Welfare as a Means for Political Stability: A Law and Society Analysis
European Journal of Social Security, Volume 14 (2012), No. 2
22 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2012
Date Written: June 1, 2012
There have been extensive discussions in academic circles of why some countries develop into welfare states while others do not. Two main factors mentioned in these discussions are economic growth and the need for political stability. In these discussions, the example of Sweden, where the welfare state allegedly emerged from a ‘culture of consensus,’ has often been treated as an historic exception. In this article we discuss the relevance of the two main factors suggested in the literature, and investigate whether Sweden is a rare case of a country where welfare arose out of a culture of consensus or if welfare in Sweden emerged as a product of strategies that aimed at promoting political stability, and thereby followed a similar pattern to other Western European countries. In undertaking this task, we have conducted a review of the literature and used Migdal’s ‘state-in-society’ perspective and the ‘institutional approach’ as a theoretical framework. Our results can be summarised under three headings: (a) until the mid-twentieth century, Sweden was a highly unstable, conflict-ridden class society, and thereby a followed similar pattern to other Western European countries; (b) welfare reforms in Sweden were introduced as a means of addressing political and social instability; (c) Sweden is therefore no exception to the theory that deep political crises trigger welfare reforms.
Keywords: labour history, law and society, political stability, social policy, Sweden, welfare
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