• Welfare provision in Sweden and the dominant position of the Sap
  • Stoica, Irina Mihaela <1979>


  • SPS/02 Storia delle dottrine politiche


  • There have been almost fifty years since Harry Eckstein' s classic monograph, A Theory of Stable Democracy (Princeton, 1961), where he sketched out the basic tenets of the “congruence theory”, which was to become one of the most important and innovative contributions to understanding democratic rule. His next work, Division and Cohesion in Democracy, (Princeton University Press: 1966) is designed to serve as a plausibility probe for this 'theory' (ftn.) and is a case study of a Northern democratic system, Norway. What is more, this line of his work best exemplifies the contribution Eckstein brought to the methodology of comparative politics through his seminal article, “ “Case Study and Theory in Political Science” ” (in Greenstein and Polsby, eds., Handbook of Political Science, 1975), on the importance of the case study as an approach to empirical theory. This article demonstrates the special utility of “crucial case studies” in testing theory, thereby undermining the accepted wisdom in comparative research that the larger the number of cases the better. Although not along the same lines, but shifting the case study unit of research, I intend to take up here the challenge and build upon an equally unique political system, the Swedish one. Bearing in mind the peculiarities of the Swedish political system, my unit of analysis is going to be further restricted to the Swedish Social Democratic Party, the Svenska Arbetare Partiet. However, my research stays within the methodological framework of the case study theory inasmuch as it focuses on a single political system and party. The Swedish SAP endurance in government office and its electoral success throughout half a century (ftn. As of the 1991 election, there were about 56 years - more than half century - of interrupted social democratic "reign" in Sweden.) are undeniably a performance no other Social Democrat party has yet achieved in democratic conditions. Therefore, it is legitimate to inquire about the exceptionality of this unique political power combination. Which were the different components of this dominance power position, which made possible for SAP's governmental office stamina? I will argue here that it was the end-product of a combination of multifarious factors such as a key position in the party system, strong party leadership and organization, a carefully designed strategy regarding class politics and welfare policy. My research is divided into three main parts, the historical incursion, the 'welfare' part and the 'environment' part. The first part is a historical account of the main political events and issues, which are relevant for my case study. Chapter 2 is devoted to the historical events unfolding in the 1920-1960 period: the Saltsjoebaden Agreement, the series of workers' strikes in the 1920s and SAP's inception. It exposes SAP's ascent to power in the mid 1930s and the party's ensuing strategies for winning and keeping political office, that is its economic program and key economic goals. The following chapter - chapter 3 - explores the next period, i.e. the period from 1960s to 1990s and covers the party's troubled political times, its peak and the beginnings of the decline. The 1960s are relevant for SAP's planning of a long term economic strategy - the Rehn Meidner model, a new way of macroeconomic steering, based on the Keynesian model, but adapted to the new economic realities of welfare capitalist societies. The second and third parts of this study develop several hypotheses related to SAP's 'dominant position' (endurance in politics and in office) and test them afterwards. Mainly, the twin issues of economics and environment are raised and their political relevance for the party analyzed. On one hand, globalization and its spillover effects over the Swedish welfare system are important causal factors in explaining the transformative social-economic challenges the party had to put up with. On the other hand, Europeanization and environmental change influenced to a great deal SAP's foreign policy choices and its domestic electoral strategies. The implications of globalization on the Swedish welfare system will make the subject of two chapters - chapters four and five, respectively, whereupon the Europeanization consequences will be treated at length in the third part of this work - chapters six and seven, respectively. Apparently, at first sight, the link between foreign policy and electoral strategy is difficult to prove and uncanny, in the least. However, in the SAP's case there is a bulk of literature and public opinion statistical data able to show that governmental domestic policy and party politics are in a tight dependence to foreign policy decisions and sovereignty issues. Again, these country characteristics and peculiar causal relationships are outlined in the first chapters and explained in the second and third parts. The sixth chapter explores the presupposed relationship between Europeanization and environmental policy, on one hand, and SAP's environmental policy formulation and simultaneous agenda-setting at the international level, on the other hand. This chapter describes Swedish leadership in environmental policy formulation on two simultaneous fronts and across two different time spans. The last chapter, chapter eight - while trying to develop a conclusion, explores the alternative theories plausible in explaining the outlined hypotheses and points out the reasons why these theories do not fit as valid alternative explanation to my systemic corporatism thesis as the main causal factor determining SAP's 'dominant position'. Among the alternative theories, I would consider Traedgaardh L. and Bo Rothstein's historical exceptionalism thesis and the public opinion thesis, which alone are not able to explain the half century social democratic endurance in government in the Swedish case.


  • 2010-06-28


  • Doctoral Thesis
  • PeerReviewed


  • application/pdf



Stoica, Irina Mihaela (2010) Welfare provision in Sweden and the dominant position of the Sap, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Europa e Americhe: costituzioni, dottrine e istituzioni politiche , 21 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/3166.