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Social Democracy and the Creation of Modern Europe

During the 19th and first half of the 20th century Europe was the most turbulent region on earth, convulsed by war, economic crises and social and political conflict. Yet during the second half of the 20th century it was among the most stable, a study in democracy, social harmony and prosperity. How can we understand this remarkable transformation? The answer lies in the changes that occurred after 1945, among the most important of which was a dramatic shift in the understanding of what it would take to ensure democratic consolidation in Europe. Across the political spectrum a new understanding of democracy developed in Western Europe one that went beyond what think of today as “electoral” or even “liberal” democracy to what is best understood as “social democracy” — a regime type which entails not merely dramatic changes in political arrangements, but in social and economic ones as well. This talk will explain the background and logic of this "regime type" as well as consider its continuing relevance today.

Sheri Berman is Professor and Chair of the political science department of Barnard College. She is the author, most recently, of The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Interwar Europe (2006) and has written widely on European politics, political development and the history of the left for both academic and non-academic publicatons. She is currently working on a project entitled "Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe" which investigates the development of different types of political regimes in Europe from the French revolution to the collapse of come Euro crisis and the future of social democracy in Europe.

Sheri Berman’s Athenaeum lecture is sponsored by the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies.