Sweden and the social democratic utopia of the rational society

Mauricio Rojas explains how Sweden became a developed country with relatively low taxation before its Welfare State was set up, which as it spread, began the decline of the economy until it led to the crisis of the 1990s, which led to a series of reforms that significantly modified the role of the State in society.

The reformist turn of Swedish social democracy

The Social Democratic Party, which already in 1917 became the first electoral force in Sweden, was born towards the end of the 19th century under the influence of German Social Democracy and its first programs were simply translations of the German programs of Gotha and Erfurt. However, his Marxist-style rhetoric would soon be corrected by a reformist praxis rooted in Sweden's own tradition of compromise and consensus-seeking.

A decisive step in the history of the party was taken in 1917, when the majority of the party resisted following the revolutionary impulse coming from Russian Bolshevism, confirming the reformist, democratic and peaceful path that had been followed before. The second step of great importance was the responsible and conciliatory attitude adopted when entering, for the first time, to form a government towards the end of 1917. In this context, the desire not to stir up the revolutionary agitation of the time or take advantage of the situation to question the existence of the monarchy.

Despite the above, the definitive orientation of Swedish Social Democracy was yet to be resolved and various phalanxes were struggling to determine the course to follow within a party that was still faithful to the rhetoric of class struggle and whose strategic objective it was the socialization of the means of production and the overcoming of the capitalist system. In short, it was a revolutionary party in terms of ends, but reformist and democratic in terms of means. This is what will soon change substantially.

The 1920s were characterized by parliamentary instability and the electoral advance of the Social Democracy, which obtained more than 40 percent of the vote in 1924, which aroused fear and strong opposition in important segments of the population. The climate of polarization was evident in the 1928 election, known as the “ Cossack election ” ( kosackval ) due to the anti-Social Democratic propaganda that showed Cossacks besieging the Swedish population, which represented a setback for Social Democracy and a breakthrough for the Conservatives. and the communists.

This electoral defeat was a warning bell for the leaders of social democracy, who understood that it depended on themselves that the party was not seen as a threat to social peace and national unity, nor to the foundations of the country's economic progress. . To achieve this, the party had to be transformed both in terms of its organization and its ideology. This key transformation is associated with the figure of the most prominent of all its leaders, Per Albin Hansson, who assumed the leadership of the party in 1925 and became prime minister, except a few months, from September 1932 until his death in October 1946.

Above all, it was necessary to discipline the party and the trade union movement, eliminating the influence of its most radical sectors and fighting the communists relentlessly. As Bengt Schüllerqvist says in his doctoral thesis on the subject: “The Social Democratic Party changed drastically shortly after the electoral defeat (in the year 28). In the 1930s we are in the presence of a strongly unified ideological and organizational party. The factional struggle was replaced by a more monolithic leadership that tightly controlled the party. Also, the influence on the trade union movement increased considerably”.

Simultaneously, the fight against the communists, which had previously been marked by a certain ambiguity, now took on the character of a veritable crusade that would extend for decades: "We must confront them everywhere, attack their activities relentlessly, reduce them to insignificance," demanded Per Albin Hansson as early as 1929.

On the other hand, it was necessary to put aside the rhetoric of the class struggle and the proposals for the socialization of the economy too, instead, formulate an inclusive project for the country, which would encompass all social sectors and would not lead to radical change. of the economic system. Folkhemmet(“the home of the people”) was the metaphor that Hansson chose to convey the new social democratic project. As it expresses it well, this metaphor appeals directly to the feeling of ethnic community typical of the Swedish people. Hansson had been elaborating on this metaphor in the early 1920s, but achieved its definitive formulation in a famous speech in January 1928 in which he defined the society of his dreams as a large family, where no one was too many and who knew how to love all his children for the same, a good home where there are no “privileged or neglected, spoiled or rejected children” and class divisions have disappeared. At the same time, he had been developing the idea of ​​a popular patriotism that even led him to conclude some of his speeches with “Long live the homeland!

