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Sweden. S. Theodoulou. Sweden today. The Model of social democratic society. 1990s: Many social benefits were eliminated and taxes increased. A rich industrialized society facing economic recession and crucial dilemmas:

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S. Theodoulou

sweden today
Sweden today
  • The Model of social democratic society.
  • 1990s: Many social benefits were eliminated and taxes increased.
  • A rich industrialized society facing economic recession and crucial dilemmas:
    • How can economic deficit and unemployment be controlled without dismantling the Welfare State?
    • How can the State provide good services without overtaxing its citizens?
the social democratic party
The Social Democratic Party
  • In power since 1932 (alone or in coalitions)
  • No other Western political party in democratic settings enjoyed such popular support
    • Hegemony of labor (today going through a crisis)
  • A century ago, the Social Democrats aspired to public ownership of the economy (radical)
  • 1930s Move to the center due to the alliance with the Agrarian Party (more moderate)
modern sweden politics
Modern Sweden Politics
  • 1920s Social Reforms
  • 1930s Unionization
1930s consensus
1930s Consensus
  • Sweden would be a capitalist society
  • The state would provide for full employment and economic growth
  • Benefits of growth would be redistributed equally
  • Capital/labor relations regulated in a (neo)corporative fashion—democratic corporatism
the most comprehensive welfare state on earth
The Most Comprehensive Welfare State on earth
  • Goal: redistribution of wealth through social benefits
  • Welfare services are seen as a part of citizen’s rights ( the US)
  • Expansion during 1940s & 1950s
  • The highest level of income taxes in the West suported the Welfare State
  • 1960s: extension of all benefits to immigrants—Immigrants should be treated as equals in all respects.
tage erlander social democratic party leader and prime minister 1946 69
Tage Erlander: Social Democratic Party leader and Prime Minister (1946-69)

“It is a mistake to think that the freedom of human beings, whether in the economic area or the political one, will diminish if they agree to join forces to do such things as they cannot manage by themselves. What is... The main part of our political activity other than attempts to organize such cooperation? We want health insurance, but nobody can manage that of his own. We must therefore create the opportunity for a colective solution. The same is true with respect to our wish to provide social security, to improve our roads, schools, defense, etc. All our political activities are filled with our striving to secure community cooperation to solve such tasks, which we can accomplish together, but which we cannot solve by ourselves” (1954)

  • The expansion of the welfare state required economic growth with stabilization of wages (to avoid inflation)
  • 1970s (after the 1973 oil crisis)
    • High inflation
    • Foreign debt
    • Large budget deficits
1976 elections
1976 elections
  • After 44 years, the social democrats were defeated by a coalition of conservative parties
  • (Question: Why did conservatives gain room almost everywhere in the mid 70s?)
  • Neo-left(blamed the social democrats for environmental damage, gender inequality, etc.)
  • Labor (radicalized demands questionning the employers’ power and even property rights)
  • Employers/businesspeople:the public sector looked too big to them while employees had too much power
austerity measures protests and political changes
Austerity Measures,Protests, and Political Changes
  • May 1980 general strike
  • May 1981 white collar massive strike (& split of the coalition in government)
  • 1982 Return of the Social Democrats to power (until 1991, alone or in coalitions)
  • 1991/4 Centrist coalition of the Center, Liberal, and Christian Democrat parties (Bildt)
  • 1994 Return of the Social Democrats, now allied to the center/right
  • Need of redefining a new consensus between labor and capital
present dilemmas
Present Dilemmas
  • How does the Swedish State afford to provide good quality social services without increasing taxes or the public debt?
  • Can the Swedish continue affording to extend all benefits to all immigrants, before both the prolonged recession and the increasing flow of immigrants?
state gvt
State & Gvt.
  • Constitutional Monarchy
    • 1975 Constitution (the monarchy plays only a symbolic role—the monarch=head of state)
  • Parliamentary System
  • Sweden is a unitary state (all local and national institutions are subordinated to the Parliament and the Central Gvt.)
the executive
The Executive
  • Cabinet, responsible before the Riksdag or national legislature. Chosen by the prime minister. Standing committees.
    • 50 autonomous central agencies (headed by directors)
  • The prime minister, head of gvt. (leader of the majority party or coming from the largest party within a winning coalition) leads the cabinet, defines policy, and speaks for the cabinet before the legislature
    • A deputy prime minister (coordinates activities)
    • Royal chancery (helps the prime minister)
the legislature
The Legislature
  • Unicameral Legislature (349 members elected by popular vote through PR—four-year term)
    • 310 seats distributed along Sweden’s 28 constituencies
    • 39 seats distributed according to the parties’ share of votes
    • Parties must obtain at least 4 percent of the national vote or 12 percent of local vote
      • (purpose: to eliminate small parties)
  • Law-making body/source of cabinet members & prime minister (through the Speaker)
  • Speaker & three vice speakers (organize debates)
  • 16 standing committees ( the U.S., although the Swedish committees cannot “kill” bills)
the judiciary
The Judiciary
  • Civil Law influenced by customary law
  • Completely independent (though appointed by the prime minister and the cabinet)
  • Three tiers (civil & criminal justice):
    • The Supreme Court (Hogsta Domstolen)
    • 6 Courts of appeal
    • 100 district and city courts (first instance)—Judges assisted by panels of citizens
  • Administrative justice system (also three tiers)
  • Labor/Market courts
  • Swedish invention: the Ombudsman
  • Swedish Creation (adopted by a number of states)
  • Investigate citizens’ claims on abuses by the State
  • Ombudsmen have no power of their own; their work is to inform the Legislature for a change in policy
  • (Public embarrassment Ancient Greece)
the swedish bureaucracy
The Swedish Bureaucracy
  • Decentralized network of autonomous agencies operating at the local level
  • Reduced since the 1980s (due to austerity measures)
    • Now the gvt. Sets goals, and agencies are free to choose the means to achieve them (purpose: to make the bureaucracy more efficient and responsive)
local gvt
Local Gvt.
  • 21 counties governed by administrative boards
    • Popularly elected County councils
    • Counties led by governors chosen by the cabinet
    • Counties divided into municipalities (governed by popularly elected councils)
    • Local gvt. Implements policy
    • Counties can collect taxes
consensual multi party system
Three small parties (since the 1980s)


Christian Democrats

New Democracy

5 major parties

The Social Democratic Party

The Left Party

The Liberals

The Center Party

The Moderates

Consensual Multi-Party System

(PR electoral system)

unionization of labor
Unionization of Labor
  • Sweden (more than 90%) the U.S. (less than 15%)
  • Neo-corporatism—Schmitter
    • Consultation between gvt., labor, and capital—consensus