What is Social Democracy?

A bit of Swedish government in general and Social Democracy in particular

(Social Democracy in particular as that’s the most foreign and least understood form in the US. “Everyone” knows – or atleast have some general ideas – what the Right and Left is but there’s much more unclarity around social democracy. Note: This is simply for educational purposes, where J&P stands is clearly recognized when discussing politics with them.)

“Social democratic parties are among the largest parties in most countries in Europe. These parties are seen as centre left in orientation.” nationmaster

Government In General – U.S. Department of State
WikiPedia on Social Democracy
nationmaster.com on Social Democracy


Government In General

First, extract from the U.S. Department of State (www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2880.htm) on Sweden (Oct 2004):

Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Constitution: A new constitution was adopted in 1975, replacing the Acts of 1809, 1866, and 1949. Branches: Executive–Cabinet, responsible to parliament. Legislative–unicameral Parliament (Riksdag). Judicial–Supreme Court (6 superior courts; 108 lower courts).
Subdivisions: 21 counties, 289 municipalities (townships).
Political parties represented in Parliament: Moderate, Liberal, Center, Christian Democratic, Social Democratic, Left, and Green.
Suffrage: Universal over 18. After 3 years of legal residence, immigrants may vote in county and municipal elections, (but not in national elections).

The Social Democratic Party has a base of blue-collar workers, intellectuals, and public sector employees. It derives much of its power from strong links with the National Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), which represents around 90% of Sweden’s blue-collar workers. The party program combines a commitment to social welfare programs and government direction of the economy.

The Moderate Party emphasizes personal freedom, free enterprise, and reduction of the public-sector growth rate, while still supporting most of the social benefits introduced since the 1930s. The party also supports a strong defense and Sweden’s membership in the European Union (EU). Its voter base is urban business people and professionals, but the party also attracts young voters, main-street shop owners, and, to a modest extent, blue-collar workers.

The Left Party, formerly the Communist Party, is today a party which expresses some of the traditional values of the social democrats but which also is focused on the environment and opposes Swedish membership in the EU. Their voter base consists mainly of public sector employees, journalists, and former social democrats.

The Christian Democrats have their voter base among those who belong to free churches–Methodists, Baptists, etc. They seek better ethical practices in government and the teaching of traditional values in the schools. They also want to improve care for the elderly and have an extensive family policy program. They strongly support Swedish membership in the EU and the EMU.

The Center Party maintains close ties to rural Sweden. The main concerns of the Center Party are the elimination of nuclear power and increased centralization of governmental authority.

The Liberal Party‘s platform is “social responsibility without socialism,” which includes a commitment to a free-market economy combined with comprehensive Swedish social welfare programs. Foreign aid and women’s equality also are popular issues. The Liberal Party base is mainly centered in educated middle-class voters.

The Green Party is an environmentalist party that attracts young people. The party takes a strong stand against EU membership and wants a new referendum on the issue. The Greens support a phasing-out of nuclear energy in Sweden and hope to replace it with alternative, environmentally friendly energy sources.


WikiPedia on Social Democracy

Social Democracy is a political ideology emerging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from supporters of Marxism who believed that the transition to a socialist society could be achieved through democratic evolutionary rather than revolutionary means. During the early and mid-20th century, social democrats were in favor of stronger labor laws, nationalization of major industries, and a strong welfare state. Over the course of the 20th century, most social democrats gradually distanced themselves from Marxism and class struggle. As of 2004, social democrats generally do not see a conflict between a capitalist market economy and their definition of a socialist society, and support reforming capitalism in an attempt to make it more equitable through the creation and maintenance of a welfare state. Most social democratic parties are members of the Socialist International which is a successor to the Second International.

(Oct 2004, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy)


nationmaster.com on Social Democracy

Another Encyclopeia out there is nationmaster.com, below are a few extracts from http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Social-democracy. The page is recommended for the interested, as well as the whole site – contains quite comprehensive information on history, evolvement from Marx to today.

“Social democratic parties are among the largest parties in most countries in Europe. These parties are seen as centre left in orientation.”

“Most modern social democratic parties have adopted the Third Way either formally or in practice. Modern social democrats are in favor of a capitalist market economy, but with a strong and large government. Many social democratic parties have shifted emphasis from the traditional goal of creating a socialist economy to human rights and environmental issues. In this, they are facing increasing challenge from Greens who view ecology as fundamental to peace, and require reform of money supply and safe trade measures to ensure ecological integrity. In Germany in particular, Greens, Social Democrats, and more extreme socialist parties, have cooperated in so-called Red-Green Alliances.”

In general, contemporary Social Democrats support:

  • Private enterprise, but strongly regulated to protect the interests of workers, consumers and small enterprise (in stark contrast to libertarian and some green approaches, e.g. Natural Capitalism in which there is a separatation of economy and state, eliminating the coercion involved in any other system).
  • An extensive system of social security network, although not to the extent of democratic socialists (see welfare state), notably to counteract effects of poverty and to insure the citizens against loss of income following illness and unemployment.
  • Ensuring good education, health care, child care, et cetera for all citizens through government fundings.
  • Higher taxes (necessary to pay for the former), especially for higher income groups.
  • Extensive social laws (minimum wages, working circumstances, protection against firing).
  • Environmental protection laws (like environmental laws specifically opposing monoculture) (although not to the extent of Greens).
  • Anti-xenophobic and non-fundamentalist legislations (pro-choice, anti-racist, anti-homophobic) (although not to the extent of anarchists).
  • A foreign policy supporting multilateralism and international institutions such as the United Nations.

(Oct 2004, http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Social-democracy

More on Sweden and the Nordic Countries.