The Legal Complex in Struggles for Political Liberalism in Sweden
53 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2015 Last revised: 28 Jun 2017
Date Written: May 3, 2017
What role have lawyers and judges, and the broader legal profession, played in the expansion of political liberalism in Sweden? In recent decades, a multidisciplinary research programme has developed the concept of the legal complex, to capture how lawyers and judges, and the broader legal profession, sometimes emerge as a key collective actor in struggles for constrained government, basic civil liberties, and an independent civil society.
However, within this research programme, Sweden, along with the other Nordic states, seems to pose an anomaly. Judges and lawyers, acting in the capacity of their profession, have seemingly played no determinative part in struggles for a liberal political society in Sweden.
Addressing this theoretical puzzle, this paper explores the role of the legal complex in the expansion of political liberalism in Sweden over the past two centuries during five historical periods: the constitutional revolution in 1809, where liberals ended Gustavian autocracy; (b) the Law Commission and the emergence of the liberal Rechtsstaat in the nineteenth century; (c) the fate of political liberalism after the breakthrough of democracy and the welfare state; (d) the protracted struggle over rights in the constitutional reforms of the 1970s; and (e) the slow return to political liberalism since the 1980s.
I conclude by arguing that the Swedish case suggests that political liberalism may be just as much a pre-condition for as an effect of lawyers’ and judges’ political activism
Keywords: political liberalism, legal complex, Sweden, political lawyering, civil liberties, mobilization, civil society
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