University of Sussex
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The politics of Anthony Giddens’s social theory: utopian realism and late modern social democracy beyond the Third Way

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:11 authored by Peter Kolarz
This thesis takes a new approach to understanding the works of Anthony Giddens, specifically his theory of structuration, his analysis of late modernity and his political project, the Third Way. It will show that the creation of a reflexive, empowered, late-modern self is not, as a face value reading of his work would suggest, a social reality he describes, but rather a normative goal, with significant political implications. This thesis will trace this goal, as well as its theoretical background to the theory of structuration and to his analysis of late modernity, and will show that his social theory depends strongly on the creation of a political project aimed at realising the creation of this late-modern self. It will also show what the basic characteristics of such a project need to be, in order for his work to be consistent and empirically sound. This thesis will then critique his Third Way, based on those characteristics, and having shown that these are not fulfilled by the Third Way, will then show that this disjuncture is best explained by the non-adversarial character of the Third Way, and provide an outline of an alternative political project based on Giddens’s work. This thesis offers a contribution to the critical literature on Anthony Giddens, and also to the literature now emerging, which tries to understand the failures and demise of the Third Way as practiced by governments in the UK and elsewhere, as well as to the debates about what shape centre-left politics in the late modern age might take. This thesis points out some key weaknesses of Giddens’s work, most notably a significant disjuncture between his Third Way and previous work, whilst at the same time showing how his previous work can be used successfully to construct centre-left political platforms quite distinct from his Third Way, and rooted in an empirically justified and consistent sociological analysis.


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