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Reconsidering the Role of Farmer Politics in Swedish Democratization

Author

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  • Bengtsson, Erik

    (Department of Economic History, Lund University)

Abstract

In discussions of Scandinavian democratization, it is commonplace to argue that long-standing farmer representation in parliament and a lack of feudalism encouraged a democratic-participatory civic culture within the peasant farmer class – or perhaps in the population as a whole. The present essay questions this interpretation in the Swedish case. It centers on a re-interpretation of farmer politics at the national level from a two-chamber system of representation after the 1866-67 reform to the alliance between the farmers’ party and Social Democracy in 1933 and offers a new analytical account of the way that one class’s attitude to democratic inclusion can change over time, owing to changed political and economic relationships to other classes. I show that Swedish farmers did not organize themselves independently of nobles and land-owners until the 1920s, and that they did not play the role of an independent pro-democratic force. On the contrary, the broad-based organizations of farmers in the 1920s and 1930s, with their democratic, participatory culture, appear to have been heavily influenced by the political culture of liberals and the labor movement, which in democratic society opened the door to a re-shaping of Swedish farmer politics that abandoned the old (subservient) alliance with estate owners. It was not democratic farmers who gave rise to Social Democracy – rather, it was Social Democracy that caused farmers to become democratic. Understanding farmer politics correctly also opens up a new understanding of the determinants of Swedish democratization.

Suggested Citation

  • Bengtsson, Erik, 2019. "Reconsidering the Role of Farmer Politics in Swedish Democratization," Lund Papers in Economic History 205, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:luekhi:0205
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ingrid Henriksen & Eoin McLaughlin & Paul Sharp, 2015. "Contracts and cooperation: the relative failure of the Irish dairy industry in the late nineteenth century reconsidered," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(4), pages 412-431.
    2. 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.
    3. Jesper Roine & Daniel Waldenström, 2009. "Wealth Concentration over the Path of Development: Sweden, 1873–2006," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 111(1), pages 151-187, March.
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    5. Bengtsson, Erik & Svensson, Patrick, 2018. "The wealth of the Swedish peasant farmer class 1750–1900: Composition and distribution," Lund Papers in Economic History 177, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    6. Erik Bengtsson & Anna Missiaia & Mats Olsson & Patrick Svensson, 2018. "Wealth inequality in Sweden, 1750–1900," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(3), pages 772-794, August.
    7. 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.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    democratization; agrarian politics; Sweden; class structure; farmers; Sonderweg;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N54 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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