Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Unlikely Chance Victory of Social Democracy

Mark Blyth:

The Primacy of Politics: The Past, Present, and Contested Future of Social Democracy: Posted by mblyth: One of the most interesting aspects of the period discussed in Primacy was how both orthodox Marxists and orthodox liberals... "did nothing" [to try to cure the Great Depression] for different reasons, due to different (but strangely similar) interpretations of the same social reality; and both were destroyed in the maelstrom that followed their passivity.

Those who were not so blinded were a diverse bunch of revisionists.... What united them were those real-world developments that Marxism could only explain away (such as the persistence of small-scale agriculture, the growth of "middle" classes, etc.) and that required an explanation (such as the appeal of nationalism and notions of communal identity independent of supposed class position). Embracing, rather than denying such factors, Italian syndicalism grew into fascism, French reformism fell to nationalism, and German conservatism gave way to a murderous racist variant of the same. Only in Sweden did the democratic reformist project flower....

[T]o say that the failure of Marxist and Liberal ideologies opened the door to reformists who took the same materials and bricolaged them into reformist projects that were more similar than one commonly thinks is not to say that the variation between them disappears. One could see these movements as essentially similar, but to do so would be wrong. The role of race and nation in each movement is the most obvious example here.... [W]hile the embrace of reflationary economics and the primacy of domestic demand over international liquidity marks both experiments, only one of them has autarky and empire as a "built in" part of the project....

[W]hat doesn't come across in the analysis is that with the exception of the Swedish exception, these [social democratic] reformers failed, and failed just as spectacularly as their Marxist forebears. They failed in France, Germany, Spain, all of Eastern Europe.... In contrast, fascism was an astonishing success. It was popular, stable, and if it had not been for one thing, the racial Darwinism of fascist elites leading them to war with powers far stronger than they were, it might have survived.

Social democracy may have been a good idea, but it was also a post-war phenomenon brought about by the devastation fascism brought upon itself. If World War Two hadn't happened, if Strasser had bested Hitler, if the xenophobia had stayed in the bottle, would fascism have fallen?... [I]f the alternative of the Soviet Union had not risen to post-war prominence, would the need to placate the working classes of Europe with welfarism and democracy been so pressing? Would the victory have come about at all, never mind later than advertised...

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