EDGE: The third way is something we hear about in America, but it's alive and well in London, I gather, or England, and certainly a lively subject in Europe. I actually don't know that much about how it works in practice. What are the critiques of it?

GIDDENS: First off, third way is simply a term, as I mentioned earlier, for how you achieve a decent left-of center political philosophy confronting the major changes of our time — globalization, technological change, the coming of the knowledge-based society, changes on the level of individual life — which have made the old political philosophies to some extent obsolete. There are currently left-of center parties in power or in coalitions, in about 11 of the 15 EU countries, in the UK, the US and New Zealand, in Taiwan, and in several of the Latin American countries. Not everyone likes the term third way, but the policies are pretty similar. That is, you don't just stick with traditional leftism. You don't just put everything in the hands of the state increasingly. You don't simply put up people's taxes all the time. You apply norms of fiscal discipline which allow you to get a decent rating from global financial investment. You have different policies for trying to deal with poverty. You reform the welfare system. You deal with problems like pensions. You try to get a high employment ratio — that is, a high proportion of people in good jobs — because then you're not wasting money on unemployment benefits, and you can spend it on things that people need, like health, education, a pension. And that's proving to be a pretty successful political philosophy. The impact of Clinton on these things is obviously arguable, but the Clinton administration has basically produced a fairly favorable set of circumstances for the American economy, and generally speaking, for American society, except that a lot more work needs to be done on remedying inequality and exclusionary mechanisms for the bottom. Still, you've got a generalized political philosophy here which could be very important.

EDGE: The detractors to this? Would they be the usual political people?

GIDDENS: Well, you have detractors from the traditional left, who say that you should stick with more traditional policies and who believe in essentially the state as the liberator really, and you have detractors from the neo-liberal right, who believe that markets are essentially the liberator, and most of the things that government does are noxious. I don't think either of those positions are feasible positions myself, and we know now what a model of a good society should be like. It's one where you have good government (because you need effective government which is quick on its feet), where you have a decent market economy (because you don't know of any other way to have effective economic productivity), and where you have a developed civil society to balance the other two. If any one of those three gets on top of the others, you have troubles. A good society regionally, nationally, globally, is one that balances those, and on a global level you still have too much dominance by the global marketplace. You need to build a more effective global civil society and more effective modes of active governments.

EDGE: What is a global civil society?

GIDDENS: A global civil society essentially is the underpinning of many institutional democracies. You could regard non-governmental associations and organizations as a kind of early beginning to a global civil society. It's essentially having a civic culture of global participation, and should in the end, one would certainly hope, lead to some kind of version of global citizenship. I don't believe that's impossible in an era of high communications, actually, and the European Union is a kind of possible model of how you can build transnational effective political governments. It also needs democratizing and has economic problems, but nevertheless...

EDGE: Why is there so much tension between the UK and the Europeans over currency and trade?

GIDDENS: Well, not all tension is a bad thing, you know. Some of that tension is creative tension, and you shouldn't single out the UK, because you've got a number of countries around the edge of Europe which have always been a bit more Euro-skeptical, and those tend to have been maritime nations, to some degree anyway, like Sweden, Denmark, the UK. And the UK has always had historic connections to the US, linguistic connections with the US. It's harder for the British to feel themselves as central to Europe as other countries do. The massive cultural division, which in my view needs to be overcome to some degree, would mean abandoning the connections to the US, and they seem to me to be often fairly positive, not just negative ones.

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