“Whatever Happened to Social Democracy?”


Leaving its own provocative title unanswered, “Whatever Happened to Social Democracy?” was mostly comprised of works that blandly provided what the curators Pavel Büchler and Charles Esche promised in their text accompanying the show (published as a free newspaper): “independent thinking without a direct political purpose.” The problem is that inciting independent thinking without building consensus toward a direct political purpose is a blank virtue, unmoored from realpolitik in both ambition and effect.

Where Büchler and Esche got it right was choosing Malmö to stage the exhibition. Sweden’s third-largest city once seemed destined to become a multicultural Xanadu attracting waves of immigrants with the prospect of jobs and the welcoming social-democratic embrace of Swedish immigration policy. The city claims inhabitants from 164 countries who speak 100 languages; 40 percent of whom are

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