Renewing social democracy under the neoliberal austerity: the challenge of post-GFC politics

Stream: Panel 85 - Political Theory: Democratic Reforms and Populism
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm


The consequences of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis have raised some serious questions about efficacy of democracy under neoliberalism. In Europe, the costs of rescuing finance capitalism through austerity and neoliberal restructuring have put a massive strain on society, and further undermined social democratic values and practices. Subsequently, many responses and interpretations to the crisis have often failed to consider the fundamental tension between democracy and capitalism, which can be characterised as an opposition between the collective interests of the demos versus the individualisation and commodification of social life. This paper seeks to engage with the spaces that social democracy must engage with in order to regain its programmatic relevance in the face of austerity and widespread disillusionment with democratic processes and institutions. Insufficiently grounded in labour and class, and also unable to incorporate the demands of diverse social movements protesting the various controversies of global capitalism, such as environmental degradation, financialisation, political corruption and the precarisation of social life, social democracy, in acquiescing to neoliberalism, has abandoned the core strategic objectives that differentiated it from liberal and conservative politics. Failing to curb the development of capitalism, social democracy instead embraced its logics and contradictions to the detriment of a coherent progressive politics. This paper, therefore, questions whether post-GFC mobilisations across Europe offer lessons on constructing new narratives of social democracy, which are able to provide progressive solutions on matters of economic and social justice.


John Bourdouvalis (Presenter), Deakin University
John Bourdouvalis is a PHD candidate with the School of Humanities and School Sciences at Deakin University. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in International Relations from Deakin University, and a Master of Political Economy from the University of Sydney. Prior to commencing his postgraduate research in 2014, he has held various tutoring positions at Deakin University teaching International Relations and Australian Foreign Relations. John’s research focuses on critiques of neoliberalism, post-Marxism, social democracy and political economy. He is particularly interested in the effects of neoliberal austerity on democracy in Southern Europe after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.