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Theorizing the Third Way: Qualified Consequentialism, the Proportionality Principle, and the New Social Democracy

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Richard Mullender


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The third way (or new social democracy) occupies a place of prominence in the contemporary political landscape. But it requires, according to one of its leading proponents, Anthony Giddens, theoretical elaboration. In this essay, the third way is identified as being informed by a form of moral philosophy to which the name qualified consequentialism is given. Further, the proportionality principle and associated case law are identified as yielding guidance on how to operationalize qualified consequentialist moral philosophy. Qualified consequentialism is also identified as being open to the criticism that it is insensitive to the interests of individuals. Hence, its application in contexts like the criminal justice system and the workplace can be expected to attract criticism. Finally, the third way is distinguished from earlier (classical) forms of social democratic thought. This is because the new social democracy is not, unlike earlier variants, strongly oriented towards the radical alteration of the liberal societies in which it has gained currency.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mullender R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Law and Society

Year: 2000

Volume: 27

Issue: 4

Pages: 493-516

ISSN (print): 0263-323X

ISSN (electronic): 1467-6478

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1467-6478.00165


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