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145 Working Paper

Socializing Capital, Capitalizing the Social: Contemporary Social Democracy and the Knowledge Economy

2007 – Jenny Andersson


This paper analyzes the Third Way's relationship to the knowledge economy, and the way the Third Way's understanding of the knowledge economy leads to a reinterpretation of fundamental postulates of the Left in relation to capitalism. The paper argues that Third Way ideology is informed by a discursive logic of capitalization, a logic whereby social democracy identifies human potential – human knowledge, talent, creativity – as economic goods and ultimately new forms of capital. It insists that the Third Way is not neoliberal, as suggested by much research on the Third Way. The paper concludes that while the Third Way draws on fundamental continuities in the social democratic project, it nevertheless breaks with many of social democracy's historic articulations in critique of capitalism, since these are transformed instead into arguments in favor of capitalism and are thus drawn into the process of capitalist improvement. The paper looks into this tension by analyzing particularly the notions of conflict, the Third Way's notion of public good, and its articulation of culture.