Queries N°8 – The next mission of cosmopolitan social democracy

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The metamorphosis of international relations brought about by the processes of globalisation on the one hand and the global financial crisis on the other, have thrown up a divisive set of questions within the left around progressive internationalism and outward facing political and economic integration. In this dialectic, the concept of cosmopolitanism has come under fire. It has been conflated with an elitist disconnect from mainstream society and the fracturing of the social contract between the winners and losers of globalisation. At the same time, the pervasive loss of confidence in the centre-left’s ability to deliver social progress in a time of economic upheaval has stimulated a revival of conservatism in political thought on the left. In this age of insecurity and uncertainty there seems to be little place for cultivating values such as international solidarity.

Many others, however, see this scepticism towards internationalism as symptomatic of a failure of ambition and an inward-looking perspective which is largely responsible for the troubles of the centre-left. They argue that now more than ever, the globalisation of capitalism requires a response of equivalent ambition and boldness from social democrats. Action at the state level is no longer sufficient, on its own, to achieve centre-left objectives: regulation of market capitalism, social justice, and the creation of public goods. These require social democrats to look beyond short-term national interests and work together for an international ‘greater good’, with the European project taking front and centre-stage.

This Queries volume, emerging from a FEPS Next Left – Policy Network & Wiardi Beckman Stichting Amsterdam Process high level seminar that was held in Brussels on 5th October 2011, surveys both perspectives, taking on board criticisms of “progressive cosmopolitanism, before outlining some signposts for The Next Mission of Cosmopolitan Social Democracy. The volume is premised on the assertion that the next mission would need to start with an explanation of what has happened, where global capitalism and global labour find themselves, before setting out credible, and incremental steps, for creating new space at the global level for progressive politics and new mechanisms for multi-level governance. The central dillemma is that there are very narrow limits to “Socialism in one country” in a world of growing inderdependence. Progressives need to make this case, balancing it with the volatility of public opinion, and combined with an offensive vision for a new internationalism.

The issue is composed of 4 Chapters, which encompass 13 articles by progressive scholars from both sides of the Atlantic. The introductory remarks by Alfred GUSENBAUER and Pascal LAMY additionally anchor them strongly in the contemporary political debate at the global level, before our respective authors look at how these theoretical deliberations play out in relation to specific issues such as: new social movements, climate change, migration and European integration.

Ania SKRZYPEK, FEPS Senior Research Fellow – Managing Editor of “Queries”
Michael McTERNAN, Policy Network Senior Editorial and Communications Manager

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