Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic challenger to chancellor Angela Merkel in the upcoming election, gave a speech at Freie Universität Berlin on Tuesday. You can watch it online (in German). This was not meant to be a typical campaign talk, but a speech on the “guidelines of social democratic foreign and security policy”.
The speech was disappointing. For people familiar with the issue area, in particular the first half of the speech seemed very much rooted in the general wisdom, or rather, the commonly shared worries about the state of the world. Steinbrück failed to clearly distinguish his position from vague and all too familiar boilerplate statements. Europe is important for Germany and a historic achievement that should be cherished. International law and the UN Security Council must be considered in decisions about employing the German army. Drones that kill people are undesirable. Oh my, who would have thought?
Steinbrück was unable to clarify how and why his positions represent social democracy, let alone an alternative to Merkel-style realpolitik. His dismissive response when asked about this weakness: “If a social democrat gives a speech, than this a speech about social democratic positions.” Well, what might these positions be? Continue reading →
I have two problems with this six-minute clip. First, it does not sufficiently explain the underlying data: The poll results are not as clear as it seems, and the video lacks comparisons to other countries. Second, more importantly, the clip fails to acknowledge that wealth is almost per definition distributed in a highly unequal way. Continue reading →
European social democracy is in crisis. Rather than being the prime challenger of the neoliberal consensus, social democratic parties are struggling with their Third Way legacy. Increasingly alienated from its traditional social base having given in to the neoliberal status quo, social democracy is in danger of becoming an anachronism.
Colin Hay distinguishes between two phases of neoliberalism, ‘normative neoliberalism’ and ‘normalized neoliberalism’ (2007, 98) In the first phase, in the late 1970s and 1980s, neoliberalism was advocated by politicians like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to be the answer to the inefficient economic management of the Keynesian model that marked the post-war period. The second phase of ‘normalized neoliberalism’ signifies its triumph as it was able to solidify its school of thought into a widespread consensus. A particular strength of neoliberalism is that it successfully advocated its inevitability and its necessitarian character. Continue reading →