The centre left is at a crossroads. Social democracy as a model for social and economic organisation was one of the most remarkable achievements of the 20th Century. Yet today, it comes short of offering attractive and credible new ideas that address the challenges of contemporary societies.
Even while growth and unemployment figures may seem relatively stable after the immediate post-crisis years, most European economies are still facing numerous structural issues: productivity is sluggish; millions of people struggle to get by; inequality remains a monumental challenge; the mismatch between social contribution and economic reward pervades; the current low-quality, standardised way of providing public services has failed, and social cohesion is unravelling. Traditional social democrats still insist on offering top-down economic solutions on behalf of the people, a model of doing politics that reflects a society of the pre-internet era.
Navigating this juncture will be crucial to the centre left’s future as the traditional ties that bound its support unravel. By championing flexible service provision models and a more deliberative form of democracy, progressives can make citizens feel they have a tangible stake in their future.
New Routes to Social Justice is the output of the fourth annual Policy Network and Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) Oxford conference that took place at St. Catharine’s College, University of Oxford in July 2016. The conference explored a progressive reform programme for the institutional structure of society, the changing role of the state in the pursuit of social justice, and the evolving relationship between citizens and the state.
This volume does not claim to have all the answers, but it has gathered ideas which provide the groundwork for reframing the debate. It offers new routes towards a state which is fit for the century it serves and a framework for an engaged and educated citizenry.