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The Social Origins of Liberal Democracy: The Swedish Case


  • Tilton, Timothy A.


Implicit in Dahrendorf's Society and Democracy in Germany and explicit in Moore's Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy are respectively a liberal and a radical model of democratic development. Neither of these models adequately accounts for the experience of Sweden, a remarkably successful “late developer.†Although Swedish industrialization proceeded with little public ownership of the means of production, with limited welfare programs until the 1930s, and above all with restricted military expenditure—all factors Dahrendorf implies are crucial for democratic development—it did not produce the traditional liberal infrastructure of bourgeois entrepreneurs nor a vigorous open market society. Similarly only three of Moore's five preconditions for democracy obtained in Sweden: a balance between monarchy and aristocracy, the weakening of the landed aristocracy, and the prevention of an aristocratic-bourgeois coalition against the workers and peasants. There was no thorough shift toward commercial agriculture and, most important, there was no revolutionary break with the past. Consequently, one has to evolve a radical liberal model of development which states the conditions for the emergence of democracy in Sweden without revolution. This model contains implications for the further modernization of American politics.

Suggested Citation

  • Tilton, Timothy A., 1974. "The Social Origins of Liberal Democracy: The Swedish Case," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 561-571, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:68:y:1974:i:02:p:561-571_11

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    Cited by:

    1. Aidt, Toke S. & Jensen, Peter S., 2014. "Workers of the world, unite! Franchise extensions and the threat of revolution in Europe, 1820–1938," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 52-75.
    2. Giovanni B. Pittaluga & Giampiero Cama & Elena Seghezza, 2015. "Editor's choice Democracy, extension of suffrage, and redistribution in nineteenth-century Europe," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(4), pages 317-334.
    3. Bengtsson, Erik, 2019. "Reconsidering the Role of Farmer Politics in Swedish Democratization," Lund Papers in Economic History 205, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2015. "The Rise and Decline of General Laws of Capitalism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
    5. Nathalie BLANC-NOEL, 2013. "Resolving the dilemma between equality and liberty: the Swedish political system," Eastern Journal of European Studies, Centre for European Studies, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, vol. 4, pages 25-40, June.
    6. Bengtsson, Erik & Olsson, Mats, 2018. "Peasant Aristocrats? Wealth and Social Status of Swedish Farmer Parliamentarians 1769–1895," Lund Papers in Economic History 175, Lund University, Department of Economic History.

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