Books of the year 2011: Vernon Bogdanor

The Age of Social Democracy - Francis Sejersted


How were the Norwegian and Swedish social democrats able to achieve such extraordinary success in the 20th century? That is the question Francis Sejersted seeks to answer in The Age of Social Democracy (Princeton University Press, £27.95). His answer is that they believed, not
in permanent revolution, but in permanent revision. For them, social democracy was a doctrine based on experience, not a science founded on eternal truths or laws of history. Social democrats, therefore, must always have the courage to think again in the light of adverse changes. It was because they understood this so well that the Norwegians and Swedes were able to show how, "under happy circumstances, societies can be the master of history". I hope that every member of the shadow cabinet reads this book.

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