Politics as Organized Combat: New Players and New Rules of the Game in Sweden
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Stefan Svallfors takes Sweden as an example of how politics as organized combat has changed quite dramatically in the last couple of decades. Sweden is often cited as an opposite to the US among the rich capitalist countries, but it has experienced a number of rather deep policy changes which have not received the attention they deserve. He argues that there are a number of aspects that have recently changed Swedish organized politics in rather fundamental ways including the dismantling of corporatist arrangements, changes in the economic policy decision-making framework, increased income inequality, weakened political parties and changes in their social bases, decline of blue-collar union strength, growth of the policy professionals category, increased impact of multi-level politics, and the mediatization of politics. What this amounts to, he claims, is a very different form of elite-driven policy-making than the old corporatist structures. An amorphous and quite invisible but still highly elite-driven process has emerged, in which inequality has increased dramatically, and the impact of money on politics has become stronger even in Sweden. In his lecture, he discusses the implications of these developments for current politics and policy-making in Sweden.
Stefan Svallfors is Professor of Sociology and Baltic Scholar at Umeå University. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. His current research mainly concerns “policy professionals” in Sweden, that is, people who are employed to do politics and affect politics rather than elected to office.