Social Science and the “Swedish Model”: Sociology at the Service of the Welfare State

  • Katrin Fridjonsdottir
Part of the Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook book series (SOSC, volume 15)


Sometimes scholars use basic concepts that lack anything like a consistent, formal “textbook” definition, concepts which scholars themselves may reach agreement on only temporarily and precariously and where a process of continuous redefinition and contest is rather the normal course of events. Society is such a concept, both within sociology and within the social sciences as a whole. In this instance the concept denotes the basic field of research which these sciences have in common, while each of the social science disciplines has developed through a process of differentiation and specialization with respect to various aspects of the development and structure of modern society. Such a process of delimitation and differentiation, of “fencing-in” as it were, has of course been essential for the establishment of the identity of the disciplines. It has been equally important for their consolidation as intellectual traditions and as professional specialties entering into a range of relationships of service to modern society and its various groupings as well as bureaucracies.


Structural Functionalism Sociological Research Social Democracy Normative Integration Swedish Society 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Katrin Fridjonsdottir (ed.), Om svensk sociologi. Historia, problem och perspektiv, Stockholm: Carlssons förlag, 1987.Google Scholar
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    Katrin Fridjonsdottir, “Den svenska sociologin och dess samhälle”, in Fridjonsdottir, op. cit., pp. 250–282.Google Scholar
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    See however C.A. Hessler, “Att lära känna samhället”, Statsvetenskaplig tidskrift, 3, 1982, concerning Steffen as a teacher and a source of inspiration. See Ake Lilliestam, Gustaf Steffen: samhällspolitiker och idépolitiker (Gothenburg, 1960) for a biography on Steffen. (For the literary-minded it might be noted that Gustaf Steffen was August Strindberg’s companion and collaborator for a while in the collection of material for Strindberg’s book Bland franska bönder (“Among French Peasants”) with its socio-anthropological character.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma, New York: Harper and Row, 1944.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See e.g. G. Myrdal, Objectivity in Social Research. New York: Pantheon, 1969. See also Björn A. Hansson, The Stockholm School and the Development of Dynamic Method, London: Croom Helm, 1982, and Jan Petersson, Erik Lindahl och Stockholmsskolans dynamiska metod, Lund: Lund Economic Studies, No. 39,1987.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of developments in Swedish philosophy during this period see S. Nordin, Från Hāgerström till Hadenius, Trelleborg: Doxa, 1984.Google Scholar
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    See Segerstedt’s article in Om svensk sociologi (op. cit. cf. note 1).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    See the report Betänkande angånde socialvetenskapernas ställning vid univer-siteten och högskolerna m.m avgivet av socialvetenskapliga forskningskommittén, Stockholm: Staten Öffentliga Utredninga 1946: 74 (in the following quoted as SOV 1946: 74).Google Scholar
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    For a description of a similar reorientation in German sociology see e.g. H. Kem, Empirische Sozialforschung, Munich: Beck Verlag, 1982.Google Scholar
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    See Joachim Israel’s article in Om svensk sociology, (op. cit. cf. note 1).Google Scholar
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    Bengt Rundblad, “Traditioner, restriktioner och möjligheter i svensk sociologi” in Om svensk sociologi op. cit. cf. note 1), p. 72.Google Scholar
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    Concering this “profile” at a more recent date see E. Allardt et al., Sociologin i Sverige, Uppsala: HSFR & UHÄ, 1988.Google Scholar
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    Segerstedt has presented and discussed his theory in a large number of articles, e.g. “The Uppsala School of Sociology”, Acta Sociologies no. 1, 1956, pp. 85–119, and “Svensk sociologi förr och nu” in Om svensk sociologi op. cit. cf. note 1). See also Segerstedt, The Nature of Social Reality, Stockholm: Scandinavian University Books, 1966. The first study in industrial sociology in Sweden-T. Segerstedt & A. Lundquist, Människan i industrisamhället, Stockholm: Norstedts, 1952–1955 — is an early example of empirical research based on Segerstedt’s normative theory.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    This is not to say that Segerstedt did not influence his pupils! See e.g. U. Himmelstrand’s thesis, Social Pressures, Attitudes and Democratic Processes, Stockholm: Almqvist & Wicksell, 1960, and — of course-Hans Zetterberg’s “Compliant Actions”, Acta Sociologica, 1957, pp. 179–201.Google Scholar
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    One of the earliest surveys of Swedish sociology is E. Tegen, “Soziologische Forschung in Schweden seit 1935”, Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie, no. 3, 1948/49. Informative reading is also provided by E. Tegen & B. Rundblad, A Survey of Teaching of Research in Sociology and Social Psychology at Swedish Universities, Oslo: Skrivemaskinstua, 1951. Shorter surveys and presentations were published in many places in the 1950s and early 1960s. From its appearance in 1964, Sociologisk Forskning has constituted a source of several contributions to the debate on Swedish sociology, e.g. Hans Zetterberg, ‘Traditioner och mojligheter i nordisk sociologi’, no. 3, 1966; Erik Allardt, “Om svensk sociologi”, no. 2, 9173; Göran Therborn, “De sociologiska verksamheterna”, no. 2, 1973-to mention a few. Anders Gullberg’s booklet Till den svenska sociologins historia, Stockholm: Unga filosofers förlag, 1974 (a revised version of an article that appeared in Häften för kritiska studier, 1970), is both ambitious and informative and contains moreover an appendix concerning the early period of Swedish sociology. The most up-to-date and inclusive survey is finally the report referred to above from the assessment carried out by Allardt et al., Sociologin i Sverige, Uppsala: HSFR & UHA, 1988.Google Scholar