Along with this, the party gradually distances itself from the proposals about a radical change in the economic system until, at the congress held in March 1932, it abandons the basic idea of ​​socialist thought with Marxist roots about the abolition of private property. bourgeois over the means of production to replace it with the orientation of economic development through various mechanisms of planning and state intervention. 

These ideas will form the basis, from 1932 onwards, of Per Albin Hansson's long tenure as Prime Minister of Sweden. His rise to power was the direct result of the electoral victory that his party achieved, amid the turbulence of the economic crisis, in September 1932 with more than 41 percent of the vote. This puts social democracy in a position of strength, but without a majority of its own in parliament and still far from achieving political and cultural hegemony at the national level. Those will be Hansson's great objectives and the key steps to achieve them will be two famous pacts or “class alliances”. The first was sealed in May 1933, with the peasant class, and the second, in December 1938, with the great Swedish industrial bourgeoisie.

The antecedents of this latest agreement are interesting since they speak not only of an increasingly close collaboration between social democratic unions and businessmen but of a social democracy that, with its moderate and responsible leadership of the country, had earned wide respect. It was no longer a threat, but the party of consensus, social peace, and good government. This was especially noticeable in the increasingly friendly relations between its top leader and the most notorious business circles. The 1935 celebration of Per Albin Hansson's fiftieth birth anniversary in the ballroom of Stockholm's Carlton Hotel was a memorable occasion that saw all of Sweden's great bankers and industrial leaders come together to pay tribute to what was rapidly becoming a "father of the country" (landsfader ). The 1936 elections consecrated the rise of the Social Democratic Party, which for the first time exceeded 45 percent of the vote to reach in 1940 what would be its absolute electoral record with 53.8 percent of the vote.

In this circumstance, the key to the conquest of a solid political hegemony by the Social Democracy resided in its ability not to be intoxicated by its own successes and the overwhelming force that it had thanks to its electoral weight combined with the massive presence of the unions and popular movements controlled by the party. Sweden was, so to speak, in her hands and she could have chosen to impose her will to the letter, but she did not. In other words, the party knew how to underutilize its power to gain hegemony, that is, the general acceptance of its vision and leadership of the country.

This was clearly manifested in the policy followed in the 1930s. The reforms promoted were cautious and both the size of the State and the levels of taxation continued to be lower than those of other developed countries. The latter even fell between 1933 and 1937, remaining below 15 percent of GDP until 1940. Beneath this surface of moderation, however, was beginning to unfold that much more ambitious vision which would in time make Sweden an exceptional country for the power, breadth, and aspirations of their State. But this would be done by deepening the hegemony until the social democratic project became a modern incarnation of the political-cultural tradition of the country and in the north shared by all the social and political forces of the country.

The utopia of a rational society 

The strength of social democracy in the 1930s was not only due to its large base of popular support, the inclusiveness of its political project, and its governmental moderation. Of at least equal significance was the thriving capitalist economy that promoted a rapid improvement in the living conditions of the Swedish people and made possible the social reforms that would gradually be implemented. Its bases were established in the decades before World War I.and the large companies founded in that period continue to be the great industrial pillar of the country to this day. However, the short but severe postwar crisis (1921-22) had a great impact that allowed, in the purest style of Schumpeter's creative destruction, the elimination of less competitive firms and the reorientation of productive resources towards new industries that will show great vigor.

In this way, Sweden was able to face the crisis of the early 1930s with a healthy industrial structure with great potential, which made possible a rapid exit from it, which began before the application of the cautious anti-recession measures implemented by the social democracy in 1933. As the prominent economic historian Lennart Schön states: "In reality, the new government failed to implement its measures before the recovery from the crisis was already a fact." Industrial production recovered vigorously after an initial sharp decline, and so did industrial employment, which in 1939 was almost 30 percent above the level reached in 1929. In turn, in 1939 GDP per capita was more than 24 percent of the pre-crisis level. This was liberal, capitalist Sweden's generous legacy to social democratic Sweden, giving it an extraordinary economic base of support whose full impact would be felt in the decades after World War II, doubling the country's GDP per capita between 1945 and 1965.

