The Good Society Debate

Across the continent, the left’s response to the recent economic crisis has been poor, verging on non-existent, just when the situation demanded a credible alternative to the dominant political and economic orthodoxy.

That’s the starting point for a Europe-wide online debate on the future of social democracy hosted by the Soundings and Social Europe websites.

“European social democracy needs a fresh start,” assert Jon Cruddas and Andrea Nahles in their introduction to the ‘Good Society debate’. “In the wake of the most severe economic crisis in decades it has become clear that social democrats have not paid enough attention to the development of a real political alternative to the dominant free market orthodoxy. When the demand for an alternative politics was there social democrats had very little to say.”

Cruddas, the Labour MP, and Nahles, a member of Germany’s SPD, published a paper in June called Building the Good Society to kickstart discussions across the continent. “This was meant to be the first point of reference in the debate that is needed to stimulate the development of a new social democratic identity,” they explain. “The ‘Good Society’ as the guiding principle for a new politics needs to be filled with life by a broad discourse that is truly pan-European in scope.

Supported by Compass and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the project will run for the next six weeks when some 70 thinkers, politicians and activists from across Europe will publish papers on the Social Europe Journal’s website inviting comments and responses. Some of these are already online, including contributions from Neal Lawson of Compass, Labour’s Dennis MacShane and the sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman.

The aim is to find what Cruddas and Nahles call “a new political narrative” combining “sharp analysis of the shortcomings of the economies and societies we live in with an authentic and convincing vision for the future”.

To read their introduction to the discussion go to:

For articles and opportunities to comment go to:

Click here for a critical report of Jon Cruddas’s Compass lecture given at the London School of Economics in September.