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Att odla ett samhälle: Råby räddningsinstitut och 1840-talets sociala ingenjörskonst
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History.
2009 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation uses the metaphor of cultivating society to discuss social engineering as it came to expression in the texts and activities of Råby reformatory in Sweden during the 1840’s. The concept of the gardening state as expressed in Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust and James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State is taken as point of departure for this discussion.


Råby acted on the assumption that it was necessary to influence the development of society, and it saw the reformatory as a tool for this. This view can be understood as a figure of thought where society was regarded as a garden to cultivate. The proponents of this view, who were not confined to any particular ideology or political standpoint, argued that the state should take the responsibility to actively shape society. In this regard the dissertation held that the concept of social engineering was fruitful in order to understand the reformatory of the 1840’s. It was however underlined that this was not a state project in the sense that the state would try to enforce a mode of governing on society.


The dissertation then continued to discuss the ways in which the reformatory of the 1840’s deviated from the view on social engineering held by Scott and Bauman. It argued that the reformatory only partly could be seen as an expression of the rationality ascribed to social engineering by Scott and Bauman. It was indeed a tool for the very moral and religious beliefs that seem to be in the opposite of this rationality. Furthermore, the exercise of power and the art of government expounded by the reformatory were not based on power as a negative mean to coerce and curtail but rather on power as positive tool to promote and cultivate. This was especially true in the way the reformatory worked to correct and better the inmates.


The dissertation, therefore, argues that the metaphor of cultivating society is a more fruitful way of understanding the history and nature of social engineering than the concept of the gardening state.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2009. , 269 p.
Studia historica Upsaliensia, ISSN 0081-6531
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-98208ISBN: 978-91-554-7433-1OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-98208DiVA: diva2:173746
Public defence
2009-04-15, Geijersalen, Eng6/1023, Uppsala, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-03-25 Created: 2009-02-17 Last updated: 2014-10-02

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Larsson Kraus, Jonas
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