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POLI 212- FEBRUARY 1.docx

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Political Science
POLI 212
Hudson Meadwell

FEBRUARY 1, 2012  Transformation of radical socialism to radical democracy→ a long run process of change that begins mid-19 century and continues well into the 20 . th  Transition to social democracy= the working class became politically included, when social democracy emerges there is a much tamer form of working class politics, acceptance of the economic institutions of capitalism. Social democrats recognize the principle of profit and loss and accept the prerogatives of organized business in the economy. Their attitude towards capitalism is an expression of working class politics. Social democracy implies a certain way of managing the economy→ a very distinctive type of welfare regime/welfare state. They use the welfare state to provide a social wage for workers, which is a substitute or complement for a wage earned in the economy. It is political streamed via the institutions of the state.  The key to explaining the transformation lies in the extension of the suffrage (occurred progressively over the 19 and early 20 century). Extending the right to vote politically empowers the working class→ the criteria changes from ownership of property to the larger category of wage earner, and the right to vote becomes associated with citizenship eventually. It is initially gendered, and women don’t get suffrage until much later. Extending suffrage to male wage earners empowers an important element of the working class, and at that point socialists had to think about ways to pursue the socialist project.  To pursue the socialist project there are two options: First, via Revolution, which implies violence. With the extension of the suffrage a second path is opened up→ an electoral path to socialism, to peacefully transition connected to the appropriation and use of political institutions of power.  That moment in socialism produces a debate within socialist movements about how to proceed. Purists (suspicious of political route, they fear using electoral institutions will corrupt their commitments→ electoral democracy will corrupt socialist virtues and the social project will be coopted and derailed) vs. Pragmatists (who are willing to take the risks of an electoral transition if it keeps the transition peaceful→ willing to make compromises).  Why would pragmatists think electoral democracy is something the working class could use to their advantage? Electoral rules imply a constituency large enough to form a government. The working class on its own (the natural constituency of socialism) would need to be large enough to form the government. Did they have the numbers to win the election?  They must have thought that at some point the working class would be large enough to elect a socialist party into power. Socialists that chose the democratic route thought the working class would grow over time because they thought capitalism would develop and produce a working class electorate that would grow in both absolute and relative size→ a model of the capitalist economy where they expect it to go through crises and each one would grow the proletariat.  The proletariat never grew in relative size. At some point, electoral socialists faced an electoral dilemma. This is when radical socialism begins to mutate into social democracy.  The socialist party with the natural constituency in the working class faced a choice. Either it looks for support outside of its core constituency with the expectation that this could produce enough support to form a government; or they reconcile the party to a life of permanent political opposition if the working class will never be large enough.  The pragmatists were willing to mobilize support from outside the core constituency, even if it meant some loss of support in the working class. For every vote you gain in the non-core constituency, do you lose support
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