Between growth and security

Between growth and security: Swedish social democracy from a strong society to a third way

Jenny Andersson
Translated by Mireille L. Key
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Between growth and security
    Book Description:

    The notion of social policy as a productive investment and a prerequisite for economic growth became a core feature in the ideology of Swedish social democracy, and a central component of the universalism of the Swedish welfare state. However as the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) embarked on its Third Way in 1981, this outlook on social policy as a productive investment was replaced by the identification of social policy as a cost and a burden for growth. This book discusses the components of this ideological turnaround from Swedish social democracy’s post-war notion of a strong society, to its notion of a Third Way in the early 1980s. It is a novel and innovative contribution to the history of Swedish social democracy and recent developments in the Swedish welfare state, and it also sheds light on contemporary social policy debates. It will appeal to a wide readership from students of contemporary history and politics to policy makers and specialists.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-200-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series editorsʹ foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    John Callaghan, Steven Fielding and Steve Ludlam

    The start of the twenty-first century is superficially an inauspicious time to study labour movements. Political parties once associated with the working class have seemingly embraced capitalism. The trade unions with which these parties were once linked have suffered near-fatal reverses. The industrial proletariat looks both divided and in rapid decline. The development of multi-level governance, prompted by ‘globalisation’ has furthermore apparently destroyed the institutional context for advancing the labour ‘interest’. Many consequently now look on terms such as ‘working class’, ‘socialism’ and ‘the labour movement’ as politically and historically redundant.

    The purpose of this series is to give a...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    ‘Social policy is not a cost – but a productive investment’, wrote the Swedish social democratic economist Gunnar Myrdal in 1932, the year the Swedish Social Democratic party (SAP) gained electoral power.¹ This idea of social policy as a productive investment became a core feature in the ideology of Swedish Social Democracy and a central component in the discursive foundation of the Swedish welfare state. The expansion of public responsibility for social security that took place in the post-war period was based on the notion of security and social citizenship as the foundation for an efficient society, and indeed as...

  6. 1 Between growth and security
    (pp. 5-27)

    The institutions of the Swedish welfare state have been understood as being grounded in the economic and social policies that developed in response to the 1930s Depression.¹ The 1930s were a formative era, defined by pervasive feelings of national, economic, social and demographic crisis. The 1930s’ political debates in Sweden were coloured by Gunnar and Alva Myrdal’s discussions on the population question and of ‘a national suicide’ following dramatically falling birth rates; by the intense debate on adequate policy responses to the Depression that took place in the Stockholm School and the Unemployment Commission; and by the Labour movement’s rallying...

  7. 2 A productive investment: social policy in the strong society
    (pp. 28-45)

    In the immediate post-war period, economic growth became the obvious focus of politics. The modern concept of growth was born in the post-war debate on economic expansion. In the emergence of an international economic order following the reconstruction of European economies and the Marshall plan, the idea of development became redefined as economic development. The concept of growth, historically a metaphor that implied a balance between economic and social change and that saw economic change as an organic process, circumscribed by limits posed by social structures or the scarcity of resources, became reconceptualised as a question of virtually limitless industrial...

  8. 3 The social cost of growth
    (pp. 46-64)

    In the late 1960s, the strong society’s optimistic idea of ever-increasing security in industrial society clashed with new images of reality, which focused on extensive social problems in the midst of social democratic society.

    In 1967, the husband and wife team of Gunnar and Maj Inghe publishedDen ofärdiga välfärden(Unfinished welfare), a book about the social welfare clientele in Stockholm.¹ Gunnar Inghe was a professor of social medicine who had conducted several investigations into marginalised social groups and the labour reserves in the 1960s. Unfinished welfare was a fitting title, one that was in direct conflict with the social...

  9. 4 Social policy for security
    (pp. 65-87)

    The late 1960s signified a break with the post-war optimism regarding growth. The post-war view of growth as a promise for social development was replaced by understandings of growth as a threat to social progress, and as a source of new problems in a changing, uncertain period of societal development.

    Politics in the 1960s and 1970s were marked by the discovery of the outermost limits to growth. In the debate on the environment, as well as in discussions on the social consequences of growth, it was pointed out that post-war economic expansion had led to the exhaustion of production factors...

  10. 5 The cost of security
    (pp. 88-104)

    The radicalisation of the SAP’s ideology in the social sphere in the 1970s broke with the strong society’s growth orientation. Growth, as the overarching goal of social policy, became security. The ideological preoccupation with the prevention and management of social exclusion, and the strengthened emphasis on security, was an attempt to detach from the productivism of the post-war period and give social goals a value of their own. The rearticulation of growth as a social force for welfare was social democracy’s response to the critique of the late 1960s, and can be seen as an effort to recreate a harmonious...

  11. 6 Can we afford security? Social policy in the third way
    (pp. 105-127)

    Olof Palme’s 1970s idea of a third way in a new and more social concept of growth gave way to a new idea of a third way in the early 1980s. This 1980s third way was a different utopia. It was deeply concerned with growth, but less so with its social content. It made a decisive break with the late 1960s radicalism. However, it also broke with a lot of social democracy’s historical articulations around the welfare state. To social democratic values of security and solidarity as the route to individual emancipation, it added market efficiency.

    In the previous chapter,...

  12. 7 Concluding remarks
    (pp. 128-134)

    This book has addressed a central aspect of Swedish reformism, the idea that economic growth and individual security are two fundamentally connected economic and social processes that need to be kept together. On the one hand, Swedish social democracy has stressed capitalism as a system producing a social good, compatible with individual welfare, but on the other, it has given an explicit role to the welfare state in that process. To an extent, this duality between economic dynamism, on the one hand, and individual security and welfare, on the other, is a general dilemma to social democracy in its various...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 135-144)
  14. Index
    (pp. 145-149)