The Swedish Model at a Crossroads

Still the social-democratic poster child, or the prime example of a neoliberal makeover? | Conference at the MPIfG, Cologne | July 24 and 25, 2014

Topic and Goal of the Conference

The current state of the Swedish political economy is controversially debated among scholars. Some point to how Sweden successfully overcame the crisis in the 1990s, and to the country’s impressive economic and political record since then. They interpret Sweden as the best variety of capitalism, capable of combining a very competitive and productive economy and sound public finances with high levels of equality, social justice, and social trust. While most advanced countries all over the world are experiencing a severe fiscal crisis and running large budget deficits, Sweden has been spared these hardships, and its public economy is performing exceptionally well. It is able to finance one of the largest and most generous welfare states, and public debt has even been falling for a long time. The country’s banking system was not strongly affected by the world financial crisis in 2009, and Sweden is always among the top-ranking countries when it comes to anti-corruption indexes and measures of good government.
Other scholars have a more negative view of the Swedish welfare regime and emphasize alarming trends that have also emerged, such as the dualization of the labor market and a rapid rise in income inequality. Sweden is no longer an exemplary political economy, they argue. They see it converging toward a liberal type of system common in English-speaking countries. Over the last twenty years, taxes in Sweden have repeatedly been cut, and social services, child care, and education, once the sole domain of the public sector, have been liberalized and privatized on a grand scale. The riots of immigrants in the streets of Stockholm and a more Anglo-Saxon style of policymaking and political representation fit into this picture. The former corporatist model has been replaced by a more pluralistic political process dominated by professional public relations companies instead of social partners.
At this workshop we are going to discuss recent developments in the Swedish political economy to get a clearer picture of what changes have occurred and where the “Swedish model” might be heading. The central question framing the workshop will be if Sweden is still the poster child for a universal welfare system, or if market liberalization, budget consolidation, and tax cuts have transformed it beyond recognition.

The conference is organized by Wolfgang Streeck and Philip Mehrtens.


Philip Mehrtens

Phone +49 221 2767-268

MPIfG: Conference "The Swedish Model at a Crossroads" | [Last updated 24.06.2014 15:42]