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The economic crisis should be the moment of the social democratic left, but it is struggling to take the initiative. This historical moment belongs to the left, but the left did not play any role in the ideological defeat of its nemesis. Liberal market capitalism was the architect of its own downfall. There are no collective agents of change ready with a political alternative. The left lacks a story that defines what it stands for. Liberal market capitalism might have lost its credibility, but it remains the only story of economic life on offer. In this conjuncture the centre left must begin again. Firstly, it must restore historical, conceptual and moral depth to its politics. We need to reclaim the philosophical foundations of ethical socialism, for it is the lodestar that will guide us into the future. The question of which principles we hold passionately are not the same as the strategic questions of how we build popular support and win elections. We need a political pragmatism, not of the 'what works' variety, but one based around the question of what justice fundamentally requires. The progressive future belongs to a politics that can achieve a balance between individual self-fulfilment and social solidarity; personal ambition and the common good. By returning to our traditions of ethical socialism we can rediscover a politics rich in emotion and symbolism, capable of restoring ethical meaning and the idea of the common good.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 25, 2010

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