EDGE: How did the concept become part of our way of thinking, and when?
GIDDENS: Well, I just built it into my way of thinking, because I came to think of it as intruding into so many aspects of our lives in contemporary times and by that I mean quite contemporary times. You can even date that a bit, because you can say that for hundreds of years human beings worried about the risks coming from the natural world; they worried about famines or floods or earthquakes or bad harvests. At some point, which is probably only in the last 50 or so years, we started, quite legitimately, worrying less about the risks that come from what nature can do to us, and worrying more about the risks of what we've done to nature. And I call that a transition between external risk and manufactured risk, or risk which stems from human creativity, scientific development and technology, and historical development. That's a big change That was a kind of point of analysis of what I would regard as a new situation.
EDGE: Regarding your ideas about the third way, how are governmental institutions affected say in England?
GIDDENS: You could say the two main political philosophies of the post-war period have now essentially elapsed. And you could say they were kind of half theories. For about 30 years after the Second World War the dominant view on the whole, which was institutionalized in many countries, was of a beneficent state guided by some kind of view of the idea of managing a capitalist economy more effectively than it could manage itself by market forces. And that essentially failed, at least it failed in its more extreme versions, the Soviet Union obviously being that version. Then you had a period of reverse dominance of the idea that we can leave all that to markets; if the state can't solve our problems, markets can. That's also failed, electorally, and it failed structurally because you can't just leave the world to be run by the vagaries of market-based decisions.
You must restrict the role of the market in human life, and you must try and create a form of political thinking which is no longer half-theory. The first kind of theory was good on social justice but not much good on economic competition and development, and the second one was pretty good on competition but hopeless on social justice. I use the term third way to try to get a political philosophy which is different from these two previous philosophies but to me still preserves the values essentially of left-of-center viewpoint. That is, you want a society which is inclusive, where you don't simply accept expanding inequalities, where you recognize that vulnerable people need to be protected, and where you recognize also that the government has an active role to play in all of those things. That's essentially the definition of what a revised left-of-center or third way political philosophy is all about, and that's become a global thing.
EDGE: Why the protests in Seattle and other places?
GIDDENS: Oh, the protests are about the half-theory that I mentioned. The dominant ideology of the last 20 years has been essentially free-market neo-liberal theory, which does not address problems of global inequality, inclusiveness, and ecological issues.
EDGE: Was the globalism that encompassed Seattle a phony globalism?
GIDDENS: It's a bit more complex than that. I'll tell you a funny story, which is this poster that someone was holding up in Seattle that said "Join the world-wide movement against globalization." That shows you that a big part of globalization is, to go back to the beginning, new technologies in communication and people "against" it are using the mechanisms of globalization just as the people who are "for" globalization are. You have to deconstruct all that while essentially looking for a form of political philosophy which both allows us to produce a society which is competitive in the new global market-place and the knowledge-based economy and at the same time addresses norms of solidarity and equality. That's not easy to do, but there's no way around attempting to do it. It involves the extension of forms of government above the levels of the nation, because globalization is a reality, and therefore you can't just approach it locally. I mean, you must approach it locally, but you can't only approach it locally.
EDGE: What do you do with a country like China? I talked with a guy from the Chinese Ministry of Culture last night. They own their Internet and they're controlling it, so it's global but it isn't. In other words, every country is going to have its own local concerns and interests. In the Midwest and in the rust belt they're going to be very upset about people making sneakers in very poor countries.
GIDDENS: Yes, but there are a lot of questions involved there. As far as China is concerned, you have to first start from the obvious. China's had a period of very intensive and successful economic growth, bred not by traditional mechanisms of Communist control of the economy but, on the contrary, by a kind of embrace of some aspects of a market economy. And that's crucial to recent Chinese history, so China is not outside the whole world which is developing here, and the issue of including China formally on the inside, with the WTO, hopefully shortly, will be further bolstered by the U.S. Congress. At least that's what we may hope.
There is all that. But of course you still have the persistence of authoritarian power, in China and in other countries too, and there's a battle to be fought there. But on the whole it does look as though a global information society has a structural relationship to the expansion of parliamentary democracy. Even if you take quite a narrow definition of successful parliamentary democracy, there are three times as many democratic states in the world even allowing for the growth of the total number of states in the world as there were 30 years ago. This period of tremendous intensification of communications probably has a democratic kind of connection. At least, we all have to hope for that. If you look in Latin America there's a quite decent possibility that countries which have had this erratic history of veering to an authoritarian military right and then to a brief period of a populist impotent left can have a more stable democratic system. And this will be an advance for the world if it can be achieved.