Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma (1944) as a Swedish Text: A Further Analysis


In the late 1930s, the Carnegie Corporation commissioned Gunnar Myrdal to direct a comprehensive survey of white-black relations in the United States, with the expectation that he would approach the topic “with an entirely fresh mind.” In selecting him, the foundation’s president had supposed that a social scientist from Sweden—a country he presumed to be ethnically homogeneous—would bring few assumptions to an investigation of American race relations. And it is true that Myrdal had little experience with the topic. However, his prior work as an economic theorist, population expert, and politician in Sweden informed his analysis in An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944). In particular, it helped him define both his target audience and the extent of the policy program that he recommended.