The radical centre: a politics without adversary (1998)
DOI link for The radical centre: a politics without adversary (1998)
The radical centre: a politics without adversary (1998) book
Tales of the end of the right/left distinction have been with us for some time. Since the late 1980s this was accelerated by the collapse of communism – we have witnessed a clear move towards the centre in most socialist parties. But with New Labour in power a new twist has been added to this tale. We are told that a third way is now available: the ‘radical centre’. After promoting the label of ‘centre-left’, Blair and his advisers now seem to prefer avoiding altogether any reference to the left. Since its victory, New Labour has begun to market itself as a radical movement, albeit of a new type. The novelty of this third way of ‘radical centrism’ supposedly consists in occupying a position which, by being located above left and right, manages to overcome the old antagonisms. Unlike the traditional centre, which lies in the middle of the spectrum between right and left, this is a centre that transcends the traditional left/right division by articulating themes and values from both sides in a new synthesis. This radical centre, presented as the new model for progressive politics and as
the most promising alternative to old-fashioned social democracy, draws on ideas developed by Anthony Giddens in his book Beyond Left and Right (1994). Socialism, argues Giddens, was based on a ‘cybernetic model’ of social life which worked reasonably well in a world of ‘simple modernisation’, but which cannot work any more in a globalised, post-traditional social order characterised by the expansion of social reﬂexivity. In this brave new world of ‘reﬂexive modernisation’ we need a new type of radical politics, a ‘generative’ politics that allows people to make things happen and provides a framework for the life-political decisions of the individuals. Democracy should become ‘dialogic’ and, far from being limited to the political sphere, it should reach the various areas of personal life, aiming at a ‘democracy of the emotions’. This new ‘life’ politics overcomes, in his view, the traditional left/ right divide since it draws from philosophical conservatism while preserving some of the core values usually associated with socialism.