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Between human capital and human worth: Advertising for correspondence education in 20th century Sweden
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7194-5533
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.
2018 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of History, ISSN 0346-8755, E-ISSN 1502-7716, article id SHIS-2018-0011Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

In this article we challenge the conventional dichotomy in the Swedish historiography of the knowledge economy between a present characterized by the capitalization and marketization of knowledge, and a past signified by more idealistic and collectivist educational ideals. We examine how knowledge and education were promoted and justified in terms of their economic and/or ideal value from the 1920s to the 1970s. The sources consist of widely circulated advertisements for Hermods Korrespondensinstitut, the largest of the Swedish correspondence schools during the 20th century. By analysing and contextualising advertisements over six decades we find a strong dominance of individualistic economic valuations from the beginning, a successive increase in idealistic valuations over the decades, and an increasing amalgamation of idealistic and economic justifications for knowledge. Thus, long before human capital theory was formulated around 1960, knowledge was marketed in terms of an individually beneficial investment for economic gain. Given the extensive scale of Hermods and similar institutes’ educational activities, we argue that the narrative about 20th century Swedish society as “a study circle democracy” built on collectivistic ideals of knowledge needs to be nuanced.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2018. article id SHIS-2018-0011
Keywords [en]
Keywords: knowledge; valuations, human worth; human capital, correspondence schools, Hermods, history of the knowledge economy
National Category
Economic History
Research subject
Economic History; History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-346256OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-346256DiVA, id: diva2:1190899
Funder
Swedish Research CouncilThe Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius FoundationAvailable from: 2018-03-15 Created: 2018-03-15 Last updated: 2018-08-17

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Husz, OrsiGlover, Nikolas

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