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If we are to enhance the quality of life, a bold new approach to politics is needed that takes into consideration the economic realities of the 1980s. Shirley Williams, a founder of the British Social Democratic Party, former Labourite and government minister, outlines her blueprint for action in this forthright and intelligent book.
Traditional institutions in both capitalist and communist systems are cracking under the stresses of advanced industrialism, Williams contends. The sturdy structures once responsible for economic abundance, emergent class interests, and political responses are now in disrepair. Even the impressive postwar economic and social achievements are jeopardized by scarce energy and the unmet educational needs of high technology. Policymakers and citizens in the West can no longer assume that full employment, or a wide range of social services, or good industrial relations are achievable unless there is a quantum leap in our political thinking.
What Williams wants and is working toward is a government that is limited, accountable, and able to be superseded when it forfeits popular support. The welfare state, furthermore, needs to be reformed to allow for more participation. She calls for the devolution of power and decentralization in government, big business, and unions. In three sweeping proposals, she suggests a ten year plan to bring the welfare state into the future, a Marshall Plan to assist the Third World, and greater disarmament after a period of successful detente.
Williams’s words ring with harsh truths and tangible needs. She challenges us with her own declaration of intent: “The old politics is dying. The battle to decide what the new politics will be like is just beginning. It is possible, just possible, that it will be a politics for people.”