Although the Socialist or Social Democractic parties played a key role in West European politics during the quarter century after the Second World War, they have been studied far less than their political rivals, the Christian Democrats. The story of West European Social Democracy after 1945 begins with a dilemma: Democratic marxism, which had been the parties' ideological and organizational principle until the Second World War, was becoming politically irrelevant. The three parties analyzed here represent the spectrum of reactions among Social Democratic parties to this realization. The debate over the parties' programs and ideologies did not, of course, take place in a vacuum: the author devotes considerable space to a comparative analysis of the parties' leaders and organizational structures as well as the evolution of Social Democratic domestic and foreign policies.
Immensely readable, this book not only offers an in-depth analysis of the postwar period crucial for the history of Social Democracy but also, because of its cross-national treatment of these three major parties, adds significantly to our understanding of the processes of European integration and the evolution of the Atlantic Alliance.