Stiftelsen för forskning inom områden med anknytning till Östersjöregionen och Östeuropa

Driving forces of democracy. Context and characteristics in the democratization of Finland and Sweden 1890-2020


Ämne: Samtidshistoria
Projektledare: Kjell Östberg
Startår: 2015

In an international comparison, the democracies of Sweden and Finland appear to be unusually stable political cultures. However, this stability has not come into existence from nothing and is not guaranteed to last forever. There is today an evident need in society for deepened knowledge about under which circumstances they have emerged and how they have managed to renew themselves under the challenges of time. Our project aspires to meet this need by opening new perspectives on the emergence, development and challenges of democratic decision making in Sweden and Finland 1890-2020.

The democracies of the Nordic countries have developed in a dynamic force field between three driving forces: 1) national political cultures, 2) geopolitical shifts and 3) the development of the world economy, which has been driven by technological revolutions and changes in the industrial division of labor.

We are striving to investigate how the political cultures in Sweden and Finland have been formed in interaction with these international and transnational driving forces, which has to a large extent contributed to how democratic decision making has taken root and developed. In order to achieve this we will focus on the countries’ civil societies, social movements as well as important individual actors.

It is possible to discern three phases in the development of the driving forces of democracy. These phases are studied by separate subprojects, located at universities in Sweden and Finland.

Subproject 1 is located at Jyväskylä University and examines the influence of administrative traditions, geopolitics and market forces upon the countries’ political cultures and democratic development 1890-1930.

Subproject 2 is located at Helsinki University and analyses the Golden Age of the nation state 1930-1980 from the viewpoints: the forest industry’s political influence, a cross-section analysis of the year 1968 and the role of government controlled broadcasting in creating uniform cultures.

Subproject 3 is located at Södertörn University and focuses primarily on the period 1980-2020. It investigates the role of the parties in political mobilization, the countries’ educational policies, the ideology and practice of gender equality with a special focus upon the equal opportunities ombudsman and the influence of the debate about plan- and market economy upon democracy.