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New Book: The Dilemmas of Social Democracies by Howard Richards and Joanna Swanger

The Dilemmas of Social Democracies: Overcoming Obstacles to a More Just World
by Howard Richards and Joanna Swanger

“In this fascinating collection of studies of the obstacles to the realization of the deep principles of social democracy, cooperation, and sharing, the endless failures of well-meant programs of betterment are honestly faced. The key insight, which reflects movements in the human sciences generally, is to foreground the role of culture in the reproduction of obstacles to the realization of a just world. There are no mechanisms of failure. Diagnosis is the first step to cure pathologies, be they organic, moral, or social. In this book we have a thrilling beginning.” —Rom Harré, Professor of Philosophy of Science, Linacre College, Oxford University

“Howard Richards and Joanna Swanger have given us what we now most sorely need, informed hope. In a work of stunning scholarship—deeply researched and broad in vision, interpreted in the light of some of the most significant modern philosophic and social science works—they explore highly instructive historic experiences in social democracy. Their work makes it clearly evident that another world is, indeed, possible. Within the framework of their concepts of social action and ethical construction, they vividly articulate the practical and attainable possibilities for the achievement of global social justice that lie in the principles of cooperation and sharing. It is a work that should be read, reflected on, and widely used by educators, scholars, and activists committed to the struggle to obtain the possibilities that these authors identify in learnings derived from actual historic experience.” —Betty A. Reardon, Emeritus Chair, Peace Studies Program, Teachers College, Columbia University

“The Dilemmas of Social Democracies is a spiritually and historically deep analysis of the origins and development of what the authors call humanity’s greatest achievement so far in harnessing human energy and mobilizing natural resources and capital in the service of meeting everybody’s needs. However, Howard Richards and Joanna Swanger are not interested only in the historical achievements of Social Democracy but provide also an original scrutiny of its limits and inherent contradictions. What is perhaps most striking about this book is its ambitious attempt to go beyond eurocentrism and learn from a wide variety of global experiences, from South Africa and Indonesia to Venezuela. In short, this is a highly recommendable book on social democracy written from the cosmopolitical perspective of ethical construction of social reality.”—Heikki Patomäki, Professor of International Relations, University of Helsinki


1 On Cooperation and Sharing
This chapter expounds upon well-known historical examples of people who have advocated or practiced effective cooperation and sharing: Plato, Jesus, Voltaire, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and game theorist Robert Axelrod.

2 Making Invisible Causes Visible
Nature gives us brutes; culture gives us institutions. In an important sense, nature is, by definition, what we cannot change. Therefore the path to a better social reality goes by way of the improvement of cuture.
3 The Drama of Spanish Socialism: Tragedy, Farce, or Conceptual Error? (Part 1)
Spanish socialism in the 1930s failed because it followed an oft-tried and inherently flawed strategy: rather than undertaking the more arduous and more important task of constructing cultural structures of solidarity, the socialists chose to work within existing cultural structures to try to extend greater political and economic power to the rural and urban working classes.

4 The Drama of Spanish Socialism: Tragedy, Farce, or Conceptual Error? (Part 2)
The second Spanish attempt at social democracy failed because adherence to the rules that underpin the workings of capitalism means that it is not easy to reshape society and maximize incentives for investors simultaneously.
5 A Modest Hypothesis Concerning Swedish Social Democracy
The illusions of Sweden were illusions about the feasibility of “changing without changing,” i.e., of building an ecologically sustainable social democracy on a foundation of modern liberal ethics.

6 Sweden’s Rehn-Meidner Model: Too Good to be True, or, The Stumbling Blocks of Freedom and Property
Capitalism’s inherent structural flaws are due to principles that organize not just “capitalist” society but also any “modern,” “economic” or “liberal” society. The basic cultural structures of any such society imply instability and poverty.

7 The Revenge of the Iron Law of Wages
This chapter documents the downfall of Swedish social democracy and the embrace of neoliberal economic policy fixes. It articulates and diagnoses some of the principal illusions fostered by the earlier success of Swedish social democracy, for the purpose of helping the world move toward real solutions.

8 Hjalmar Branting’s Uppfostran
This chapter retraces the steps by which Swedish social democracy was constructed in order to discern whether other paths could have been taken.

9 Karl Popper’s Vienna, or, The Straitjacket of Mainstream Social Science
This chapter focuses on the administration of Bruno Kreisky, the socialist chancellor of Austria from 1970 to 1986. We argue that Kreisky’s concept of “system-changing reform” needs to be reconsidered because it tended to consider immutable a key feature of the system to be changed: its dependence on the profit motive.

10 Power and Principle in South Africa
In the course of doing what was necessary to attract foreign investment, the African National Congress found itself having to sacrifice, one after another, the beautiful principles held so dear by so many. This chapter elaborates and calls into question eight of the basic premises of neoliberalism. It then delineates five basic principles for cooperation and sharing.

11 Islam and Economic Rationality in Indonesia
This chapter examines Indonesia’s attempt to construct social democracy with specific reference to which aspects particular to Indonesian culture could aid in bolstering the construction of social democracy by allowing a culture of solidarity to grow and flourish.

12 The Stones that the Builders Rejected
It is phenomena at the level of circulation that block the transformation of the ownership of the means of production into more ethical and sustainable forms. Therefore, circulation has to happen for reasons other than solely making a profit on the sale of the product. We call these reasons “cultural resources,” and this chapter continues our inventory of Indonesian cultural resources that serve this purpose and thus aid in supporting a viable social democracy.

13 Middle-Class Values
This chapter continues our optimistic reading that the dilemmas of social democracies indeed do have their solutions; in fact, many of the solutions are already present in cultural practices shared throughout the world. The major tragedies of the twentieth century happened not primarily because of bad people but rather because of good people with limited understanding.
14 The Venezuela That Might Have Been
We open this chapter with a discussion of the concept of “alienation” by way of introducing a slightly different way to conceive of the problems existing in the world today, and by way of introducing another strategy for effective social change. The organization of Venezuela’s oil sector has offered that nation-state the opportunity to use rents to subsidize the dissolution of the structural obstacles to social change, a process we call “subsidizing de-alienation.” The concept of de-alienation is a people-oriented form of “integrated development.”

15 Social Democracy on a World Scale: The World Bank and the Logic of Love
We interpret the history of the World Bank as offering evidence for the claim that capitalism is already in the process of being reformed—being made to function according to higher ethical principles.

Posted by Evelin at September 18, 2006 03:51 PM