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Rudd Labor: neo-liberalism + social democracy « Previous | |Next »
March 2, 2008

Michael Rustin has an article in New Formations archive on the future of social democracy in the UK which can be used to help us understand the dynamics Rudd Government in Australia and its policy agenda. Rustin opens by saying that In his article ‘New Labour’s double-shuffle’ (Soundings 24, Autumn 2003) that reworks Gramsci:

Stuart Hall characterised New Labour as a ‘hybrid regime’. The leading position in its repertoire is held by ‘its grim alignment with the broad global interests and values of corporate capital and power - the neo-liberal project’, while ‘another subaltern programme of a more social democratic kind’ runs alongside it. The subordinate programme is needed to maintain support for the dominant project among Labour’s supporters.

That 'hybridity' sounds just like Rudd Labor in Australia. My judgement, after Rudd Labor's 100 days in office, is that the neo-liberal project is the dominant one. What does this mean for the trajectory or ‘transformism’ of Rudd Labor? Hall is able help us out here. According to Hall:
‘New Labour’s long term strategy or "project" is … the "transformism" of social democracy into a particular version of free market liberalism.’ The public sector is ostensibly defended, even slightly expanded, but also incessantly ‘modernised’, that is, transformed into the nearest equivalents that can be found to corporate institutional practice. ‘Spin’ is the device functionally necessary to resolve the contradictions between a programme driven by one set of interests and values but needing to be mediated to popular constituencies which may have quite other concerns.

That sounds erringly familiar. What Hall suggests is that we have a type of compromise political solution, generated from above, in conditions where the fundamental forces in conflict so nearly balance one another that neither seems able to defeat the other, or rule and establish a durable hegemony.

Rustin spells out Blair Labour in terms that characterise Rudd Labor:

Most of its agendas remain favourable to the interests of business. It remains reluctant to attack (growing) inequalities through the tax system; it fights ‘regulation’ of the labour market at a European level; and it seeks to create further opportunities for the operation of private capital within the sectors of health, education, social care, transport and telecommunications - all of which have an increasingly important role in post-industrial economies. The ‘modernisation’ of the public services of education and health, with overriding value being given to ‘consumer choice’, aims to erode the boundaries between private and public provision. The ‘freeing’ of hospitals and schools to operate as independent corporations within quasi-markets prepares the ground for their fuller privatisation, when and if public opinion can be persuaded to accept this.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:29 PM |