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Trygghet in a new time? Swedish social democracy and the aggravated socio-cultural politics of immigration

Truedsson, Carl Gustaf Richard (2020) Trygghet in a new time? Swedish social democracy and the aggravated socio-cultural politics of immigration. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis examines and exposes how the heightened socio-cultural salience of immigration in contemporary Sweden affects the traditional party of power, the Social Democrats (SAP), and its understanding and response to the nationalist ‘populist’ party the Sweden Democrats (SD). Through extended ethnographic, survey and archival research in the year leading up to the September 2018 general election, I dissect how these dynamics manifested in Norrköping, a traditional SAP stronghold with a long history of immigration where support for SD has grown considerably. Based on my findings, I argue that the untranslatable Swedish concept of ‘trygghet’ functions as a powerful heuristic device for understanding the 2018 election campaign. Denoting an enveloping sense of safety and comfort, trygghet, and its antipode otrygghet, were increasingly mobilised by both the SAP and SD in the wake of the 2015 European refugee crisis. Among SD supporters and party members I illustrate the resentful power of a mythological nostalgia for a trygghet that is intimately tied to an imagined social democratic Sweden of yesteryear. Within the SAP, however, the aggravated socio-cultural politics of immigration exposed a different register of evocative nostalgias for what the fundamental precepts of social democracy are. Due to the heightened salience of immigration, these competing visions of trygghet came to a forceful head during the election campaign and ultimately proved contentious for the SAP. This thesis contributes original findings to the burgeoning literature on how immigration is reshaping traditional socio-political conflict dimensions. Adopting both ethnographic and geographic sensitivities, it adds to the growing scholarship which takes seriously the everyday contexts in which people make sense and meaning out of socio-politics. By doing so, it exposes the glaringly normative limitations common to both dominant academic and social democratic explanations for the rise of nationalist ‘populism’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Carl Gustaf Richard Truedsson
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Low, Murray and Mace, Alan

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