I det sociala medborgarskapets skugga: Rätten till socialbidrag under 1980- och 1990-talen

Translated title of the contribution: In the shadow of social citizenship: The right to social assistance in the 1980s and 1990s

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Universalism, social rights and social citizenship are often considered as key concepts to describe the Swedish welfare state. However, in the beginning of the 1990s, the Swedish welfare state experienced a severe economic recession. In only a couple of years, the unemployment rate increased sharply as well as the number of social assistance recipients. These changes constitute the background for this thesis, which aim is to analyse the changed rights and duties of the recipients of social assistance in the Swedish welfare state during the 1980s and 1990s. The object of study is then the Social Service Act from 1982 and how the Supreme Administrative Court, the National Board of Health and Welfare and two municipalities have interpreted the Act. The study is based on official documents, reports and guidelines from these "interpreters". The two municipalities are Linköping and Norrköping.

Theoretically, this thesis builds on T.H. Marshall's essay on social citizenship and social rights. Three different perspectives on how social assistance could be analysed as a social right are being discussed: (i) a poor-law perspective, (ii) a welfare state perspective and (iii) a legal perspective.

One of the main findings in the dissertation is that there has been a clear shift concerning the interpretation of the right to social assistance. In the 1980s, the municipalities as well as the Supreme Administrative Court and the National Board of Health and Welfare tried to define the right to social assistance as if it was a social security benefit. They asserted that the means-tested feature of the social assistance system should be limited and tried to implement the routines of the social security system, i.e. they tried to adopt the principles of universalism. This way of defining the right to social assistance was abandoned in the early 1990s. The municipalities enforced clear obligations for the recipients and developed local work-projects. They also emphasised that means-testing was an important and central feature of the social assistance system. This shift was to a certain degree codified in the revised Act from 1998. Thereby, this study indicates that the Swedish welfare state has moved away from what has been seen as its ideal.
Translated title of the contributionIn the shadow of social citizenship: The right to social assistance in the 1980s and 1990s
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • School of Social Work
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2001 Apr 20
ISBN (Print)91 7924 146 8
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2001-04-20
Time: 10:15
Place: School of Social Work, Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Hvinden, Björn
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Department of Sociology and Political Science, NTNU, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Work

Free keywords

  • theory of social work
  • Social changes
  • social policy
  • social assistance
  • selectivism
  • universalism
  • social citizenship
  • social rights
  • Social problems and welfare
  • national insurance


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