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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How Many Third Ways? Comparing the British, French and German Left in Government


In the late 1990s, the European Left seemed to be once more in the ascendancy with Social Democratic-led governments in power in the majority of EU countries, including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. At the same time, the debate about the so-called ‘Third Way’ — as an icon of the apparent electoral revitalization of European Social Democracy — rose to become the most important reform discourse in the European party landscape.

In Germany, the much heralded ‘Neue Mitte’ reform agenda of Gerhard Schroeder’s incoming new cabinet of 1998 owed obvious intellectual debt to the Blairite doctrine of the Third Way. Against this background, some observers claim to have identified a convergent trend within European Social Democracy, while others stress the importance of national contexts and point to distinct national profiles ranging from market-oriented New Labour to (what used to be) statist ‘Jospinism’. In this context, this paper seeks to set the policy agenda of Germany’s Red-Green government into a comparative European perspective.

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