In This Review

What's Left of the Left: Democrats and Social Democrats in Challenging Times
What's Left of the Left: Democrats and Social Democrats in Challenging Times
Edited by James Cronin, George Ross, and James Shoch
Duke University Press Books, 2011, 424 pp

Center-left and social democratic parties across the advanced industrial world have fallen on hard times. In this collection of essays, distinguished scholars offer reflections on the past struggles and ­accomplishments of left-leaning parties in Europe and the United States and speculate about their future. The golden era of postwar Western social democracy ended in the 1970s as economies stagnated, the Keynesian consensus broke down, and economic globalization placed limits on national governments’ ability to manage their economies, protect workers, and provide social services. The neoliberalism of the Reagan-Thatcher years emerged as a rival vision of society and the market. Bill Clinton’s “New Covenant” and Tony Blair’s “New Labour” showed that center-left parties could achieve electoral success by combining neoliberal economics with traditional social liberalism. The book makes the important point that as advanced societies navigate the current moment of global economic uncertainty, liberals and social democrats have a new opportunity to regroup and rethink policies that promote economic security and social justice.