Project Project
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Dritte Wege: Europa als Handlungsraum für sozialdemokratische Parteien und Regierungen

July 2005 - May 2006
German Research Foundation (DFG)
Christoph Egle
Tobias Ostheim


Wolfgang Merkel, Christoph Egle,
Christian Henkes, Tobias Ostheim,
Alexander Petring
Die Reformfähigkeit der Sozialdemokratie
Herausforderungen und Bilanz der Regierungspolitik in Westeuropa
Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2006
506 pages, 39,90 Euro
ISBN: 3-531-14750-1

Although a great deal has been written about “the Third Way of social democracy,” “The Capacity to Reform: Social Democracy in Power” is the first book since the mid-1990s to offer an encompassing comparative empirical study of policy pursued by social democratic parties in government. The point of departure is the realisation that globalisation, European integration, and social change have devaluated traditional social democratic policy instruments. What concrete answers to these challenges have social democratic governments found over the past decade? In adjusting its policy instruments, has social democracy had to question its goals, blurring its profile vis-à-vis liberal and conservative parties? Or has it successfully upheld old social democratic goals and values even under these changing conditions?
The book sets out to answer these questions. On the basis of country studies (on the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark), the policy measures of social democratic parties in government are subjected to comparative analysis, and their fiscal, employment, and social policy performance assessed. Government revision of traditional social democratic goals and tools is shown to have been associated with a specific performance record. A typology of social democratic parties is developed that can serve as a model for further comparative studies. A comparative account is also given of the explanatory power of the national context for policy adopted by social democratic parties. Finally, the extent to which social democratic parties have been able to use the European Union as a political space for social democratic governance and policy making is examined.