critical analysis of The Third Way







The governance of any country has always been touted as having an incredible impact on the wellbeing of that country, as well as its populace. Throughout the human society, governance has mainly been founded on two ideologies namely socialism and capitalism. Different countries have taken up different ideologies in line with their interests (or the interests of the elites), all in an effort to enhance their wealth and wellbeing, both in the long-term and the short-term. On the same note, different ideologies have been found as effective in different times for different countries. In the case of Europe, a large part of its history has been leaning on leftist or socialist policies. In fact, the political geography of Europe at the end of the 20th century was predominantly governed by left-of-center governments, which took up 11 of the 15 European Union states. However, this number has been changing fast towards the right with only 8 of the states being under left-of-center government in 2002, a number that could continue reducing or changing. Not only has the moderate right returned to power, but the far right has also being incorporated in power. Questions, however, emerge on whether these changes are symbolizing an ideological transition where free markets have become more popular and applicable in the modern society. Scholars state that just as the grasp of power in the mid-90s did not mean that the European Union was leaning to the left, the electorate today may not be leaning to the right. The only reasons why the right may be performing well is because they have a more refined political outlook that is more appealing to a larger part of the population and even gotten rid of varied ideologies that made them less appealing to the electorate. In addition, the center-left was dogged by policy failure. However, as Giddens noted in an article in The Guardian, voters in these times are largely non-ideological taking neither the right nor the left. The varied weaknesses of the right and the left politics have given rise to a new political stand christened “The third way”. As a chief proponent of the third way, Giddens notes that the third way is based on two key elements. These are the reformation of welfare systems and labor markets so as to emphasize on creating jobs or enhancing employment, as well as the necessity of addressing varied issues that were traditionally under the domain of the right. The Third Way is essentially Giddens’ political philosophy that has the sole aim of redefining social democracy for globalization or post- Cold War era. Giddens’ main argument, in this case, is that the political concepts pertaining to the right and the left are crumbling down mainly because they do not present a clear alternative to capitalism. These are the ideas that informed Giddens’ book, “The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy”. In this book, Giddens comes up with a framework that underlines justification for the “third way”, as well as a broad set of policy proposals that mainly aim at taking British politics towards the progressive center-left.

On the overall, The Third Way is mainly composed of a description of the current situation in which the European Union is after the crumbling of socialism. The book circles around five dilemmas that the European Union faces. First, he notes that globalization has given an entirely new meaning to sovereignty, government and nationhood. In addition, he notes that there is an entirely new individualism that, though not necessarily selfish, underlines the notion that the social solidarity may never again be imposed from the top to the bottom. As much as there is an element of dynamicity in the distinctions between the right and the left, the left is seen as more sympathetic to equality and social justice. Third, Giddens underlines the fact that some jobs can only be undertaken by governments, irrespective of the fact that the effectiveness of pressure groups is increasing relative to the influence of politicians (Giddens 6b). He notes, however, that there exists some problems such as the European Union’s future, global warming and devolution, pertaining to which it is imperative that people think in the line of left vs. right. Lastly, he notes that as much as there may be exaggeration of environmental dangers, experts often differ in which case it would be dangerous to be optimistic about them.

The book seems to be specifically addressed to the left, to whom it throws two key challenges. First, it challenges the left to be more attentive to issues that fall outside the left-right range or spectrum. While he agrees with Norberto Bobbio’s thesis to the effect that the distinction between the left and right is crucial and that inequality remaining at its core. He, however, believes that a large number of ideas that fall within the spectrum of left-right politics have been entirely neglected (David 13). These include global warming and devolution, as well as the question on whether work should remain a key life value. Secondly, Giddens challenges social democrats to reevaluate the role that welfare plays in the society. He opines that welfare is undemocratic and does not offer enough space to personal liberty, not to mention the fact that it may be inefficient, bureaucratic and alienating (Giddens 13a). However, he does not agree with those in the right as to having these reasons as sufficient to eliminate the welfare state rather it should be a clarion call for reforming the welfare state (Giddens 13a). Giddens feels that nongovernmental organizations should be used to channel money in instances where it would be efficient to do that and use such finances in a manner that results in recapturing of public space, strengthens civil liberalism and establishes a more open, democratic and cosmopolitan or broad-based society.

