The Swedish Secretariat for futures studies was formed in 1973, on the initiative of the Social Democratic government. Initially installed as a part of the Prime Ministers’s Office, futures studies were envisioned as a vital tool for policymaking as well as for stimulating public debate. The present thesis examines the Secretariat from its beginnings up until about ten years later, when it was relocated to the Swedish Council for Planning and Co-ordination of Research (Forskningsrådsnämnden), thus losing its ties to the political planning process. The thesis situates the Secretariat for futures studies between the welfare state expansion and planning optimism of the late 1960s and the breakthrough of neoliberal ideas and decline of the welfare state of the early 1980s. These two phases mark the beginning and the end respectively of what the Dutch historian Duco Hellema has called “the long 1970s”. The thesis thus relates to a historical problem which Hellema himself only discusses briefly: why did this change take place? In the Swedish case, the futures studies of the decade provide interesting perspectives on this question, given their proximity to both political power and public debate, and also given their engagement with the long-term future. Drawing on the emerging field of the history of the future, the thesis focuses on the images of the future (framtidsbilder) and the view of the future (framtidssyn) expressed in this context. The former concept refers to particular visions and scenarios, the latter to more fundamental, and often implicit, ideas about the possibilities and means of influencing the future. A third concept, dilemma, serves to contextualise the projects of the Secretariat, relating them to contemporary issues such as economic growth, technological change, and internationalization. The thesis points to a gradual change. At the outset, Swedish futures studies were influenced by the ideological heritage of the Swedish Social Democrats. This was manifested in a utopian view of the future, more particularly one in which Swedish welfare society was ascribed the ability to shape its own future, and to some extent even that of other parts of the world, by means of planning and large-scale reform. During the course of the decade, however, the view of the future became more deterministic. The projects of the late 70s and early 80s predominantly highlighted processes and international developments which Swedish society could adjust to in a more or less successful way, but not avoid, much less control. The images of the future became more limited in scope, focused on changing specific parts of Swedish society rather than an international or global context. In the final chapter, I call this process a fragmentation of the future. This process, I further argue, was an important part of the more general changes associated with the end of the long 70s.
|Award date||2023 Feb 17|
|Place of Publication||Lund|
|Publication status||Published - 2023 Jan 20|
Subject classification (UKÄ)