Unrest and Inequalities: Comparing Welfare States

  • David Pritchard


The stereotype of Scandinavia is of a place of haunting natural beauty, a Utopian society, where blonde haired beautiful people lead idyllic lives (Murphy, 2010). The fashionable exterior of Stockholm, Sweden, embodies this. Citizens are imagined as enjoying a life of freedom and prosperity, built on the foundations of the Swedish welfare state — engendering a clean, safe and orderly society. Yet this interpretation of Sweden and the other Nordic countries is not without its critics. By the late 1960s there was certainly a feeling in some quarters that the fabled welfare state designed to use Sweden’s post-war prosperity to fund universal health care and benefits had failed to live up to expectations. The social democratic hegemony of Sweden’s post-war welfare state was challenged both politically and culturally by the left and the right. That sense of disillusionment prompted two left-wing reporters, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, to begin work on their Martin Beck novels, which pioneered the idea that detective fiction could be used to analyse the state of the nation, the template of Scandinavian crime fiction (Forshaw, 2012; Murphy, 2010; Nestingen and Arvas, 2011). The genre soon added a social dimension. In 1965, Sjöwall and Wahlöö began to write crime stories about a unit of the Stockholm police led by the fictional character of Martin Beck. Their work had a hidden agenda that they called ‘the project’. The writers sought to create realistic crime novels that would look at society from a critical perspective.


Income Inequality Welfare State Welfare Regime Social Unrest Norwegian Social Science Data Service 


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