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The next centre-left century

  • Date(s)
    02 July 2012 to 03 July 2012
  • Location
    University of Oxford
The next centre-left century

Lost or anew? American progressive-liberalism and European social democracy

The American political traditions of progressivism and liberalism have long provided European social democracy with a rich vein of ideas and inspiration: from the progressive-liberal reformism exemplified by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal and, later, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society to Bill Clinton and the New Democrat’s centrist fusion of moderate economic conservatism and social liberalism they have served–up restless models for social and economic progress, ideological contestation and political revisionism. The nation’s founding ideals, the civil rights era and the traditions of democratic accountability, civic duty and Republican liberty can all be mentioned in this regard.

Today, however, progressive parties on both sides of the Atlantic appear to be disorientated and rudderless, crucially lacking the ideological and intellectual vitality which underpinned their strength in the post-war political landscape. The US political system is in a state of paralysis and Europe’s centre-left parties have lost 19 out of the 25 elections since the fall of Lehman brothers in 2008. Progressives recognise that neoliberalism proved to be a dead end. But no new variety of capitalism has emerged to fill the void. The crisis has shifted from financial market failure to sovereign debt and on to the practice of politics and democracy: it is the question of the state – its size, its role, its efficiency – and the scale of national debt and deficits that have become the central issues in a period defined by protracted periods of low growth, austerity and squeezed living standards.

Against this backdrop, this high-level conference will explore how American and European centre-left traditions are adapting to 21st century structural constraints and ideological pressures. The circumstance of western capitalist democracies will provide for a compelling comparison of how new doctrines, new concepts and new interpretations might shape the next stages of centre-left political thought and whether they afford the possibility of a paradigm shift beyond neoliberalism.

The event is organised by Policy Network in partnership with Nufflield College University of Oxford, Harvard University, Institute for Global Law and Policy, and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), it will take place at Nuffield College in Oxford on 2-3 July, 2012.

Douglas Alexander, UK Labour MP and shadow foreign secretary
Tony Atkinson
, University of Oxford
Sheri Berman, Columbia University
Jared Bernstein, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 
Craig Calhoun, London School of Economics
Colin Crouch, Warwick Business School
Paul De Grauwe, London School of Economics
Catherine E. de Vries, University of Oxford
Jeffry Frieden, Harvard University
Andrew Gamble, University of Cambridge
Alfred Gusenbauer, former chancellor of Austria and FEPS
Jacob Hacker, Yale University
Peter A. Hall, Harvard University
Anton Hemerijck, VU University Amsterdam
Jane Jenson, University of Montreal
Lane Kenworthy, University of Arizona
Will Marshall, Progressive Policy Institute, Washington
Wolfgang Merkel, Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB)
David Miliband,
UK Labour
Pippa Norris, Harvard University
Claus Offe, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin
Bruno Palier, Sciences Po, Paris
Rachel Reeves
, UK Labour
Leopold Specht, Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School
Frans Timmermans, Dutch Labour MP and former minister for European affairs
Shirley Williams
, Liberal Democrats


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