The industrial power of Sweden was the foundation of the great progress experienced during the decades of Social Democratic hegemony, but it also provided the organizational model from which to build “the people's home” that Per Albin Hansson spoke of. This model, the large modern factory, was congenial with the socialist project of social planning, where the State and its experts would take the place that its executives and engineers had within the industry. It was a great project of social engineering, aimed at creating a society based on the best technical solutions for the needs experienced by citizens. The purpose was to build a rational society, where citizens were helped by the State to live better lives than they, based on their limited resources and knowledge, could liveThis was the great utopia that guided the consensus of the era of social democratic hegemony. Its power was such that practically all the political forces in the country made it their own, reducing politics to an increasingly technical discussion about the best ways to achieve shared goals.   

The guiding idea of ​​this great project was to "fix people's lives" through beneficial interventions by experts in various fields. This expression, which so well characterizes the ambitions of the great social democratic hegemonic project, serves as the title of the classic work on the subject, Att lägga live till rätta, published in 1995 by the historian Yvonne Hirdman . in the daily life of citizens  their ways of fixing up their homes, taking care of their bodies, eating, relating to their children and even making love to “fix their lives”, that is, to bring them closer to a rational ideal scientifically defined by the state techno-bureaucracy.

In this regard, Hirdman cites, among many examples, the report of the 1936 commission on the creation of a "state sexual morality" based, to put it in the report's own words, on "a rationalist revision of attitudes in sexual matters", to the extent that “the changes under consideration in the sexual life of individuals are not a private matter, since society cannot look with indifference on what happens in this field”. This same ambition to fix people's lives and create a superior human type is highlighted by Jonas Frykman., one of the most prestigious contemporary Swedish ethnologists, as follows: "Those were the golden days of the belief that a powerful and autonomous government was in a position to direct the country's economy, administer its people and trust that scientists would provide the foundations of the reform program (...) The 'new man' now spoken of would be trained according to scientific aims in the reformed school, would learn to organize his family life simply and practically, and would be instructed as to how to take care of your body."

Thus, especially by the powerful Directorate of Social Affairs, a very wide range of intervention mechanisms and recommendations were elaborated, using which the Swedish people would be brought up to the height of the utopia of a rational society. However, and this is key to not misunderstanding what was happening, state ambitions were enthusiastically supported by a population eager for modernity and progress, the overwhelming majority of whom saw state interventions as a natural way to promote shared goals. As always in Sweden, state action was combined and strengthened by impulses from below, giving it extraordinary strength and breadth.

In this context, the undoubtedly most sinister aspect of this will to fix people's lives cannot fail to be mentioned: the intervention in reproduction itself, implementing the most extensive program that has ever existed of forced sterilization of women considered unsuitable to be mothers. In this way, more than 60 thousand women were sterilized between 1935 and 1975. Among the most common reasons given by state experts to justify sterilization are the following: “feeble-minded”, “imbecile”, “lazy”, “of asocial inclination”, “racially mixed”, and “of gypsy blood”. Thus, social engineering led to genetic engineering, following a sad line of development that began in 1922 with the creation of the state Institute of Racial Biology in the city of Uppsala (the first motion to create the institute was presented in 1920 jointly by the leaders of the Conservative and Social Democratic parties).

All this ambitious project of "rationalization" of the life of individuals rested on a great implicit pact that established a clear division of labor between the private and public sectors. The private sector would enjoy great autonomy in the industrial, commercial, and financial spheres, receiving from the State the best possible conditions for its development, including the education and training of the labor force, as well as social security for workers. For its part, the State, thanks to a growing tax flow, would be in charge of social and urban planning, as well as developing the great welfare services: education, health, care for children and the elderly, social assistance, etc.

harvest time

The years following World War II are usually referred to in Sweden as "harvest time" ( skördetiden). With an intact industry, thanks to the neutrality maintained during the war, in a Europe devastated by the war, Sweden was able to enter a phase of rapid growth, full employment, and modernization. Thus, in 1965 the country would become one of the most prosperous in the world in terms of per capita income. For its people, this represented the massive entry into the consumer society, and for its rulers the possibility of realizing, in an environment of extraordinary consensus, those dreams of a rational and planned society that had already been outlined in the 1930s. The very development under the war had shown the great possibilities open to the planning and expansion of the state.

