Is There Still a Future in Store for Social Democracy?

When the President of the French Republic publicly acknowledges to being a social democrat, is he in agreement with a doctrine for the future, or is he joining an outdated movement?

For a long time, the social democracy has embodied a model of society that is impossible in France: a modest role of the State, excluding the collective appropriation of the means of production and with the involvement of the social partners in order to focus on the search for social justice, through massive public spending, financed by a competitive market economy. This model, first tried in the late 19th century Prussia, embodied the only socialism that Karl Marx thought possible, as no other one would be possible until capitalism was globalized.

In countries which today are social democratic, or have been for a long time, such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria or the Netherlands, this model helped, and still helps reduce unemployment and inequality, and to deepen democracy within the company, without the sustained strength of market economies being affected by the substantial public expenditures that make this model possible. For example, Denmark now led by social democrats and allies more to the left, has higher levels of government spending than France, which does not prevent it from having a lower unemployment rate, a very low public debt, and a balance of payments showing a large surplus.

In France, in a country where the State has owned for centuries a large part of industry, where the unions remained very weak, where the far left has not been discredited by terrorism, where the Communist Party remained dominant for a long time and where the market economy as long been presented as diabolic, there was no place for social democracy, at least in the vocabulary.

The globalization crisis, which exacerbates inequality, deepens unemployment, drives countries and social welfare institutions to ruin, is giving it a new impetus.

But the tools of social negotiations, massive transfers, stronger market economy alone will not be enough to respond to those challenges. In fact they have no credible impact on the environment, globalization, urbanization, transport, loneliness and stress. They do not provide, in particular, convincing answers to the questions raised by the development of teaching and therapeutic requirements, by the dynamics of national identity, and by restrictions on freedom in our increasingly digitized era. Lastly, these tools do not show how to save democracy when it is upset by globalization and when it is marginalized by individualist ideology.

The increase of unlimited government expenditure and social partners talks are therefore no longer the alpha and omega of public action. At least two new ideas will have to be introduced:

On the one hand, all citizens must be given, here and now, more « well-being ». This means that the supreme ambition of the political bodies will be to make sure that every minute of every citizen's life be as full as possible. For example this will lead them to attach great value to the improvements of public transport, so that it can become a place of comfort, where everybody could study or play. And also to assume that the ultimate goal of society is not to reduce hours of work, but to improve its content to ensure that everyone has the support needed for personal and professional development.

On the other hand, each generation must realize that it is in its interests to seek the happiness of the generations to come, because it is also in his interest. For example this will lead to aim at moving the State into a patient investor in sectors of the future, in particular in those of energy saving, of health and education; this will also lead to stability and loyalty from shareholders to other corporate stakeholders. This will finally give birth to a new geopolitical situation, prerequisite for the survival of democracy, which in the case of France, will lead her to consider as essential parts of « well-being » the creation of a federal Europe and a federal Francophonie, for this generation and for subsequent generations.