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Home Opinion Ideas & Debate The future of centre-left political thought

A centre-left project for new times

Policy Network’s The Classics of Social Democracy surveys the salient works of over a century of social democratic political thought. Reviewing this rich intellectual heritage is designed to prompt questions about political renewal today and open up a world of old ideas.

The last two decades have seen profound changes in centre-left political thought, and these changes are far from over. On social, economic and fiscal questions, social democratic solutions are undergoing a continuing rapid evolution – an evolution driven by changes in the world economy, as well as within domestic Western societies. These changes present social democrats with increasingly stark political choices, and there is frequently disagreement over which of these choices represents the future of the left.

Policy Network here presents a new series to chart the ideological waters of contemporary centre-left political thought, which builds on from the Amsterdam Process publication "A Centre-Left Project for New Times".



Lessons from the Big Society 
The idea of the Big Society was conceived prior to the present crisis, yet it was informed by anxieties regarding neo-liberal government that had amounted over decades.
By Jason Edwards

Pre-distribution as a new set of policy tools
As with many buzz words, the underlying concept of pre-distribution is not new. Pre-distribution does, however, open up new policy tools that could represent a profound challenge to the neo-liberal economic model.
By Paul Gregg

Republican liberty and the future of the centre-left
The dominant tradition in popular politics is infused with the values of republican liberalism.  The contemporary centre-left, influenced by a mix of residual Marxism and technocratic progressivism, has ceded this ground to conservatives and libertarians, losing elections and popular appeal in the process.  A twenty-first century centre left needs to reclaim the tradition of republican liberty as its own.
By Michael Lind

A post-Keynesian political economy for the left
The current crisis of financial capitalism and representative democracy illustrates the many excesses and unintended consequences of socio-economic liberalism. For this and other reasons, a genuinely new ‘post-liberal’ political economy is needed.
By Adrian Pabst

After social democracy?
Socially divided, economically stressed electorates are unlikely to have much tolerance for traditional social democratic approaches to pursuing social justice. The social and economic bases of the movement no longer pervade.
By Anthony Painter

The ends and means of social democracy
The centre-ground is there to be defined and claimed. A focus on abstract ends provides a way to cut through debates over market versus state, straddling the fissures that have developed between liberalism and socialism over the twentieth century.
By Simon Griffiths

Inequality takes centre-stage
Labour and other social democrats must confidently step away from the mantra that political focus on inequality threatens the ‘aspirations’ of the majority.
By Steven Fielding