Workshop: (Yet another) Crisis of Social Democracy? Challenges and Opportunities for Social Democratic Parties in Post-Industrial Societies

November 29th and 30th 2018
Wirtschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Wallotstrasse 19, 14193 Berlin
Room tba

Organizers: Tarik Abou-Chadi, Silja Häusermann, and Nadja Mosimann

Participants: Björn Bremer (European University Institute), Brian Burgoon (University of Amsterdam), Rafaela Dancygier (Princeton University, via skype), Jane Gringrich (University of Oxford), Christoffer Green-Pedersen (Aarhus University), Eelco Harteveld (University of Amsterdam), Ellen Immergut (European University Institute), Heike Klüver (HU Berlin), Werner Krause (WZB), Sarah de Lange (University of Amsterdam, via skype), Tom O'Grady (University College London), Sergi Pardos-Prado (University of Oxford), Line Rennwald (University of Geneva), Hanna Schwander (Hertie School of Governance), Marcus Spittler (WZB), Markus Wagner (University of Vienna)


This workshop seeks to evaluate and discuss the challenges of social democratic and other mainstream left parties within the changing political structures of advanced capitalist societies. In recent years, many Social Democratic parties such as the Dutch PvdA or the French PS have suffered deep electoral decline. Coupled with the 2016 victory of Donald Trump in the US and a simultaneous surge in support for populist radical-right parties in Europe, this has revived a decades-old debate about the crisis of Social Democracy. The public (and some of the academic) narrative strongly focuses on the parties’ supposedly dwindling support among its traditional base and a “working class exodus” towards the national-conservative Right. This development is often diagnosed as a direct result of a centrist policy shift and the Left’s unwillingness to take and implement tougher stances on immigration. However, this narrative is at odds with scholarly work that has pointed to the increasing relevance of educated middle-class voters for the success of mainstream left parties in post-industrial societies (Kitschelt 1994), to limited overlaps between electorates of the Left and Right (Rydgren 2013), and to new programmatic dynamics that cannot be subsumed under a “centrist vs. radical” view (Gingrich and Häusermann 2015, Abou-Chadi and Immergut 2018).

In this workshop we thus want to actively tackle these issues and assess the state of what we know about the electoral basis and realignment of the mainstream Left, as well as its programmatic stances and policy-strategies. In contrast to a more standard academic workshop, we aim at a broad yet analytic discussion of the challenges and opportunities of Social Democratic parties within three areas:

  1. Programs: social democratic strategies and multi-party competition
  2. Policies: social democratic policies and their consequences
  3. Voters: electoral trends and realignments

Each of the areas will be introduced by several expert scholars in the field. Scholars are free to either provide a full paper or a shorter brief or think piece. As a group, we then want to discuss the state of the art, explore new areas for research but also try to figure out how our findings relate to the public discourse on Social Democracy.

We see this workshop as an opportunity to establish and possibly institutionalize the cooperation of several scholars in this field.


The workshop's program can be downloaded here (PDF, 115 KB)