Anthony Giddens

Anthony Giddens (1938–) A British academic and social theorist, Giddens had a strong impact on the development of a new social-democratic agenda in the UK and elsewhere, and was sometimes referred to as ‘Tony Blair’s guru’. In works such as Beyond Left and Right (1994) and The Third Way (1998), he explained the plight of the traditional forms of both socialism and conservatism in terms of sociological developments associated with the emergence of so-called ‘high modernity’. Placing a particular emphasis on the impact of globalisation, Giddens argued that modern societies have become so complex and fluid that they have to be organised substantially through the market and networks, rather than by the state and social class. Giddens nevertheless insisted that such developments open up new opportunities for progressive politics. This occurs not least as the stretching of political horizons beyond the nation-state generates increased pressure for local autonomy and the building of regional cultural identities.

Hugely influential on Tony Blair, Giddens was one of the key theorists behind the third way, the ideas of which arguably helped New Labour to victory in 1997 . Giddens rejects Marxist analysis, arguing that there are no stages of history and that class conflict will not inevitably lead to revolution . Attacking the idea that politics comes from either the left (top-down socialism/statist programmes) or the right (free-market capitalism), he argues that there is no alternative to capitalism, particularly in the era of globalisation and the decline of national sovereignty . Giddens admired the work of Crosland, moving socialism towards a focus on fairness and protecting people from the harsh effects of capitalism rather than on equality of outcome and class conflict . Those inspired by Giddens’ work, such as Tony Blair, rejected state intervention and accepted free-market principles . This led them to reject equality of outcome and accept the liberal idea of meritocracy . Blair’s ‘education, education, education’ slogan epitomised the focus on education and training as the key to achieving social justice, rather than redistribution . 

Anthony Giddens is primarily recognized as a sociologist. However, his contributions to political theory played a significant role in shaping a new perspective within revisionist socialism known as the Third Way. In his book "Beyond Left and Right" (1994), Giddens established himself as a socialist sympathizer by emphasizing the negative impacts of capitalism and individualism on community and fraternity. He acknowledged the irreversible nature of capitalism and individualism, suggesting that any future pursuit of greater equality would need to consider this reality. Expanding on this theme in his subsequent work "The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy," published during the early years of Britain's New Labour government, Giddens argued for the importance of acknowledging the empowering potential of free-market capitalism for individuals within the framework of social democracy. He highlighted the necessity for strong social cohesion alongside capitalism, which he believed neo-liberalism tended to overlook. Giddens proposed a triangulation approach that would reconcile the economic aspects of neo-liberalism with the societal perspectives of social democracy to ensure the relevance of center-left politics in the modern era. Giddens underscored the significance of this triangulation in light of the rise of 'post-Fordist' capitalist societies. He pointed out that the transition from Fordist capitalism, characterized by mass production units and cohesive urban communities, to post-Fordist capitalism had led to the fragmentation and 'atomization' of the workforce, leaving individuals feeling disconnected and alienated. While acknowledging the liberating aspects of post-Fordist capitalism that allowed for individual self-actualization, Giddens also noted the challenges it posed due to the weakening sense of community and identity. He argued that in order for human nature to thrive in the contemporary landscape, the state would need to take on a more proactive role by investing in infrastructure and modernized education systems to prepare citizens for the evolving knowledge economy. Giddens emerged as a significant figure in revisionist socialism by advocating for increased state intervention in the face of globalized capitalism. He recognized the obsolescence of conventional Keynesian economics and the need for socialism to adapt to a more free-market form of capitalism. While acknowledging the potential for greater inequality of outcomes, he emphasized the importance of generating wealth to sustain modern public services. His ideas had a profound impact on the policies of New Labour governments in the UK and the German social democratic government under Gerhard Schröder.