This is how Yvonne Hirdman summarizes the foundations of the "political expansion" of the 1940s: "The grandeur of planning ideas was no less now than in the 1930s. What happened is that the ideas of a scientifically planned society and scientifically planned human beings now became part of common sense about the correct way to do politics. Social engineering thus spread from the vanguard to the great mass of politicians and social thinkers.

The most significant consequence of these ideas will be an expansion of the attributions and the size of the State that will go beyond everything previously known. This process will be carried out with a broad political consensus about the reasons and convenience of state interventions in the most diverse areas, including those that make up the most private spheres of our lives. As Emil Uddhammar comments in his remarkable doctoral thesis on Parties and the Great State: “Public expansion during the 20th century occurred without any party offering consistent and principled resistance (…) On many occasions, the center-right parties have wanted to go much further than social democracy in terms of responsibilities and regulations public (...) a technocratic-political vision of reality came to predominate in such a way that the separation between the public and the private disappeared from political thought”.

One of the central consequences of this great consensus was the strong development of corporatism in its two fundamental spheres: administrative and labor, to which must be added the strong influence of corporately organized interests in the legislative process itself and the close collaboration between politicians, state entities, companies, unions, and social organizations established at various levels.

Administrative corporatism, that is, the direct participation of various organized interests in the decisions of public entities will extend in this period to a long series of areas, following the model developed in the 1910s about the working market. Thousands of representatives of the most diverse organizations will become part of hundreds of directories of public entities, whether at the national, regional, or municipal levels. To this must be added the extensive corporate presence in various courts, such as those dedicated to resolving lawsuits in labor, insurance, market, or housing sector matters.

Regarding labor corporatism, consolidated through the agreement with the businessmen of 1938, it is interesting to note that its essence was self-regulation by the organizations involved in labor relations, reducing to a minimum both political-state interference in them and the freedom of individuals and companies to establish working conditions that differ from the regulations set by corporate agreements.

This corporate dominance in the workplace reached its peak at the beginning of the 1950s when the Confederation of Employers (SAF) and the National Trade Union Organization (LO) began not only to set the regulatory framework for labor relations but also salary levels by centralizing negotiations on remuneration and other aspects related to them. A product of this is the famous “ solidarity salary policy ” that defines national salary ranges, promoting a broad process of rationalization and industrial restructuring.

This leads to a situation where the progress of the country will depend, to a large extent, on the agreements reached by two powerful corporate organizations fully backed by government policy and the political class as a whole. What the parliament decided was, in fact, much less important than the agreements reached behind closed doors between the SAF and LO delegations. It was the so-called “Sweden of organizations” ( Organizations-Sverige ) at its best.

Of equal importance to these national agreements and the corporate organization of the management of the state, entities was the close collaboration established between sectoral authorities, national, regional, or local public administrations, companies, and trade unions or civil society organizationsIn this way, the so-called “iron triangles” were formed, which in fact controlled the development in various spheres of Swedish life, including national defense.

A detailed study of these alliances can be found in the doctoral thesis by Peter Billing and Mikael Stigendal on Sweden's third-largest city and the cradle of its labor movement: MalmöA relevant example in this regard is what happened in the housing sector, absolutely controlled by a close alliance between local politicians, municipal planners, leaders of social movements and social democratic unions, large businessmen in the construction sector, and their corporate representatives as well as prominent benches. This political-business-corporate complex determined, without any counterweight, not only the destination of public investments but also the set of housing policies that Malmö would follow. Out of this came the most grandiose, and grandly unsuccessful, plans for the massive construction of enormous “rational housing complexes” for the rational society of the social democratic utopia.   

