The Third Way enjoyed a dramatic success when it first appeared in the late 1990s. The book helped to provide inspiration for left-of-centre parties in a variety of different countries around the world, and many incorporated elements from it into their political programmes. Its influence in Britain was particularly strong and the author worked closely with successive Blair governments in the formulation of social and economic policy. But all governments have their own agendas, and they interpreted and adapted the ideas of
The Third Way for their own purposes. In some circles the third way came to be seen as an endorsement of a market-driven approach to politics.
The new edition of this classic text includes an extended Preface in which Giddens clarifies the original intent of The Third Way and analyses some of the major developments in political and economic life in the decade since the book first appeared. 'The third way' was always a label for the renewal of social democracy: the point was to update social democracy in the face of far-reaching social and economic change, especially transformations brought about by the intensifying of globalization. Giddens argued that we need to go beyond the two main traditions which dominated post-War thinking in the industrial countries - the 'Old Left', on the one hand, and market fundamentalism, on the other.
The Preface assesses the impact of New Labour and of parallel innovations in other countries, analyses the implications of the financial crisis for the further development of social democratic thought and considers how far the arguments of the Third Way retain their relevance today. 'What's left?' - the question is as pressing today, and as difficult to answer, as it was a decade or more ago.