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SCAN4301 - Scandinavian Social Democracy

Value: 0.5 course units
Dr Mary Hilson
Teaching structure:
one assessed 2,500 word essay (30%); written examination (70%).

Module Description:

For many outsiders, social democracy has been almost synonymous with Scandinavia during much of the twentieth century. The Swedish Social Democratic Party has been perhaps the most successful labour party in the world, and social democracy has played a formative role in all of the Scandinavian countries, particularly in the development of the Scandinavian welfare state.

The module explores some key themes in the development of Scandinavian Social Democracy, ranging from the foundation of the parties in the late 19th century to the challenges and uncertainties facing social democratic parties at the beginning of the C21st. The main emphasis is on the Swedish Social Democratic Party, since it is this party above all which has attracted most international attention, and generated most of the scholarly literature, but we will also consider the similarities and differences between the Swedish party and those of Norway and Denmark (and to a lesser extent, Finland).

In this module we will follow the main developments in social democracy throughout the twentieth century. Related seminars will allow us to discuss in more detail some specific themes, such as ideology and the reform or revolution debate; party organisation and the wider working-class movement; the reasons for social democratic dominance in Scandinavia; and social democratic culture.

No knowledge of a Scandinavian language is required.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

  • Tony Judt, Ill fares the land: a treatise on our present discontents (London: Allen Lane, 2010).
  • Francis Sejersted, The age of social democracy : Norway and Sweden in the twentieth century, translated by Richard Daly with editing by Madeleine B. Adams (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011).
  • Dimitris Tsarouhas, Social democracy in Sweden: the threat from a globalized world (London: Tauris Academic Studies,   2008).
  • Robert Ladrech and Philippe Marlière, Social Democratic Parties in the European Union (1999).
  • Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century (1996).
  • Geoff Eley, Forging democracy: the history of the left in Europe, 1850-2000 (2002).
  • Sheri Berman, The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century (Cambridge, 2007).
  • Herbert Tingsten, The Swedish Social Democrats: Their Ideological Development, translated Greta Frankel and Patricia Howard-Rosen (Totowa, NJ: Bedminster Press, 1973).