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date: 10 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Social democracy has often been seen as a pragmatic compromise between capitalism and socialism. This chapter shows that social democracy is in fact a distinctive body of political thought: an ideology which prescribes the use of democratic collective action to extend the principles of freedom and equality valued by democrats in the political sphere to the organization of the economy and society, chiefly by opposing the inequality and oppression created by laissez-faire capitalism. The chapter makes this case by examining three distinct eras in the development of social democratic ideas: the emergence of social democracy in the decades before the Second World War; the so-called ‘golden age’ of social democracy between 1945 and 1970; and the period of social democratic retreat from 1970 until the present.

Keywords: social democracy, capitalism, freedom, equality, socialism, democracy, collective action

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