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20 Working Paper

"After the Golden Age: A Decline of Social Democratic Policies in Western Europe during the 1980s?"



This article, written in 1989, tests the (liberal, Marxist, rational choice) hypotheses on the decline of social democracy on the policy level. After a brief critique of the shortcomings of the "decline hypotheses," the policies of those social democratic and socialist parties are analyzed which have stayed in government during the "post-golden age" (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, France, Greece, Spain)-which is to say, after the second oil-price shock of 1980. The general answer to the predictions of a general decline is clear: there can be no general answer. The decline of social democratic policies is neither general nor irresistible. Besides the failure of implementing social democratic policies in southern Europe, there are cases of resilience and resurgence of social democracy in northern Europe as well, i.e., there are too many exceptions for any "general thesis" to sustain.