Berman’s The Primacy of Politics, a Crooked Timber Online Seminar

For those of you who’ve missed it, Crooked Timber has an online seminar of Sheri Berman’s The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century. Henry Farrell, Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution, Mathew Yglesias, John Quiggin, SEIU’s Jim McNeill, and our own Mark Blyth offer insights and critques, Berman responds, and readers chime in. From Mark’s piece:

Social democracy may have been a good idea, but it was also a post-war phenomenon brought about by the devastation fascism brought upon itself. If World War Two hadn’t happened, if Strasser had bested Hitler, if the xenophobia had stayed in the bottle, would fascism have fallen? While counterfactuals are at best a parlor game, they are nonetheless helpful in clarifying possibilities. If the war had not happened, and if the alternative of the Soviet Union had not risen to post-war prominence, would the need to placate the working classes of Europe with welfarism and democracy been so pressing? Would the victory have come about at all, never mind later than advertised.

In short, if we read the history of social democracy as a highly contingent outcome, it raises an interesting angle on contemporary developments. If social democracy was a species of fascism (or vice versa), do we need a re-born fascism now to (re)energize the ‘dead-men walking’ parties of social democracy in the present?