Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I only read a small part of the comments so far, so sorry if I touch covered ground, but wanted to put down some thoughts. I won't deal much with your perception of an under-coverage of social themes - others did so, and Migeru mentioned past issues with broad discussion like the French 'riots' -, more the underlying issues. First, a more general argument.

I think one reason you could observe discussion focused on the middle-class is that many readers spent time on US blogs (or in the US itself) and are influenced by the discourse there - and the US left-of-centre party, the Democrats, (1)aren't Socialists, (2) focus on the middle class ever since FDR.

However, even in Europe, the direction of socialism for step-by-step reforms through the parliamentary route, e.g. Social Democrats, historically favoured policies building up a wide middle-class. Myself, I think the self-defeating nature of this project could have been seen on the onset: the have-some will have a tendency to defend what they have, and hope they will rise further, thus a significant part will end up supporting the have-mores against the have-nones. Worse, when the party leaders themselves rise up the social ladder, there will be a tendency to view issues and weigh their importance from their current (or hoped-for even higher) position. (And to those who'd protest: a tendency of course doesn't mean that everyone is incapable of social solidarity, only that that realising [apparent] class interests is the easy route.) Thus to a large extent I view the current doldrums of the European centre-left and the plague of Third Wayism as a logical consequence of core Social Democrat strategy from at least 60, but perhaps 120 years ago.

Yet, discussing the present-day middle-class is worthwile even from a Socialist perspective. I will state an idea others indicated in a stronger way: with the collapse of the Eastern Block, the wide middle-class has "done its duty" for the upper-class, maintaining it is no longer felt as necessary: thus the wealth capture from above, thus the stagnating or reduced middle-class incomes, thus the erosion of the middle class and the growth of the new underclass: the service class.

Now on to more specific points.

I disagree with you that today, market-liberalism in Europe is that far from the US. On one hand, the US is not entirely what Wall Street propagandists make it: say, lots of tax comparisons ignore that US citizens don't only pay federal, but state and local taxes too, or the fact that while Enron and the California Crisis make big news, a lot of utilities are held or controlled by local authorities. On the other hand, some marketisation ideas and practice go further here than in the US, I am thinking above all about electricity and transport. While some new EU members have gone way past the Anglo-Saxons in implementing flat tax. In labour, I note the situation in the construction and agrarian sectors - I'd say we are much worse than the US in the first (the US has some strong unions in that field), and similarly bad on the second.

I disagree with you (and your sources) on the assessment of recent social changes in Germany - as can be guessed from the title of a recent diary of mine: Trickle-Up Recovery - in Germany. Data shown therein indicate a growing underclass, a squeezed middle-class, and upward/downward mobility different from what Thomas Fricke says. I also note that some of the squeeze doesn't show up in income figures, i.e. the slashing of non-monetized benefits/provisions and the VAT raise.

Just today, there is an advance report out (won't link to the original source, but here is another) saying that the poor (as defined by income under the 60% of the median) grew to 13% in Germany, with another 13% held above with social benefits.

It is silly for parts of the German Left (in my impression more typically both wings of the centre-left) to point at Sweden uncritically as superior social model. Sweden as Social Democrat ole model is a has-been. Sweden had its own 'reforms' in the nineties. (And I note that is precisely the reason some Schröderite Social Democrats point to Sweden.)

I saw the ill-communicated exchange with Migeru, so I'll have to make clear this is not meant as an accusation or assumption of hidden agenda, but I do think that say your analysis of Greens is informed by the currently in-production ideological foundation for current CDU/CSU strategic positioning.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:58:07 AM EST

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