The Myrdals’ Eugenicist Roots


Alva and Gunnar Myrdal's Kris i Befolkningsfragen (1934) has led a double life, long celebrated as the intellectual blueprint of the Sweden’s cradle-to-grave welfare state, and more recently decried for its advocacy of sterilization of the “feeble-minded." This paper situates Kris in its political moment in 1930s Sweden, proposing that the Myrdals' arguments in favor of sterilization were not rooted in deeply held convictions, but rather were a political tactic designed to neutralize and overcome conservative hostility to the institutionalization of social welfare provisions as a response to the perceived demographic crisis of the time.