The social democratic dilemma
The social democratic dilemma lies in the fact that to gain (or regain) office, parties of the social democratic left are having to abandon many of their ideals, and adapt to a changed globalised, advanced market capitalist system. This in itself provides a further dilemma, how to achieve egalitarian policies in an environment which thrives on inequality. It is the contention of this thesis that the version of social democracy presented to the electorate in Western Europe today adheres to a neo-liberal agenda. In the past, social democracy in Western Europe has been viewed as a single entity, but this was inaccurate. A fuller understanding can be gained by distinguishing between a Northern European and Southern European model, each with its own characteristics. Yet, these are now converging upon a 'new' social democracy which abandons the central values of the past and embraces neo-liberalism. An examination of the theories suggested to explain the problems facing social democracy show that many of them revolve around difficulties with the economic agenda. A number of Western European parties are examined in light of this to illustrate the development of social democracy. A fuller analysis of the British New Labour Party is forwarded as it is the most advanced in the direction of 'new' social democracy. This helps to highlight a number of historic reversals for social democratic parties and to confirm that the parties are following an agenda which is incongruent with their theoretical values.