chapter  Four
28 Pages

The logic of social democracy: Adam Przeworski’s historical theses

WithRobert Looker

Adam Przeworski’s Capitalism and Social Democracy was one of the very few studies seeking to engage with social democracy in a manner which combines historical, comparative and analytical modes of discourse. In essence, Przeworski’s work operates at three distinct but interconnected levels of analysis: historical; analytical and practical-political. Przeworski can hardly be thought to be unaware of such basic facts of socialist history, or that both the practices and the debates profoundly shaped contemporary social democratic perceptions of the ‘structures of choices’ they faced. ‘The decision to participate’ forms the linchpin of Przeworski’s historical analysis. Przeworski’s tacitly reformist frame of reference and his preoccupation with the rationality of the choices made by socialist leaderships combine to produce an account which in practice marginalises such considerations. The subsequent trajectories of the rival traditions reveal a complex dialectic of theory and practice in the face of the changing circumstances of the global capitalist order in the twentieth century.