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    Allardt (1973), op. cit. Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    Therborn (1973), op. cit. Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    Johan Asplund, “Sociologistudier i Uppsala i början av sextiotalet” in Fridjonsdottir (ed.), Om svensk sociologi op. cit. cf. note 1), p. 136.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    Ibid., p. 137.Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    For a discussion of this point see e.g. E. Allardt, “Svensk sociologi i ett nordiskt perspektiv” in ibid., pp. 247f.Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    One example is the sociology of work, with which I have dealt in Fridjonsdottir, “Social Change, Trade Union politics, and the Sociology of Work” in Stuart S. Blume et al. (eds.), The Social Direction of the Public Sciences (Yearbook Sociology of the Sciences, Vol. XI), Dordrecht: Reidel Publishing Co., 1987. See also E. Dahlström, “The Role of the Social Sciences in Working Life Policy: The Case of Postwar Sweden”, in H. Berglind et al. (eds.), Sociology of Work in the Nordic Countries, Oslo: The Scandinavian Sociological Association, 1978.Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    Zetterberg (1966), op. cit. Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    Some people, students of the present day among them, have sometimes wondered what constituted the vital difference between “hard” and “soft” data and what it was that gave so much intellectual excitement to the “soft-data debate”. In other words, the debate must be set in its context and in the light of what was then predominant in Swedish sociology. Those who are keenly interested can be recommended to read the issues of the journal from these years. Some guidance is provided in Gullberg, op. cit. For an interesting but later observation about the use of soft methods in Swedish sociology see G6ran Ahrne, “Kvalitativ svensk sociologi”, Sociologisk Forskning, nos. 3/4,1984.Google Scholar
  28. 29.
    Allardt, op. cit. Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    E. Dahlstrflm (ed.), Svensk samhällsstruktur i sociologisk belysning, Stockholm: Norstedts, 1959, p. 2.Google Scholar
  30. 31.
    Gösta Carlsson: “Social stratifiering och rörlighet”, Svensk samhällsstruktur i sociologisk belysning, Stockholm: Norstedts, 3rd ed. 1965, p. 378.Google Scholar
  31. 32.
    The increasing unrest in the labour market during the later ‘60s, when wild strikes broke out on a large scale, quite likely acted as an alarm clock not only for the parties active on the market but also for sociologists. For example, attempts to explain the causes of the strikes led to a certain reorientation in the sociology of work (see the works of Fridjonsdottir and Dahlstrflm mentioned in note 26 above). The so-called “Låginkomstutredningen” (lit. Low-income inquiry) and the results of its studies of living standards (which showed amongst other things that welfare was not at all as equitably distributed in Sweden as officials had claimed) stirred up an essentially politico-ideological debate, but the researchers hardly remained unaffected-although probably not in exactly the same way events on the labour market (and the results of studies of these events) affected those engaged in the sociology of work. In connection with his work with the studies on living standards for the “Låginkomstutredning”, Sten Johansson levelled the following criticism at the normative approach (and its attitudinal surveys) adopted by Swedish sociology: “To ask a person if his needs are satisfied thus does not provide any information about this person’s standard of living (actual living conditions) but rather about how effective the social mechanisms in the persons’ surroundings are when it comes to controlling his or her level of demand.” S. Johansson, Om levnadsnivåundersökningen, Allmänna bokförlaget, 1970.Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    U._ Himmelstrand, “Sociologikrisens efterbörd” in (see note 1).Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    Gullberg, op. cit. Google Scholar
  34. 35.
    U. Himmelstrand et al., “Ett universitetsämnes innehall: Utvecklingstendenser inom svensk sociologi under åren 1967–1972”, Sociolognytt, no. 6, 1974, p. 24.Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    Amongst the older generation there were also some who welcomed the “reorientation”: see B. Pfannenstil, “Från praktisk filosofi till sociologi” in (see note 1).Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    Concerning this development, although mainly from the perspective of Lund, see also G. Therborn, “Brytningarnas och genombrottens årtionde — den unga vänstern och resten av 1960-talet” in L. Wikström (ed.), Marx i Sverige, Stockholm: Arbetarkultur, 1983.Google Scholar
  37. 38.
    See U. Himmelstrand’s article in (see note 1).Google Scholar
  38. 39.
    Cf. the studies of changes in course reading lists 1967–1972 Ett universitetsämnes innehall: Utvecklingstendenser inom svensk sociologi under åren 1967–1972”, Sociolognytt, no. 6, 1974, p. 24. (note 35).Google Scholar
  39. 40.
    E. Allardt, “Svensk sociologi i ett nordiskt perspektiv” in (see note 1), p. 248.Google Scholar
  40. 41.
    See Allardt et al., (1988), Svensk sociologi i ett nordiskt perspektiv” Sociologin i Sverige, Uppsala: HSFR & UHÄ, 1988. op. cit. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Klower Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrin Fridjonsdottir

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