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Paolo Donadio » 1.New Labour: from socialism to social-ism

Lesson plan


  1. New Labour: from socialism to social-ism
  2. From Labour to New Labour (1-3)
  3. The third way
  4. A. Giddens: The Reith Lectures on globalization (BBC 1999)


In this first lesson, we will mention some core concepts to understand the ideological transformation of British Labour Party in the last two decades and Labour landslide victory in 1997.
We will see that a new critical awareness of globalization phenomena (A. Giddens) is essential to comprehend the political innovation represented by the so called “third way” approach in the 90s.

New Labour: from socialism to social-ism

  • the Blairite revolution, converting socialism into ’social-ism’ and constructing a liberal communitarianism anchored in a broad intellectual inheritance of the centre-left, succeded where the putative revisionism of a generation earlier had failed. The means and ends of socialism had finally been disentangled, not through evasion or obfuscation, but through a direct and explicit process of theoretical reconstruction. On any test it was a decisive and defining moment for the British left, both politically and intellectually, with a significance for socialism that went wider still.

(T. Wright, Socialisms, Routledge, London, 1996, p. 135)

From Labour to New Labour (1)

  • Foundation of the Labour Party and trade unions
  • Politics after the 2nd Wwar: Attlee
  • A two-party system
  • Electoral practices: party manifestos
  • Elections: 1979: Conservatives’ landslide victory

From Labour to New Labour (2)

  1. The Thatcher era (1979-1990)
  2. John Major (1990-1997)
  3. Neil Kinnock (1984-1992) and the beginning of the policy review  (Martin J. Smith – Spear J., The Changing Labour Party, Taylor & Francis, 1992)
  4. John Smith (1992-1994)
  5. Tony Blair becomes party leader (1994)

From Labour to New Labour (3)

  1. The birth of New Labour (1995)
  2. The 1997 elections: the Business manifesto
  3. The 1997 elections: New Labour’s landslide – Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister
  4. Blair’s electoral successes in 2001 and 2005
  5. 2007: Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister

The third way

“The overal aim of third way politics should be to help citizens pilot through the major revolutions of our time: globalization, transformation in personal life and our relationship to nature. Third way politics should take a positive attitude towards globalization – but crucially only as a phenomenon ranging much more widely than the global marketplace [...]
Third way politics should not identify globalization with a blanket endorsement of free trade. Free trade can be an engine of economic development, but given the socially and culturally destructive power of markets, its consequences need always to be scrutinized”.
(A. Giddens, The Third Way. The Renewal of Social Democracy, 1999, p. 65)

Anthony Giddens: Reith Lecture n. 1 (1999): Globalization

Read, listen and watch Reith Lecture n. 1 by Anthony Giddens (per l’apertura di questo link è necessaria l’applicazione Real Audio) on globalization (BBC, 1999)

A friend of mine studies village life in central Africa.
A few years ago, she paid her first visit to a remote area where she was to carry out her fieldwork.
The evening she got there, she was invited to a local home for an evening’s entertainment. She expected to find out about the traditional pastimes of this isolated community.
Instead, the evening turned out to be a viewing of Basic Instinct on video. The film at that point hadn’t even reached the cinemas in London…

Prof. Anthony Giddens, former director of LSE.

Prof. Anthony Giddens, former director of LSE.

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