Since Malmö, Tony Blair has castigated all those who do not share his proselytising zeal for the ‘third way’. Underpinning his view is a thinly veiled assumption that ‘there is no alternative.’ Another reading, advanced by Sassoon, is that—under the influence of globalisation—the whole of the European left is converging on overwhelmingly similar positions, and all else is rhetorical embellishment and detail.1 Neither narrative is accepted here. Substantive differences are detectable between the ‘projects’ of Blair and Lionel Jospin, which go beyond the merely stylistic or rhetorical, suggesting qualitatively different ‘models’ of social democracy. This article examines the Jospin government’s first three years against the backdrop of the debate between the British and French premiers over the future direction of the left. The analysis focuses on those areas where commentators have located the fault-lines within European social democracy—macroeconomic policy, the role of the state, labour market and welfare reform, and employment policy
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