The Swedish Labour Market, c. 1870-1914: A Labour Market Regime without Repression?

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In the literature on Swedish labour market history, it is commonly accepted (Westerståhl 1945, Nycander 2008) that the Swedish state in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was unique in its abstention from anti-union, anti-strike policy. While in other European countries the conflict between employers and workers led to state repression of unions and strikes, the Swedish state was neutral, according to this account of Swedish exceptionalism. Thus, for Nycander (2008), the consensus-oriented ”Swedish model” which is typically dated to the 1930s (Korpi 1983) actually originates from the 1880s and 1890s. The leniency and social liberalism of the Swedish state is variously explained by farmer influence or influence of the social liberal intelligentsia. This paper questions the account of Swedish exceptionalism. It starts from two research questions: one, was the Swedish state indeed uniquely liberal vis-à-vis unionism and strikes, and two, if so, was this because of the political influence of farmers, the power of social liberal ideas, or something else? The paper maps labour market regulation (Master & Servant laws), restrictions of unionists’ speech, protection of strike-breakers, and employer attitudes to answer question one, and to answer question two, the politics behind the policies is discussed. The onclucsion is that (a) the uniqueness of the Swedish labour market regime is overblown, (b) the contributions of farmers to any liberalism in this regard were meagre and contradictory, and (c) that the urban liberal intelligentsia indeed did play a positive role for workers’ rights.


Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Historia
  • Statsvetenskap
Titel på värdpublikation Corporate Policing, Yellow Unionism, and Strikebreaking, 1890–1930: In Defence of Freedom
RedaktörerMatteo Millan, Alessandro Saluppo
Antal sidor17
ISBN (elektroniskt)9780429354243
ISBN (tryckt)9780367374129
StatusPublished - 2020 dec
Peer review utfördNej


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