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Klassriket: Socialgruppsindelningen som skillnadsteknologi under 1900-talet
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History of Science and Ideas.
2022 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Description
Abstract [en]

During the 20th century, a number of actors and institutions set out to develop taxonomies of the Swedish population. This thesis examines the most im­portant social classification system, the social group, which despite its great importance in administrative, scientific, commercial, political and media con­texts has received little attention in historical research. Invented by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 1911 to map voters according to their social position, the division enabled Swedes to be hierarchized under the categories of social group I, II or III. The taxonomy became a standard for a number of knowledge-producing institu­tions in their studies of the Swedish class structure: for the nascent market research companies and their assessments of consumers from the 1930s on­wards; for the polling companies’ surveys of public opinion from the 1940s onwards; and for the post-war social science research and government com­mittees’ statistical production about higher education.

The thesis analyses classification systems in use and in movement between actors and contexts. Social taxonomies are understood as difference technol­ogies: by which I mean ways of mapping and studying populations. They link populations together, quantify concepts into precise classifications and enable specific overviews of social structures – knowledge that can then be used as a basis for action and societal interventions. Moreover, the social group division was widely discussed in post-war Swedish press and mediated into images and tables. Actors within media interpreted and used it differently, and as a result, new meaning was created around it. The division was presented by some as cultural communities, while others pointed to it as evidence of a new social phase, characterised by declining class conflicts. Finally, it became the focus for meta-reflections on the societal place and impact of social divisions. Through these mediated engagements, the taxonomy became a given yet con­tested part of the Swedish public sphere.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2022. , p. 82
Series
Uppsala Studies in History of Ideas, ISSN 1653-5197 ; 58
Keywords [en]
the social group division, the history of class divisions, the history of the social sciences, the scientisation of the social, mediation, twentieth century Sweden
National Category
History of Ideas
Research subject
History of Sciences and Ideas
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-481249ISBN: 978-91-513-1562-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-481249DiVA, id: diva2:1686062
Public defence
2022-09-23, Humanistiska teatern, Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3, Uppsala, 10:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2022-09-01 Created: 2022-08-08 Last updated: 2022-09-01
List of papers
1. Klassriket: Klasskunskaper i den svenska partipolitiska sfären, 1911–1940
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Klassriket: Klasskunskaper i den svenska partipolitiska sfären, 1911–1940
2022 (Swedish)In: Historisk Tidskrift, ISSN 0345-469X, E-ISSN 2002-4827, Vol. 142, no 2, p. 185-211Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article investigates the creation and circulation of class knowledge among Sweden’s political parties as Swedish representative democracy took shape, 1911–1940. When the expanded franchise for men was introduced in the general election of 1911, the National Statistics Bureau (SCB) was tasked with categorising voters to measure the effects of the reform. They created a taxonomy made up of three social groups. The study situates this innovation in election statistics in the general interest in social class, which was used as a frame for understanding and intervening in societal matters around 1900. The political scientist Pontus Fahlbeck’s influence on SCB is considered. His taxonomy of society, created 1892, reflected his conviction that a class structure was vital for maintaining and developing Western civilisation and its culture. However, the political parties soon found a way of using SCB’s divisions for their own ends, mobilising it for a variety of political projects. For the Social Democratic Party, the numerical majority of social group III – a class they claimed to represent – legitimised their claim to rule. The conservative parties instead focused on how in their view they were truly democratic because their voters were drawn from all social groups. The article uses insights from the cultural history of statistics – a field which holds numbers to be a form of communication, and which underlines how phenomena and concepts change when quantified – to contribute to the history of class concepts. I show how class was made into statistics, transforming it from a fuzzy category into something concrete, exact, and calculable. Election statistics and Fahlbeck’s taxonomy were the political parties’ shared resource in their pursuit of election wins. Through this process, a common understanding of Swedish society as ordered into three societal groups was established, which would prove highly influential continuing into the second half of the twentieth century.

