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The Social Democratic Moment

The Social Democratic Moment

Ideas and Politics in the Making of Interwar Europe

Sheri Berman

ISBN 9780674442610

Publication date: 07/01/1998

In addition to revising our view of the interwar period and the building of European democracies, this book cuts against the grain of most current theorizing in political science by explicitly discussing when and how ideas influence political behavior. Even though German and Swedish Social Democrats belonged to the same transnational political movement and faced similar political and social conditions in their respective countries before and after World War I, they responded very differently to the challenges of democratization and the Great Depression--with crucial consequences for the fates of their countries and the world at large.

Explaining why these two social democratic parties acted so differently is the primary task of this book. Berman's answer is that they had very different ideas about politics and economics--what she calls their programmatic beliefs. The Swedish Social Democrats placed themselves at the forefront of the drive for democratization; a decade later they responded to the Depression with a bold new economic program and used it to build a long period of political hegemony. The German Social Democrats, on the other hand, had democracy thrust upon them and then dithered when faced with economic crisis; their haplessness cleared the way for a bolder and more skillful political actor--Adolf Hitler.

This provocative book will be of interest to anyone concerned with twentieth-century European history, the transition to democracy problem, or the role of ideas in politics.


  • [Berman's] work is convincing and well written, and her discussion of the role of ideas is spirited and welcome. Chapter 2 should be required reading for all political scientists who are unwilling to look beyond numbers to see the force of ideas.

    —Foreign Affairs


  • Sheri Berman is Assistant Professor of Politics at Princeton University.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 6-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches
  • Harvard University Press