These antecedents allow us to analyze more precisely the features of the peculiar liberal-corporate system that will characterize Swedish democracy during the long social-democratic hegemony. As we have seen, democracy, at its different levels, is exercised within the framework of a compact network of relationships and alliances that condition the decisions that are made and, not least, how they are applied. That is to say, both the formation of democratic decisions and their transformation into concrete measures come to be decisively influenced by a constellation of corporate interests that in this way conditions the functioning of the liberal forms of Swedish democracy  broad political and civil liberties. as well as impeccable electoral and parliamentary processes  giving them, as democratic praxis, a clearly collectivist orientation, where group interests take precedence over individual autonomy.

This finding allows us to delve into what we can call, following the terminology in use, " democratic corporatism " to differentiate it from the authoritarian-fascist type, where corporate organizations are a product and are subordinated to the coercion of the State. In contrast to this, it has been suggested that the distinctive characteristic of democratic corporatism would be the independence of corporate organizations from political power, thus being able to genuinely represent the interests of their associates. However, a study of the real praxis of Swedish corporatism seriously questions this premise, but without falling into the fascist corporate model. Instead of relationships of dependency or independence, what is observed is a profound interdependence between political power, public administration, the business sector, corporate organizations, and the associative world in general. They all depend, on the one hand, on the mutual commitments and exchanges that they imply and, on the other, on the ability of each party to discipline both its constituents and eventual outsiders regarding respect for the agreements reached.

This last aspect is key to understanding the dynamics of this type of corporatism, where any interest or person not organized or not included in the negotiation tends to be left in a clearly disadvantaged situation. This creates a powerful incentive to organize and gain a monopoly on recognized corporate representation. This fight for exclusive representation in the sphere of civil society was won, with the help of the State and the rest of the corporate organizations, almost without exception by the social-democratic organizations, which sometimes, as in the case of the unions, they did not hesitate to use the most drastic methods to eliminate or marginalize alternative organizations or eventual competitors within the organizations already controlled by social democracy.

In the mid-1960s, the triumph of the social democratic model of society seemed definitive. All political and ideological resistance to it had ceased, the center-right parties revolved like planets around the social-democratic sun and a country in deep social peace saw its well-being increase from year to year. The State successively extended its protective mantle, the corporate model reached its maximum expression and the most diverse organizations collaborated harmoniously in the administration of progress that seemed to have no end. In the September 1968 election, the Social Democracy again obtained, for the second time in a parliamentary election, more than 50 percent of the votes, and their adherents sang enthusiastically about the wonderful life of the Swedish people who reveled in traveling "on the inflatable mattress that carries us through the sea of ​​well-being." However, just then everything was about to change.

The twilight of the social democratic utopia

Generally, there is a long history behind those changes that suddenly and abruptly appear on the surface of social and political life. This was the case in Sweden. The very success of the corporate model created a powerful constellation of organized forces that watched over their interests, generating an institutional framework and alliances that tended to preserve the current structures, strengthening insiders or incumbents and making it difficult to include new actors and perspectives. This process of increasing structural rigidity as a function of the strength of organized interests has been well studied by Mancur Olson in his classic book on the rise and fall of nations. We can call it “ the success trap” and it particularly strongly affects nations, regions, and organizations that have been especially successful during a certain period of development.

In the Swedish case, corporate structures and the strong presence of the state were extraordinarily effective under the conditions of a mature industrial society and could not fail to encounter increasing problems of adaptation in the transition to a post-industrial society. The very model of a society built by social democracy was a large replica of the organizational logic of big industry, a true " social Fordism ".” that under the command of its social engineers produced standardized solutions on a large scale to satisfy all kinds of social needs. Furthermore, the strength of social democracy was given by a social structure with a large presence of industrial workers and their organizations, just as the strength and well-being of the country depended on the strength and competitiveness of its large export industries.

Changes of great importance are going to take place in these two aspects. Since the mid-1940s, employment in the industrial sector stagnated at around 33 percent of total employment, beginning to decline in the 1960s. In relative terms, the decline began in 1963 and in absolute terms in 1966, losing some 200,000 jobs in the coming twenty years. In turn, employment in public services experienced a spectacular increase, tripling its number between 1960 and 1985 and going from 12.4 to 32.4 percent of total employment, which, adding the rest of the activities in the sector public sector, raises employment in this sector to 40 percent of the country's total.

