The ‘third way’ for climate action – Siddhartha Dabhi

Review of: Anthony Giddens (2009) The politics of climate change. Cambridge: Polity (PB, pp. 264, £14.99, ISBN 978-0-7456-4693-0)

During the last two decades, there has emerged a substantial literature on climate change that deals with its various aspects from the very science of climate change to its economics, with widespread ramifications (see Cowie, 2007; IPCC, 2007; Stern, 2006). In his book, The Politics of Climate Change, Anthony Giddens sets out with the task of chalking out a political framework, which he believes is needed in order to deal with climate change. Giddens, who is a key proponent of ‘third way’ politics, interestingly begins with the assertion that ‘we have no politics of climate change’ (4). Hence he attempts to apply a political logic to the crisis of climate change, which, in my mind, is an invaluable starting point, given the manifold political struggles that have been fought over this topic over at least the past two decades.

The first thing that catches our eye is the blurb on the book cover by former US president Bill Clinton, one of the poster boys of ‘third way’ politics (the others being Tony Blair and Gordon Brown). In order to better understand this book and to put it into perspective, we need to first understand Giddens’ political project and what the ‘third way’ is all about. In broad terms, the ‘third way’ refers to a middle path between socialism and capitalism. Supporters of the ‘third way’ see it as a political movement much needed in times of globalisation, which has brought about a sea change in traditional social, economic and political constructs (Giddens 1999; Whiteford, 2003: 41; Botsman and Latham, 2001: 17). Giddens (1998), and other proponents of the ‘third way’, suggest that it is a political movement intended to break free from the two extremes of traditional reformist socialism, on the one hand, and neo-liberalism, on the other. Giddens (1999: n.p.) defines ‘third way’ politics as ‘an endeavour to apply left- of-centre values, those values being social solidarity, inclusion, protection of the vulnerable, not countenancing too-large inequalities in society’. On the whole the ‘third way’ looks like an attempt to create a political framework that addresses the concerns ofsocial justice and equality embedded in an economic system based on the logic of free markets. At a certain point, defining the objectives of the ‘third way’ can become difficult as it tries to walk a thin line between economic growth and social inclusion, free markets and government intervention, socialism and capitalism (Hamilton, 2001: 2; Hargreaves and Christie, 1998: 1).

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