FROM: Glenn Small
RE: Just What is the Third Way?
Mark Blyth, an assistant professor of political science in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University, recently talked about a catch phrase that's swept through Europe and is being more frequently used in the United States: the Third Way. An abbreviated transcript is below. Blyth, a native of Scotland, specializes in comparative politics and comparative economic politics. He has studied economic trends in the United States and Western Europe and is a very lively interview subject who would make an excellent guest on quite a variety of current events subjects. He can be reached at (410) 516-7528 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: For those who have not heard of the Third Way, could you tell us where it came from and what its proponents claim it to be?
Blyth: The short version goes like this: Anthony Giddens, a famous British sociologist who happens to be one of the chief policy advisers to [Prime Minister] Tony Blair, wrote a book called Beyond Left and Right, which is one of the first programmatic statements of the Third Way. The basic idea behind it is that, essentially, states and markets are not inextricably opposed. You need the two of them in order to have a properly functioning economy. But the role of the state must be suitably circumscribed, while the role of the market has had, in terms of traditional social democratic thought, been underplayed. It's been seen as too unstable, too inequitable, etc. But this, it is argued, has had deleterious effects on everything from capital formation to investment incentives to risk-taking to entrepreneurship. Thus what Third Way protagonists think they are doing is taking the best of the state and the best of the market and combining them.
Question: Is this anything new?
Blyth: If you go back to 1949, you find that Arthur Schlesinger wrote a book called The Vital Center for a Democratic think tank called Americans for Democratic Action. The Vital Center is essentially a Third Way document because what it was arguing was that those who wanted to push the Democratic Party to the left, along with Wallace in 1944, were on one side too extreme, but the Republicans who wanted to dismantle the New Deal were, on the other hand, too extreme. So the way forward was this "vital center." In one sense, this is very new, and in another sense, it's not new at all. Now as to what it is, as to whether it actually presents itself as what it is, is a completely different question.
Question: Until recently, it seemed as if Third Way politics were sweeping Europe, with leaders in Britain, Germany, France and other countries embracing it. Do you see Third Way politics dominating for a long time?
Blyth: So long as international financial markets continue on the up and up in the massive bubble that they're in at the moment, absolutely. If nothing goes wrong, then it's safe to do the things the Third Way advocates want to do. If you're going to make the assumption there are no cyclical downturns in the economy, that it'll constantly go up and up, why in the heck do you need welfare?
To read the rest of Blyth s Q&A on the Third Way, please go to http://www.jhu.edu/~gazette/1999/aug1699/16blyth.html.
Go to Headlines@HopkinsHome Page