The ideas outlined in this book may be further understood by examining Giddens musings in 1999. Giddens quotes recent sociological research done in the United States, Germany and Britain, noting that it challenges social democratic and traditional socialist policy. This research raised questions pertaining to the response of traditional left-of-center to poverty, as well as the related social problems (The higher education, 3). He notes that the research places emphasis on the necessity of the third way, as well as its importance. Giddens notes that while the left may have seen the poor as victims, most people react actively to their lives. He underlined the importance of a well-funded welfare, as well as a welfare system that catered for people’s needs rather than creating dependencies. Given that socialism as a doctrine may be dead, Giddens advocates for the establishment of a capitalist society that is more humane and incorporates the values that were predominantly seen as for the left including protecting the weak, solidarity and equality (The Higher Education 11).

The key aim of the book was finding a way that goes beyond market fundamentalism, as well as the traditional social democracy and apply the framework to a broad range of political problems right from those of a global scale to those that people have in their everyday life. He acknowledges that capitalism, when left on its own, is economically inefficient, incapable of reproducing itself in the long-term, as well as socially divisive (Giddens 3a). It is imperative that social democrats are preoccupied with establishing public goods, public institutions and public realm after the long instance in which the market based policies were the in-thing. He notes that the public sphere is note tantamount to the state. It is imperative that the reformation of the state is emphasized on especially in instances where it does not respond to the concerns of the citizens, where it has evolved into overly bureaucratic or been captured by the interests of the producers. Social democrats must recognize and deploy the distinctive qualities of the markets, especially it fluidity and ability to respond to numerous pricing signals, as well as stimulate growth (Giddens 14b). However, it is imperative that the markets are regulated so as to shape them and channel their efforts to public purpose. This is especially with regards to regulating the world financial markets which make up the single most pressing problem in the world economy.

As much as the book comes as incredibly comprehensive, it goes without saying that it suffers the risk of simplicity. Mr. Giddens has admitted that he is merely offering an outline. However, scholars note that this comes as a deceptive category of modesty especially considering that the claims that he puts forward are essentially an integrated political program that encompasses every key sector of the society (David 34). However, scholars note that Giddens should have brought about at least a new proposal that has the capacity to ruffle some feathers or that is a bit radical. The problems that the European Union is facing cannot be eliminated through the same strategies that have been proposed in the past. Some element of radicalism is imperative, but is lacking in the integrated political program that Giddens advances. The program is ultimately a list of traditional appeals to what scholars call civic virtue, where every bet has been avoided and all hard choices evaded. The ideas that are presented here are simply similar to what can, without any risk whatsoever, be incorporated in any social democratic party’s manifesto in an effort to mend up its tattered image. This is seen as the case for Giddens who was a chief economist for Tony Blair.

On the same note, there is confusion as to why he should be addressing the book to social democrats and make a raft of proposals on what they should do to reform their policies, yet call upon capitalism to make changes, as well so as to be more responsive to the concerns of the public or the electorate. In essence, it is unclear where the author aims at effecting the changes or even what he sees as the best alternative of governance for the European Union in the short-term and the long-term (David 45). This, however, does not negate the fact that the book would make an awesome read for individuals who aim at understanding where the different forms of governance go wrong, as well as what strategies would come in handy in solving the problems.

Works cited

Giddens, Anthony. The Third Way. Cambridge: Polity, 1998. Print.

Giddens, Anthony. The third way can beat the far right: By modernising, liberalising and being tough on immigration. The Guardian, 2002 Retrieved 2nd March 2013 from HYPERLINK “”

Giddens, Anthony. The Third Way Revisited. Social Europe Journal, 2010 Retrieved 2nd April from HYPERLINK “”

The Higher Education. Giddens defends third-way politics. The Higher Education, 1999. Retrieved 2nd April from from HYPERLINK “”

David, Halpin. Hope and Education: The Role of the Utopian Imagination, London: Routledge, 2003. Print