Seminar on Politics, History and State-Making: Erik Bengtsson
Erik Bengtsson, Associate Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economic History, will give a talk on the topic "Reconsidering the Role of Farmer Politics in Swedish Democratization".
In discussions of Scandinavian democratization, it is commonplace to argue that long-standing farmer representation in parliament and a lack of feudalism facilitated a democratic-participatory civic culture within the peasant farmer class – and perhaps the population at large. This essay questions this interpretation for the Swedish case, based on a re-interpretation of farmer politics on the national level from the two-chamber system representation reform of 1866-67 to the alliance between the farmers’ party and Social Democracy in 1933. I argue that Swedish farmers did not organize themselves, independent of noble and gentry estate owners, until the 1920s, and that they did not play the role of an independent pro-democratic force. On the contrary, farmers’ broad-based organizations with a democratic, participatory culture in the 1920s and 1930s appears to have been heavily influenced by the political culture of liberals and the labour movement, which in democratic society facilitated a re-shaping of Swedish farmer politics, leaving the old (subservient) alliance with estate owners behind. It was not democratic farmers who gave rise to Social Democracy – it was Social Democracy which caused farmers to become democratic.