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Reconsidering the Role of Farmer Politics in Swedish Democratization

Erik Bengtsson

No 205, Lund Papers in Economic History from Lund University, Department of Economic History

Abstract: In discussions of Scandinavian democratization, it is commonplace to argue that long-standing farmer representation in parliament and a lack of feudalism encouraged a democratic-participatory civic culture within the peasant farmer class – or perhaps in the population as a whole. The present essay questions this interpretation in the Swedish case. It centers on a re-interpretation of farmer politics at the national level from a two-chamber system of representation after the 1866-67 reform to the alliance between the farmers’ party and Social Democracy in 1933 and offers a new analytical account of the way that one class’s attitude to democratic inclusion can change over time, owing to changed political and economic relationships to other classes. I show that Swedish farmers did not organize themselves independently of nobles and land-owners until the 1920s, and that they did not play the role of an independent pro-democratic force. On the contrary, the broad-based organizations of farmers in the 1920s and 1930s, with their democratic, participatory culture, appear to have been heavily influenced by the political culture of liberals and the labor movement, which in democratic society opened the door to a re-shaping of Swedish farmer politics that abandoned the old (subservient) alliance with estate owners. It was not democratic farmers who gave rise to Social Democracy – rather, it was Social Democracy that caused farmers to become democratic. Understanding farmer politics correctly also opens up a new understanding of the determinants of Swedish democratization.

Keywords: democratization; agrarian politics; Sweden; class structure; farmers; Sonderweg (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H10 N53 N54 P16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 32 pages
Date: 2019-08-21
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his, nep-hpe, nep-pke and nep-pol
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