Monday, 24 March 2014

Politics as organized combat - new players and new rules of the game in Sweden

Lecture by Prof. Stefan Svallfors, Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University; Institute for Futures Studies, Stockholm; Department of Sociology, Umeå University

This talk takes its cue from Hacker’s & Pierson’s observation that politics is first and foremost organization: “organized combat”. If we want to understand the outcomes of politics, we have to look at how it is organized on a long-term basis: by whom and with what resources? Sweden is taken as an example of how politics as organized combat has changed quite dramatically in the last couple of decades. Sweden is often used as an opposite to the US among the rich capitalist countries, and it has experienced a number of rather encompassing policy changes which have not received the attention they deserve. It is argued that there are a number of points that has 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 regarding the mediatization of politics. What this amounts to, it is claimed, 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. The lecture discusses the implications of these developments for current politics and policy-making in Sweden.