Re-thinking Social-Democracy

CFP: a conference in Sheffield, UK, 28-30 June 2006

Call for Papers

RSD3: Re-thinking Social Democracy for the Future:
Social democracy in the post-bipolar world: Challenges in the developed world, opportunities in the developing world?
International conference; University of Sheffield, 28-30 June 2006

This is the third and final conference in the series on re-thinking social democracy. The first addressed historical perspectives (London, April 2004), and the second political economy (Swansea, April 2005). The purpose is to re-think and re-position social democracy as a practical political project for the 21st century. There has been a strong commitment from those attending and giving papers to thinking through difficult problems and serious dilemmas. There are no prescriptive answers or formulae. Instead, the emphasis has been on thoughtful enquiry and facing up to the real world. Pessimism, however, has hardly predominated. The many successes, both large and small, chalked up by social democratic politicians, government, and union leaders have been examined and analysed in order to provide guides to future thought and action.

The first two conferences acted to open the door, showing those who were doubtful that it was not only possible but important to re-think social democracy with interesting and unexpected results. Many people who attended and gave papers or acted as discussants at the first two conferences hope to be at Sheffield. They include David Purdy, Jenny Andersson, Francois Prigent, John Callaghan, Francesca Traldi, Ilaria Favretto, Paul Auerbach, Stefan Berger, Kevin Morgan, and Nina Fishman. There are others who attended either the first or the second, notably Rainer Zoll and Pat Devine. These RSD pilgrims will provide important continuity and context for RSD3.

The third conference is about the future. It is also catholic, welcoming academic contributions, reflections from practitioners and polemics from partisan thinkers! We are also hoping for paper-givers from places where social democracy is comparatively new. The themes for paper proposals include appropriate leads: e.g. the impact of the 'death of communism', radical social democracy in Latin America, social justice in post-apartheid Africa, globalising social democracy, and global labour standards.

For information and queries, please contact:
Jana Tillotson, RSD administrator:
Steve Ludlam, RSD3 organising committee chair:


Since the end of the cold war and the apparent triumph of neo-liberal globalisation, the prospects for social democracy appear to have been transformed in complex ways. In developed states the ideological and competitive pressures of capitalist globalisation have confronted social democrats with new, often dispiriting, challenges. The collapse of'actual existing socialism' in Europe may have removed an electorally delibitating model, but has triumphant neo-liberalism nevertheless rendered social democracy in one country obsolete? Can social democracy's domestic aspirations be sustained by the 'modernisedsocial democracy' asserted by 'third way' advocates, or do more egalitarian and collectivist traditions retain viability? Which of social democracy's key objectives remain relevant, which essential, and which political and economic methods are now viable in their pursuit?

For decades social democrats in developed states, seeking electoral support and viable economic growth strategies, have argued over the relationship between means (notably state intervention) and ends (prosperity and equality), and repeatedly insisted on the primacy of ends over particular means. Now, while the statist tradition has receded in developed states, it remains - in conditions in which its pursuit can no longer be portrayed as the thin end of a Soviet wedge - at the heart of debates in the developing world on how to resolve deep-seated problems of poverty, exclusion and inequality. Some governments,exemplified by Chavez's 'Bolivarian Revolution' in Venezuala, are considering or adopting statist methods to achieve social justice in their national conditions. Others, like those in Brazil and South Africa, manouevre more cautiously and uncertainly to deploystate power to achieve social democratic ends without triggering a flight of capital.

In the developed, and the developing and often recently-'democratised' worlds, the quality of democracy, above all the degree of citizen engagement and empowerment involved, has become a major concern, not least of movements that now pursue social democratic goals ofsocial justice less through states and party systems and more through direct action in social alliances, of which the world and other social forums represent an occasional face. Straddling the developed and developing worlds, social democrats in governments and NGOs,not least labour organisations, pursue 'global social justice' through a variety of methods of global regulation and local activism.

This third conference in the Rethinking Social Democracy series invites papers that address these and related questions. Indicative themes thus include:

  • Developed social democracy - what works is what counts
  • The impact of the 'death of communism'
  • The impact of multi-level governance
  • Redefining social democracy in one country
  • New meanings of egalitarianism
  • The de-collectivisation of social democratic methods
  • Developing social democracy - the return of Bolivar
  • Radical social democracy in Latin America
  • Anti-imperialism and social democracy
  • Social justice in post-apartheid Africa
  • The limits of liberal democratic pluralism
  • Social movements as agents of social democracy
  • Globalising social democracy - another world is possible
  • NGOs and making poverty history
  • Debt reduction and 'fair trade' strategies
  • Global labour standards
  • Globalising labour movements
  • The Social Forum network

We look forward to hearing from you!

Paper Offers Deadline: 31 December 2005 - please send your offer with an abstract if possible Interest and offers are welcome at any time

Paper Offers, Submissions & Queries
Jana Tillotson,

Organising Committee Chair
Steve Ludlam,

Jana Tillotson
RSD3 Sheffield 2006 Administrator