Futures for Social Democracy: Economic Citizenship and the New Capitalism

By O'Grady, Frances | Renewal, June 2007 | Go to article overview

Futures for Social Democracy: Economic Citizenship and the New Capitalism


O'Grady, Frances, Renewal


If social democratic parties are to successfully address the big challenges at the turn of the 21st century--from growing global inequality to climate change--the workplace and collective organisation cannot be ignored. Work isn't just a destination to be reached from welfare, something to be juggled with family commitments or a necessary staging post on the way to the shopping centre. For most people work is important in its own right--as a source of purpose, companionship, individual expression and collective identity as well as, of course, income. While the government deserves credit for progress made towards full employment and recognition of the need to balance work with 'life', improving life while at work must become an aspiration worth striving for.

It may seem self-evident that progressive governments should prioritise making work a better place. But as globalisation makes government more complex and business more powerful, so strengthening a neo-liberal consensus that brooks little dissent, political appetite to shape the market or corporate behaviour in line with egalitarian values has receded. Yet work is important to people's lives and governments that have little to say about it risk fuelling the sense of disengagement too many voters already feel.

As the countdown to the next general election begins, there is an opportunity to assert, refresh and re-think how social democratic values should apply to the world of work, by putting the aspirations and anxieties of working people at its heart. That vision should include a new agenda for economic citizenship that would give people more say over work, create better jobs and stronger workplace communities--and make the economy more productive into the bargain.

Workers and unions in the new capitalism

Today's workforce looks very different to that of a generation ago--more young mothers working full-time, increasingly international, an ageing profile--which, in turn, gives rise to new needs and challenges. The so-called Ipod generation's tendency to have fewer babies, later, may be seen as a bid for greater personal freedom but also reflects the harsh reality of high cost housing, childcare and paying off student debt. The typical British employee is now as likely to be a Starbucks 'barista' as a car production worker but they share aspirations for better pay and opportunities, more job satisfaction and control over their working lives.

The modern trade union movement has changed too with, for the first time in its history, a membership of fifty-fifty, men and women. While membership stands at around 6.5 million, the launch of new organising campaigns and new bargaining agendas, including progression through learning and skills, shows promise. And trade unionism is still by far the biggest democratic movement in Britain, with the number of its elected workplace representatives alone outstripping the entire membership claimed by any political party.

At a time when the political class has struggled to find solutions to disengagement from democratic politics, the potential of trade union organisation is too often overlooked. Trade unions' significance in Britain's democratic life stretches beyond the Labour Party constitutional link or its track record in beating back the BNP in local communities, vital though that is. Crucially, unions are a force for a degree of democratisation within work-places, and acting as a vehicle for independent voice, representation and change with consent. Fundamentally trade unionism helps to humanise work, creating a fairer balance of power between the employer and individual employees. With the right policy framework, unions have the potential to develop a new economic citizenship that can empower working people and strengthen social democracy.

Through membership of global unions, the ETUC, the newly launched International Trade Union Confederation, and now the prospect of union mergers across borders, British trade unionists are well placed to develop direct links with workers around the world; and to match their organisation with that of multinational corporations, international financial institutions and governmental organisations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Futures for Social Democracy: Economic Citizenship and the New Capitalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.