In my opinion, social democracy, as it exist in France is the pure form of modern democracy at its paroxysm : a method of administration, a mode of government.
You generally have more of "fundamental rights" (let's rather say "temporary priviledges"), more benefits and allowances, more social control, less sticks and more carots when you don't protest.
But even the "good aspects" of the "welfare state" are mostly things that the dominant class gave up and yelded to the exploited and poor people because of high intensity class warfare. So here's what happened : there were warfare, they gave us welfare. ;-)
Only few exemples of this for france :
- Early 19th century : big strikes, anarchists intrigues, direct actions, 8hour day.
- 1936 : big general strikes everywhere, violent clashes with cops and far rights movements, first big social reforms, increase of wage, shortening of labor week time. You can read the very good book of Mickael Seidman about this "Workers against work : Labor in Paris and Barcelona during the popular fronts".
- 1945 : Liberation, wild strikes, protests, armed groups (mainly from the communist and revolutionnary resistance) threatening the provisional government... and application of large part of the CNR program (National Resistance Comittee) wich included "social security" (healthcare), etc. At this time, the french government was really scared with the idea of a insurrection and the high possibility of social revolution. Even Stalin said he wouldn't encourage the french communist party to do so (;-) intersting thing to know by the way).
- 1968 : insurrectionnary movement, general wild strike, riots everywhere, etc... and the Grenelle agreements just happened ! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grenelle_agreements
). Other important thing to know is that these agreements were only signed and negociated by stalinist and reformist organisations and bureacrats while the vast majority of "the base" and other strikers and protesters continued the movement. Which also created panic in the governement, that considered the possibility of using tanks so as to take back the streets. Here is the hidden face of democracy. ;-)
And this history could be made again and again until now a day.
I doubt if it has all been translated to english, but you could read anything about this by autonomous and anarchist groups and publications from france during the "Mitterand", first french socialist governement, during the 80's. Especially things like "Os Cangaceiros", or earlier "Les fossoyeurs du vieux monde" for exemple. These 2 groups have made a deep critique of social democracy as a way to subjugate people, cultivate apathy and strangle the revolutionnary passions.
Another french anarchist formula that you often meet, says that "social democracy is a branch office for fascism". Which is kind of very true if you look at history in europe, and the actual situation of many countries where social democrats are actually managing the government.
I think that the nordic and scandinavian social democracies are a bit different from the german and latin ones, but they share a common history with it. Both in terms of nature and historical context. A sweden anarcho-syndicalist once told me that the developement of it was also very linked with the history of social struggles and class war.