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Theoretical Approaches to Social Democracy

Hans Keman

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 1993, vol. 5, issue 3, 291-316

Abstract: Social democracy has been widely studied in political science. More often than not these studies are flawed or even biased. I contend that this results from the fact that the `object' of analysis has been conceptualized in terms of a `subjective' understanding of social democracy and its presupposed relationship with the development of the welfare state. Hence the theoretical standing of these studies must be questioned. In this article I shall investigate a number of contemporary approaches to assess their theoretical quality. To this end I divide these studies into `project' orientated (focusing on strategic questions concerning the transformation of capitalism) and `model' driven (investigating the relation between political action and societal change). Then I go on to discuss this division in terms of `revisionism' and `reformism'. It appears that much of the literature has little to offer in terms of new insights into social democracy as a political actor and has hardly contributed to the development of a `theory' of social democracy. By way of conclusion I offer some ideas on the development of such a theory.

Keywords: ideology and theory; social democracy; theory and empirical method; welfare state (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1993
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