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Reviewed by:
  • Science for Welfare and Warfare: Technology and State Initiative in Cold War Sweden
  • Christine Ingebritsen
Science for Welfare and Warfare: Technology and State Initiative in Cold War Sweden. Edited by Per Lundin, Niklas Stenlas, and Johan Gribbe (Sagamore Beach, Mass., Watson Publishing Company, 2010), 314 pp. $49.95

In a compelling interdisciplinary study, Lundin and his colleagues reevaluate the social-engineering capacity of the Swedish state, the use of national myths to justify collective action and enable societal reform(s), and the power behind the decisions to redefine the state from warfare and welfare to information and ecology. No other work combines history, technology, power, reform, agriculture, globalism, and the role of the military and state-led industrialization with the evolution of state-society relations. Relying on theory, practice, and expertise across multiple fields, this edited volume has twelve chapters that cohere well in redefining the ways in which Sweden conveys power at home, and serves as an examplar to others.

The authors examine how, when, and why power is consolidated, and who were the leaders in Sweden during the formative Cold War era. According to the authors, Sweden's state-led industrialization relied [End Page 469] on two national myths—neutrality and modernity—and was constructed by "men of the state" or "reform technocrats" who shared an engineering mentality during the period from 1945 to 1975. "In one sector after another, government committees were assigned to survey the needs and propose reforms, new institutions were formed to house and provide the necessary expertise, and large-scale technological programmes were launched to achieve the goals agreed upon" (9). In every aspect of society—including food, housing, women's laundry, settlement patterns, banking, industry, etc.—"large-scale, techno-scientific structures and systems of regulation played their roles" (198).

The authors promote the image of a rational, omnipotent state in Sweden's early years. Yet, later, from the 1970s through the early 1990s, the capacity to retain such state-led power and control became diffused because of enhanced consumer and citizen participation, a dissatisfaction with the role of science and technology, and an infusion of neo-liberalism and market-oriented thinking in Swedish politics (263). Unlike Geyer, Ingebritsen, and Moses, the authors do not view Europeanization and globalization as significant causes of this weakening of centralized authority.1

Sweden's military state developed around the myth of neutrality, but this tendency was not only a national phenomenon. The authors document significant Nordic and American influences, which place the book in a unique category of blurring boundaries between domestic and global influences on state-building. The authors point to strategic cooperation in meteorology as a legacy of partnership between Norway and Sweden in the Nordic Defense Union; Sweden also maintained a secret partnership with the United States during the Cold War (139).

Deregulation of the Swedish state also included social dissatisfaction with industrial agriculture, which created a movement reminiscent of those involving local, ecological food in other advanced industrial societies. When the neoliberal shift occurred, so too did the rise of the information society, as a post-Fordist project.

The most interesting findings of this volume concern the ways in which Sweden has moved from a controlled, state-led rationalism to a market-oriented, ecological, and information society. Sweden went in this direction earlier than other parts of the world. Its economy has remained prosperous, and the government continues to invest in the human capital necessary for competition in a new, knowledge-based global market-place. There is much to learn from Sweden's social reforms, as well as its from its transformation into a successful forerunner of the "sustainable knowledge society."

The volume is recommended reading for everyone interested in Scandinavian studies, international political economy, Swedish history, [End Page 470] and the role of ecology and information technology in creating new markets and new ways of engaging in a digital age.

Christine Ingebritsen
University of Washington


1. Robert Geyer, Ingebritsen, and Jonathan Wayne Moses, Globalization, Europeanization, and the End of Scandinavian Social Democracy (New York, 2000).



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pp. 469-471
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