Keywords
Sweden, twentieth century, class, social group, political parties, elections, statistics
National Category
History of Ideas
Research subject
History of Sciences and Ideas; History
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-477350 (URN)000818025300003 ()
Note

English title/Title in WoS: A kingdom of class: Class knowledge in the Swedish political sphere, 1911–1940

Available from: 2022-06-16 Created: 2022-06-16 Last updated: 2022-08-12Bibliographically approved
2. En marknad för klass: Marknads- och opinionsundersökningar som skillnadsmaskiner 1930–1960
Open this publication in new window or tab >>En marknad för klass: Marknads- och opinionsundersökningar som skillnadsmaskiner 1930–1960
2021 (Swedish)In: Lychnos, ISSN 0076-1648, p. 91-113Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article studies the rise of market research and opinion surveys in Sweden from the 1930s and onward. By focusing on the promotion of empirical knowledge by actors between the academic and the commercial world, such as the economist Gerhard Törnqvist, the article shows how new practices of classifying consumers into social classes were established among marketers and advertisers. These approaches were passed on to the Swedish Gallup, which produced opinion surveys from the early 1940s. The final section of the article charts Swedish newspapers’ preoccupation with classifying practices of the Swedish population into classes. The article investigates market research and opinion surveys through following “the social life of methods”, a theoretical perspective that sees methods of knowledge as political. I analyze how a class taxonomy constructed by the Swedish statistical bureau in 1911 migrated and became productive in the commercial sector starting in the 1930s. These taxonomies could be called “difference machines” in that they repeatedly produced statistical differences as new knowledge.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund: , 2021
Keywords
social class, the history of market research and opinion surveys, the commercial life of methods, twentieth century, Sweden
National Category
History of Ideas
Research subject
History of Sciences and Ideas
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-480949 (URN)
Available from: 2022-07-26 Created: 2022-07-26 Last updated: 2022-08-08Bibliographically approved
3. Klass i begåvningsreservens tidevarv: Taxonomiska konflikter inom och genom svensk utbildningsforskning, ca 1945–1960
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Klass i begåvningsreservens tidevarv: Taxonomiska konflikter inom och genom svensk utbildningsforskning, ca 1945–1960
2021 (Swedish)In: Nordic Journal of Educational History, ISSN 2001-7766, E-ISSN 2001-9076, Vol. 8, no 1, p. 59-79Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Class in the age of the pool of talent: Taxonomic struggles in and through Swedish education research, c. 1945–1960. This article studies conceptualisations of social class in Swedish education research, c. 1945–1960. The article follows knowledge produced about talent and class in state commissions and in the newly expanded social sciences, and how it in turn was interpreted and used in political debates and in the media. I show that the taxonomy of the population in social groups (Socialgrupper) was key for conceptualising notions of talent and framing education policy, beginning with debates around ”the pool of talent” (Begåvningsreserven) in 1948. At the same time as becoming a standard tool for mapping social difference in Sweden, the social group taxonomy was criticised for being unscientific.

Keywords
Post-war Sweden, history of the education sciences, social group, social class, Efterkrigstidens Sverige, utbildningsvetenskapernas historia, socialgrupp, samhällsklass
National Category
History of Ideas
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-463366 (URN)10.36368/njedh.v8i1.208 (DOI)2-s2.0-85118406597 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2022-01-09 Created: 2022-01-09 Last updated: 2022-12-06Bibliographically approved
4. Låginkomsttagarna: Expertis, politik och mediering i formandet av en ny kategori omkring 1968
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Låginkomsttagarna: Expertis, politik och mediering i formandet av en ny kategori omkring 1968
2018 (Swedish)In: Scandia, ISSN 0036-5483, Vol. 84, no 1, p. 61-85Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article discusses changing word- and concept-usages after the political radicalisation of the 1960s in Sweden. Following the concept of låginkomsttagare, low-income earner, in mainly newspapers, I show how different meanings were attributed to it by different users in the political spectrum. The theory and method used was inspired by historians like Reinhart Koselleck and Dror Wahrman in their history of concepts. Low-income earner was first used by social scientist and bureaucrats in the state commission "Låginkomstutredningen" (1965–1971), instigated to map the low-income earners in Sweden. These actors, mainly from the political left, described and statistically counted Swedish society according to income-groups, but they also shaped the political debate to give focus to what they described as growing inequalities and a society in social conflict. The concept of låginkomsttagare saw a remarkable career in usage in all sorts of contexts, pointing towards how wide the political radicalisation of the late 1960s spread – the concept became a part of the everyday Swedish vocabulary. However, soon the concept was overtaken and transformed by actors with different political goals in a struggle for the definition of who really were low-income earners. Låginkomsttagare gained a sort of moral status as society’s forgotten social group, and many wanted to claim that they belonged to this group.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund: , 2018
Keywords
Low-income earners, circulation, mediation, 1968, social class
National Category
History of Ideas
Research subject
History of Sciences and Ideas
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-355014 (URN)
Available from: 2018-06-25 Created: 2018-06-25 Last updated: 2022-08-08Bibliographically approved

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