This evolution is part of an enormous change in the productive and social structure of the country, where employment in agriculture, industry, and construction fell from two-thirds to just over one-third of the total between 1945 and 1985. In short, the mechanisms, visions, and utopias that laid the foundations of the social-democratic hegemony, with its foundational agreements and consensuses, belonged to a society already outdated in terms of development that they had promoted. A middle-class society had replaced the old worker-peasant society(where more than 90 percent of the population had barely attended basic school) that saw Per Albin Hansson come to power in the early 1930s. Social mobility had been extraordinary and educational expansion remarkable, culminating in the 1930s. of 1960 with a dramatic expansion of higher education that saw the number of its students multiply 3.5 times between 1960 and 1970. As was said at the time, the children of the "village home" had become adults, but the system He continued to see and treat them as children whose lives should be "fixed."

Thus, a crack or structural tension was opened between the collectivist and corporative conformation of the Swedish political system and development that promoted individual autonomy and empowered citizens, materially and cognitivelyIn the Swedish debate, the concept of “ individualization ” has been used to characterize this development, which contradicts a system based on the pre-eminence of large organizations and state interventions. As Tommy Möller sums it up in his Swedish Political History: “Beneath the stable surface, changes were already in sight during the 1960s (…) At the same time as collectivismcharacterized the political system, and individualization began to be present in all areas of social life: the social, economic and cultural ties that had previously limited the sphere of action of individuals were weakened. Parallel to this emancipation, confidence in the authorities diminished.

For its part, a change in the economic scenario that had been brewing for some time will soon become clear. In the mid-1970s, the long boom of the post-war years would definitely come to an end, giving way to more than two decades of increasingly unsatisfactory development that culminated, at the beginning of the 1990s, in a profound crisis that It comes to a dramatic close the cycle of boom and bust of the development model that began in the 1930s. Thus, Sweden, which in 1975 was the fourth most prosperous country among developed nations, would be relegated to 14th place in 1993.

The causes of this notable change in economic fate are diverse and it is not the case to analyze them carefully here (the interested reader can consult my book Sweden: The other model ). These are global phenomena that will affect practically all developed economies but will have a particularly strong impact on societies, such as the Swedish one, with corporate structures of great power, high levels of state intervention, and extensive public monopolies. In them, the resistance to change will be, for the reasons already outlined, extraordinarily vigorous and prolonged.

This is the background of the crisis of the democratic-corporate system that Sweden experienced during the final decades of the 20th century. The same year that the Social Democracy celebrated one of its most spectacular electoral victories, that of 1968, the echoes of the European youth revolt reached Sweden. The occupation of the Students' House in Stockholm at the end of May of that year has remained a premonitory milestone of what would be a sudden and unexpected change in the social and political scene. Anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist slogans would soon resonate in the streets of Sweden's cities and a new extra-parliamentary left would deploy a noisy agitation against the model of consensus and pacts typical of past decades. The Social Democracy and the big trade unions attached to the party will now be described as submissive collaborators of big Swedish capitalism and “lackeys” of US imperialism. In turn, in December 1969 the great "wild strike" broke out in the iron ore mines in northern Sweden, initiating a time of growing labor unrest. Already in 1970, an unprecedented number of labor disputes was registered, more than 130 strikes, and in 1975 there were 289 strikes, almost all of them illegal or "wild".

This atmosphere of agitation finds its most transcendental expression in the gradual radicalization that the Social Democracy and the unions affiliated with the party experienced during this period. This coincides with the arrival, in October 1969, to the presidency of the party and to the position of the prime minister of a leader of a political disposition and a social origin very different from that of the previous social democratic leaders: Olof PalmeThe result of this process of radicalization will be the breakdown of the consensus and pacts that had founded the long social-democratic hegemony, not least those referring to the relationship between social democracy, unions, and the State, on the one hand, and the business world, on the other. In other words, social democracy loses its traditional moderation and it goes from underutilizing its power to gain hegemony to overutilizing it, thus destroying the foundations of its own hegemony.

