be at the centre of what we do, but nationalisation, or privatisation, or high taxes or low taxes are all open debates because it is only the eventual outcome of 'more equality' that really matters.

This was a real debate in the 1960s and 70s, but from what I understand, Swedish social democrats settled that discussion in the 1920s!! ;-)

13/3/06 10:31  
Anonymous Jon Worth said...

Sorry to add more UK books to the list, but I would suggest The State We're In and The World We're In, both by Will Hutton - see this page at Amazon.

The State We're In takes a UK perspective in the mid-1990s, looking at how social democratic values need to be adapted in the UK to be applicable presently. The World We're In, published a couple of years ago, updates things and looks at a European perspective, although I do not think it is quite as coherent as the former.

Anyway, you can add those to your list!

13/3/06 11:27  
Blogger Pickles said...

The future of Socialism is probably the key book I think in trying to understand the Democratic Socialist (or Social Democratic - although that's now a dirty word) left in the UK. The dogmatic or purely "Socialist" left is largely defined by opposition to the central thesis of this book.

It is ultimately why Clause 4 of the Labour Party constitution became so totemic in internal Labour Party debates.

I would also add that for an analysis of the process whereby the ultimate victory of Crosland's ideas was won (I hope it's ultimate!) and the cost to the British people of that process taking forty years, you can't really get better than Philip Gould's "Unfinished Revolution".

Whilst he's obviously bigging himself up a lot he's nevertheless a truly insightful thinker about that ever important element of any democratic system of thought - people.

I think Giddens' The Third Way would also be cited a lot - but I've never met a Labour person who's actually managed to read more than the introduction...

13/3/06 17:19  
Blogger fredrik said...

Tim Tilton: "The Political Theory of Swedish Social Democracy : Through the Welfare State to Socialism" (Oxford UP, 1992) is a very good book. He also has a chapter ("Ideologins roll i socialdemokratisk politik") in Klaus Misgeld, Karl Molin, Klas Åmark (ed): "Socialdemokratins samhälle: SAP och Sverige under 100 år" (Tiden, 1989) which is another good book on Swedish Social Democracy.

13/3/06 22:35  
Anonymous Erik Gutiérrez-Aranda said...

I would recommend the book "One Hundred Years of Socialism. The West European Left in the Twentieth Century" written by the british historian Donald Sassoon. (English version: New Press 1998, Swedish version: Atlas Bokförlag 2002)

The book consist of a historic summary of the european left (consisting of socialdemocratic parties, communist parties and the green left movement) during the twentieth century and tries to explain the complex relation between socialism and capitalism. The thesis of the book is that capitalism were highly dependent of socialdemocratic parties in government, in order for the capitalist economy to expand.

The main question is whether capitalism can survive without socialism and the need of socialdemocratic governments and vice versa, and what is the main objetives of the modern socialism in the twentifirst century?

Heres two english summary, one of them written by the author himself:

With regards
Erik Gutiérrez-Aranda

14/3/06 09:40  
Anonymous Erik Gutiérrez-Aranda said...

I forgot: To access the summary links you have to be member of the New York Times Online Network. It´s easy to registrate a membership, its free and it only take a minute.


14/3/06 10:07  

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