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6 Political Hurdles for the Left

07 January 2013
6 Political Hurdles for the Left

Research Priorities in 2013

Left-of-centre parties and governments are applying themselves to the political and intellectual challenges of creating new models of governance and political economy for a post-crisis era. Despite recent electoral successes in France and the US, there is not yet an emerging model of progressive governance. Policy weaknesses abound and short-term political pressures too often obscure long-term reforms.
Policy Network here underlines 6 areas where the left's policy offer is particulary weak to frame and underpin our research in 2013:

1. Reclaiming the supply-side agenda
Western economies have experienced one of the most severe and destabilising financial crises of the modern era. The fiscal pressures unleashed by the crisis are putting unprecedented strain on living standards and the sustainability of the welfare state. These changes present progressives with profound questions about how to stimulate growth at a time when traditional social democratic macro-economic management tools are restricted because of unsustainable national deficits. Policy Network endeavors to find credible and sustainable supply-side solutions to the structural challenges of growth in an era of fiscal constraint.

  •     Pre-distribution and market design
  •     Innovation and competitiveness
  •     Inclusive growth

2. The new age of distributional conflict
Solutions to the erosion of living standards and fiscal tightening must be advanced in a political climate shaped by falling support for redistribution. Survey research points to declining support for measures that redistribute resources, both vertically to other groups within the income distribution, and horizontally to other generational cohorts. Distributional conflicts are at the heart of many of today’s pressing public policy problems, such as ageing and pension policy, the national debt, funding for education and training, and climate change. Policy Network is concerned with advancing political strategies to alleviate distributional conflicts and building new coalitions for sustainable and targeted social investment.

  •     Social investment
  •     New inequalities
  •     Welfare state reform

3.  Liberal democracy under stress
Governance at all levels, whether local, national or supranational, is exhibiting shortcomings. The pillars of representative democracy have been weakened by the interaction of rapid economic, social and institutional change. The stresses on liberal democracy are highlighted by de-politicisation and the rise of technocracy, declining voter turn-out and participation, bureaucratization and increasing concentrations of power, and by the successes of populist political actors and extreme-right and-left parties. Policy Network is concerned with understanding and seeking solutions to the rise of new political competitors, declining political trust and the increasing salience of identity politics.

  •     Populism and extremism
  •     Political trust
  •     Identity and culture

4. The limits of nation state social democracy
Action at the state level is no longer sufficient, on its own, to tame the worst excesses of market capitalism. In an age of interdependence, where market forces have become increasingly transnational, the prospects for “socialism in one country” are extremely limited. A viable centre-left politics needs a reformed international market system, particularly in areas such as finance, corporate governance, trade, and environment. Policy Network is concerned with investigating and promoting multi-level governance in response to fast paced globalisation and increasing interdependence.

  •     Reinventing government for the 21st century
  •     Interdependence
  •     Multi-level governance and the dispersal of power (local, national,  supranational)

5. The politics of European integration
The eurozone crisis, along with a shift in the balance of power of the global economy, has further strengthened the need for greater European economic and political co-operation. However, as Europe becomes both ever more salient and more divisive in national politics, questions about the democratic deficit, policy gridlock due to a lack of institutional clarity, and the nature and objectives of economic integration and political union will all need to be addressed. Policy Network concerns itself with how to manage the greater politicization of European affairs and respond to the pressures arising from the onset of populism and technocracy.

  •     The future of the European Union
  •     European political and economic governance
  •     The Europeanisation of domestic politics

6. Progressive coalitions for a fragmented left
Winning out right majorities appears to be a thing of the distant past. The blurring of class consciousness and radically changed voter values and preferences, together with the decline of traditional political mobilisers such as trade unions and civil society groups, have brought to an end an era of “catch-all” political parties. Many mainstream parties have become outdated as forces for popular political mobilistion, reluctant to open-up old power structures and embrace a new technological spirit of openness and transparency. Policy Network searches for ways to build a progressive majority and develop stronger electoral and campaigning alliances with social and ecological movements, other political parties, business and civil society.

  •     Coalition-building and campaigning
  •     The modernisation of political parties
  •     Social citizenship

Call for collaboration:
As a leading research platform and international network, Policy Network brings together renowned academics, politicans and expert thinkers to critically engage with difficult policy and political challenges. Through a distinctly collaborative and cross-national approach to research, events and publications, Policy Network impacts upon debate in the UK, the rest of Europe and the wider world.

Our goal is to further strengthen our policy community and continue to build synergies and networks across disciplines. We warmly welcome comments, ideas and written submissions, as well as proposals for future co-operation. Policy Network director Olaf Cramme would be delighted to hear from those interested in our work.  (ocramme@policy-network.net / 020 7340 2200).

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