The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

The labour movement in the Baltic Sea region: a new world of crises and insecurity (1970-2010)

Field: Samtidshistoria
Project leader: Kjell Östberg
Starting year: 2013

The research project “The Labour Movement in the Baltic Sea Region (Arioso)” has been working as a close-nit research environment at Södertörn University since 1997. In different constellations but with a constant inner circle the project has since then systematically tackled its main focus: To understand the general outlines of the social development in the Baltic Sea region during “the short 20th century” by focusing on the two branches of the labour movement, social democracy and communism and their endeavour to – in competition with each other – gain influence and power over this development. With this research project as its basis Arioso has at the same time developed into an important environment for research into the political parties and trade unions of the labour movement and for developing theoretical frameworks for this field of research.

A point of departure has been Eric Hobsbawm’s description of “the short 20th Century” as a triptych: “The Age of Catastrophe” from the beginning of the First World War to the aftermaths of WWII was followed by three decades of “Golden Age” of both capitalism and the labour movement. The final period, the one we still live in, is a period of breakdowns, insecurity and war. In accordance with this periodisation we divided the project into three phases.

We have now reached the third and concluding part: “The labour movement in the Baltic Sea region: a new world of crises and insecurity (1970-2010)”
The regulation- and hegemony-theoretical starting point that we developed in our research environment will serve as general theoretical framework and heuristic tool in the project.
In five subprojects we will try to find the answers to what the implosion of state-socialism meant to the different parts of the labour movement in east and west; to the welfare systems and the changing role of intellectuals. Every substudy is at the same time aiming at applying a longer historical perspective using the results of our earlier research. Additionally a final project will outline a synthesis of the whole program and initiate an auto-reflexive discussion of the validity of our theoretical tools.