The Real Third Way: Associative Democracy & the Challenge to Economic and Political Rationalism

This 2041 word article was originally published in Social Alternatives 25 February 2004 and was first presented as a guest lecture within the School of Politics at the University of Newcastle, October 20, 2003.

Many of a left or social democratic mind set are suspicious of the concept of the third way. The third way is seen as a continuation of the compromised free market policies of the Hawke-Keating years. The policies of Blair, and formerly Bill Clinton, are seen as public relations gloss over significant social and economic problems that require more fundamental actions.

While being equally critical of the public relations rhetoric of the third way, I see things a little differently. My concept of the third way goes back to the internal debates within Marxism beginning in the 1970s undertaken by the late Paul Hirst, (1946 –2003) and his UK colleagues. Initially radical Marxists, they developed a series of relentless critiques of Louis Althusser, who was at that time Western Marxism’s most celebrated champion. Hirst led us to a "political skepticism", a freer, less rationalistic and more challenging agenda for social democracy and a new mission for the left intelligentsia.

They created a new philosophy of political scepticism and I count myself as one of its latter day adherents. That is what I call the third way.