History changes course not simply when established assumptions break down in the face of crises - crises that are themselves sparked by shifts in the underlying political, economic and social forces shaping society - but when alternative and compelling accounts of the future are advanced and implemented.
Juncture - IPPR's new journal of politics and ideas - is born out of a belief that Britain and the world is today living through just such a period of historic change. The aftershocks of the global economic earthquake continue to reverberate, calling into question much of the orthodox thinking that has underpinned the way western societies have been managed in the last 30 years. But this phase remains in a state of flux precisely because a new course for history has yet to be chartered.
Juncture's mission, both via on-line publishing and through our quarterly journal, is to try to make sense of this world and to contribute - albeit modestly - towards developing an alternative and progressive account of the future.
We believe this can only be achieved by exposing the centre-left to new ideas and fresh perspectives - from a wide range of political traditions - and by drawing on the best thinking from around the world. Juncture therefore emphatically rejects the parochialism that inhibits so much of the debate in London's Westminster village. As well as seeking inspiration from the most vibrant strands of centre-left ideas, progressives today also have to be more international because we have to better understand the world in which we find ourselves.
Most pressing is the need to respond to the forces unleashed by the Great Recession which more than anything else have undermined conventional wisdom. Prolonged economic crisis has evaporated confidence in the idea that efficient and self-regulated markets can be relied upon to deliver prosperity for the nation as a whole. The immediate triggers of the 2008-09 crash were deregulation of the financial sector and an asset bubble. But as important were deeper weaknesses within the British economy, most obviously an unsustainable and precarious growth model built on global imbalances. Worrying increases in inequality, particularly at the top of the income distribution, and stagnating real living standards for many in society are just two of the most serious consequences that now demand attention.
To respond to these issues the British economy will need to look and feel very different. To be more resilient and stable it will need to be better balanced, with growth and tax revenues flowing from a broader range of sectors and firms. A more productive economy needs to be a fairer economy too, with growth creating more and better jobs and higher living standards for the majority, spread more evenly across the UK.
If it is to be sustainable, growth must also respect the planet. And any alternative model of political economy needs, of course, to situate British comparative advantage in the context of the dramatic shift eastwards of global economic power. Achieving such a transformation will not be easy: the cultural and institutional shift required to move British capitalism down a path of high wages and high productivity and investment will be considerable.
At first glance, the economic crisis looks to be a crisis of the political right, given the demonstrable failure of the unfettered markets thesis. But as flawed as many of these ideas might be, the simple truth is that the Great Recession represents a formidable intellectual challenge for progressive thinking. In its simplest form the crash and the new fiscal reality has blown apart the centre-left's traditional statecraft, which depended - overly depended - on a strong central state and tax-funded redistribution to deliver social justice. Centre-left rethinking will need to be deeper and more profound than many have so far imagined. Certainly it will need to be deeper than any rethinking taking place on the right, since it seeks only a return to the status quo ante. What are the viable strategies for achieving social justice, given prolonged fiscal constraints? How should the British state be restructured? Since recent economic turmoil is symptomatic of the consolidation of unhealthy amounts of power in the hands of a small elite, how do progressives think these concentrations of power in our economy and society should be broken down and held to account? And how can our democracy and political system protect itself from being captured by the interests of such cliques?
Renewal must also contend with underlying shifts in British society which have become even more animated during this time of greater economic uncertainty. Demographic change means that even after the current deficit has been eliminated there will continue to be major constraints on public spending. As the large baby boom cohort reaches retirement, we will live in a country with proportionately fewer workers paying tax and proportionately more retired people making significant health, pension and long-term social care demands.
We face complex dilemmas about the kind of society we want to live in. What obligations do baby boomers have towards the next generation, which is struggling to see a prosperous future? How can we achieve greater gender equality in the face of changing family pressures and labour market experiences? A prolonged period of low growth and economic uncertainty could embolden reactionary concerns about immigration and race - in turn eroding social solidarity - or about the degree of Britain's integration with the global economy.
Meeting these challenges is daunting enough, even before we consider the growing constraints placed on the capacity of our politics to meet them. Political disaffection is corroding the legitimacy of our governing institutions. Greater electoral volatility and widening geographic fragmentation of political support for the main parties means that political consent is harder to achieve - and more plural and disparate political coalitions more intricate to build. These trends are in many ways a sign of a healthy and mature democracy, but they undoubtedly add to the complexity of responding to these challenges. As will the prospects of Britain's two governing unions. Scottish independence threatens the survival of the United Kingdom itself, while the eurozone crisis raises the spectre of deeper political integration for the EU which will once again bring to the surface some deep-rooted ambiguities and uncertainties about Britain's place in the world.
Progressive forces stand a better chance of success if they are united, which means that Labour must rebuild relations with the Liberal Democrat party if it is to improve its prospects for power. Yet it shows no signs of having a strategy to do so: large segments of the electorate just don't feel that the centre-left shares their world view, while wider social movements remain weak. New alliances are needed, not only to secure votes but to build partnerships to advance a shared project.
The lesson from British history is that critical moments of progressive change were achieved - most notably in the Edwardian years and post-war era - when several forces came together to fashion an alternative political project. These included include robust ideas capable of sustaining a progressive alternative, effective political leadership to mobilise political and public consent, viable electoral coalitions, and broad democratic movements to champion a new direction.
We want Juncture to be a place that helps progressives to grasp this historic moment.
Snakes and ladders: Tackling precarity in social security and employment supportAcross the country, people are trying to make ends meet, build financial security and pursue their aspirations. But, in a vicious cycle of snakes and ladders, many are being pulled down into poverty.
Making markets: The City's role in industrial strategyTo tackle climate change, we need a significant increase in public and private capital investment.
Broken hearted: A spotlight paper on cardiovascular diseaseProgress on cardiovascular disease was a significant driver of better health and prosperity in the latter half of the 20th century, however progress has recently stalled – with indications it may be in reverse.