In the mid-1970s, new legislation considerably increased union power within companies as well as state intervention in their management. But the decisive step in this field would be taken by the great social democratic trade union center (LO), which in 1971 brought up to date the issue of company ownership and in 1975 launched a proposal to create the so-called "employees' funds" ( löntagarfonder) which was nothing more than a project of gradual socialization of the large Swedish companies (this would operate through the annual distribution of one-fifth of the profits obtained in the form of special share issues to collective funds administered by the unions. This should already be around the year 2000 having transferred control from the big companies to the unions). Its creator, the economist Rudolf Meidner, clearly expressed the revolutionary meaning of the proposal in an interview published that year in the official organ of the LO: “The capitalist system is, plain and simple, immoral (…) What we want is to dispossess the owners of the capital of the power they exercise precisely through their property. All experiences show that it is not enough to influence and control. Ownership plays a decisive role. In this regard, it is enough to refer to Marx and Wigforss: fundamentally, we cannot change society without also changing property”.

That same year, Olof Palme visited Cuba and was received in glory and majesty by Fidel CastroIn a speech in Santiago de Cuba, he expressed his socialist faith before a jubilant crowd: “The question about the organization of production plays a central role in the emancipation of human beings. That is why we want to realize economic democracy, involve all the people in the transformation of society, and put technical and economic development at the service of the needs of the people. We want to put the right to decide on production and its distribution in the hands of all the people and free citizens from dependence on any power group that is beyond their control.”

The salary fund proposal was unanimously approved by the LO congress in 1976 and on the front page of its newspaper it was possible to read, in large letters, a headline that would make history: “With the funds we take it successively”, referring to large companies. A couple of years later, at its 1978 congress, the party approved the proposal, with modifications. With this, social democracy returned to the type of radical questioning of the foundations of the capitalist system that it had abandoned at the end of the 1920s, thus breaking with the legacy of Per Albin Hansson and with one of the essential premises of the consensus that since the 1930s ruled the country.

For the business sector, as for the Swedish center-right, it was a bitter awakening after a long idyll with social democracy and a deep conviction that the ideologies were dead. The political climate became tense, controversies escalated, and the Social Democracy suffered a historic defeat in the 1976 election, losing power after exercising it almost without interruption for forty years. Finally, the streets of Stockholm witnessed a spectacle of which they had no memory: on October 4, 1983, the day of the opening of parliament, nearly one hundred thousand people will march from all over the country and led by businessmen both large and small against funds.

Simultaneously, the system in force since 1952 of centralized wage agreements between the Confederation of Employers (SAF) and the great Social Democratic trade union center (LO), which would come to group more than two million workers, entered into crisis in 1980, the year in which the largest labor disputes in Swedish history. The system will then gradually deteriorate during the 1980s until it ceased to function completely in the early 1990s.

The culmination of this process of rupture of the great agreements has directly to do with administrative corporatism. In 1990, the SAF decided to say "goodbye to corporatism" and unilaterally abandon, as of January 1, 1992, all instances of corporate participation in the management bodies of public entities, except labor and insurance courts. as well as the boards of pension funds.

The argument to motivate such a transcendental step, which involved removing some five thousand representatives from various directories, had a markedly ideological profile, but, according to the study by Bo Rothstein and Jonas Bergström on the subject, it could have been, basically, of a much more pedestrian issue: the representatives of the State had tended to abandon neutrality in corporate bodies by siding with the unions. With this, the balance that corporatism presupposes to function legitimately had been lost, becoming a kind of trap that tied business representatives to decisions that they could not influence or share.

In September 1991, amid the economic crisis, the Social Democracy lost the elections, and power passed into the hands of a conservative Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, something that had not happened since the last government of Arvid Lindman, which had ended in June 1930. But the most significant thing was that for the first time social democracy was defeated by a coalition of parties that openly questioned the social democratic utopia of a rational society and unambiguously expressed a desire to change the existing social system. Sweden thus entered a time of great changes that were going to profoundly transform both its society and its State and the ways of organizing democracy.