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Not without a future

Abstract : What is the good society? At the moment this is a question that is being asked by political actors all over the political spectrum, and not only by social democracy. The very word ‘society’, at least in the UK, has become a rather troublesome one, as New Labour’s active state was transplanted by Cameron’s big society, made up as this was of social conservatism and rather disturbing continuations of New Labour policy — such as the behavioural Nudge Unit. The latter is charged with making people behave in ways deemed better for their own and society’s good. It is not only the paternalism and the social engineering latent in this conception that are troubling; troubling is also the way in which ‘good’ has come to be understood in its economic sense, as determined by socio-technical parameters of efficiency. Is this the enduring legacy of New Labour? The conservatives did not come up with this themselves; on the contrary, this is a notion of the good that social democracy has actively promoted, not only in its Fabian past, but specifically in the last decades, as the welfare state was reinvented from a moral and ethical argument to a form of socioeconomic investment. With such heavy legacies from past and recent history, it would seem that neither the element of ‘good’ nor that of ‘society’ is particularly useful in terms of rethinking social democracy and a possibly better world to live in. At least at the moment, both elements are tainted by political discourses emanating from a central field that seems to have become a kind of intellectual prison.
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Jenny Andersson. Not without a future. Henning Meyer; Jonathan Rutherford. The future of European social democracy, Palgrave Macmillan, pp.166 - 186, 2011, 9780230290938. ⟨hal-02365722⟩

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