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Mutualism and social democratic policy in an age of austerity

  • Date(s)
    15 February 2011
  • Time
    08.30-10.00 (light refreshments from 8)
  • Location
    One Queen Anne's Gate, London
Mutualism and social democratic policy in an age of austerity

Policy Network held an interactive breakfast seminar entitled “Mutualism and social democratic policy in an age of austerity” in Westminster on Tuesday 15th of February 2011.

Leading on from Policy Network’s essay series on the subject, the purpose of this interactive seminar was to develop a clear vision of what mutualism means for the left and how it can be used to drive forward the social democratic project.

The Conservatives, with their rhetoric of the Big Society, seem to have displaced Labour as the ‘party of ideas’. By emphasising community empowerment and decentralisation, they arguably co-opt traditional social democratic language and encroach on the ideological terrain of the centre-left.

Many see mutualism as the left’s answer to David Cameron’s big idea, arguing that, whilst social democrats need to unpick their reflexive faith in the state, it is nonetheless a trump card to the Big Society. The right pins its hopes on the Big Society spontaneously emerging as the state withdraws; conversely, the left sees the state as an essential partner in creating the space for empowering concepts such as mutualism to emerge. Public goals can best be achieved if there is an effective and dynamic balance between the state, marketplace and the civic order. Each acts as a check on the other and also provides a stimulus and challenge to them.

How can the progressive left make mutualism a core element of its response to the Big Society, while resisting the government’s efforts to hollow out the state?

Tessa Jowell, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood
Tristram Hunt, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central
Michael Stephenson, general secretary of the Co-operative Party
Adam Lent, head of the Economic and Social Affairs Department at the TUC

Chair: Patrick Diamond, senior research fellow at Policy Network and former head of policy planning in 10 Downing Street

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