The Reluctant Margins of Welfare. Local practice and state steering in Northern Sweden's inland regions

Kjell Hansen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the relationship between local practices and state steering by examining how post-World War II welfare policy changed the life conditions in a number of small villages in northern Sweden. Three themes tie the discussion together. The first theme revolves around questions about how the northern Swedish inland region was transformed in the post-war period and how it became a "sparsely populated area". By choosing a more peripheral area as my point of departure I question the general picture of the "People's Home". The second theme in the dissertation analyzes how the ambitions and efforts of individuals towards attaining their goals make them unwilling to being totally subjugated to the ideals of planners. But neither do they act heroically in resistance. They act in a manner that I summarize in the concept of "reluctance". Through this concept I also examine how state policy becomes a part of local reality. The third theme in the dissertation is about how the consequences of welfare policy come to expression in spatial terms. The political discourse's concentration on time, progress and modernity is converted in the villages of the northern Swedish inland region to conceptions, which primarily have a spatial basis.

In the decades after World War II the population in the inland region declined drastically. Migration not only changed actual life conditions but also became the dominant interpretive framework for understanding developments during the whole of the post-war period. By reviewing how agricultural, educational and housing policy were carried out in the inland region a picture of how state steering slowly restructured the countryside emerges. The perspective of the villagers is marked by attempts to selectively include certain aspects of welfare policies while at the same time excluding aspects which do not coalesce with their own ambitions. However, state policy challenged the basic conceptions in the villages, above all with regard to what is considered sensible. The general character of the measures afforded the villagers the opportunity to compare themselves with other groups. Through these comparisons, a consciousness of the particularity of the locality was formulated. Local life was written into a political context which came to expression in reluctance and evasion. A more manifest resistance only came to expression in the regional movement, which also developed in Jämtland.
Translated title of the contributionThe Reluctant Margins of Welfare. Local practice and state steering in Northern Sweden's inland regions
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Division of Art History and Visual Studies
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1998 Dec 11
Print ISBNs91-88930-39-4
Publication statusPublished - 1998

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 1998-12-11
Time: 10:15
Place: N/A

External reviewer(s)

Name: Ekman, Ann-Kristin
Title: [unknown]
Affiliation: Danderyd


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Art History


  • ethnology
  • Cultural anthropology
  • welfare policies
  • Local identity
  • marginal areas
  • sparsely populated areas
  • resistance.
  • regional movements
  • Kulturantropologi
  • etnologi


Dive into the research topics of 'The Reluctant Margins of Welfare. Local practice and state steering in Northern Sweden's inland regions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this