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New Left Review I/227, January-February 1998

Göran Therborn

The Limits of Social Democratic Admirableness

Donald Sassoon’s One Hundred Years of Socialism is in physical form as well as in intellectual content very suitable to its actual object of study, Western European social democracy and labourism after World War ii. It is big (943 pages plus index), heavy, attractive—from the cover to style and argumentation—in many ways admirable, erudite and suffused with humane decency, leaving an impressive roster of empirical achievements, all this, however, alongside a persistent weakness of (analytical and explanatory) theory. It promises much more than is actually delivered—the book is in fact mainly about the last fifty years of Western European social democracy—it is Eurocentric, little reflexive of its own limita-tions, and even less of its own mission or meaning, and ends in uncer-tainty and modesty—but with the calm pride of being the only project of this sort and size around. [1] Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, I.B. Tauris, London 1996, £35 hb, £14.99 pb.

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