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Visioner om medborgerliga publiker: Medier och socialreformism på 1930-talet
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History of Science and Ideas.
2013 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Visions of citizen audiences : Media and social reform in the 1930s (English)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation investigates how progressive social reformers in Sweden used mass media in order to encourage the general public to take part in discussions on contemporary social and political problems. Two cases are studied in detail: the population debates of the mid-1930s, and the Modern Leisure exhibition in Ystad 1936. How were audiences – readers, radio listeners and exhibition visitors – invited to participate in these media events? Which tasks were assigned to audiences and according to which criteria were they evaluated? Why, according to social reformers themselves, was audience participation important? The aim is to contribute to our understanding of the early formation of Western democratic culture.

The investigation shows how possibilities of civic action were created. The Swedish population was conceived of as a question to discuss, and the role of citizens was to form new opinions based on their political views and current social scientific knowledge. In contrast, modern leisure was conceptualized as a new problem. The task given to exhibition visitors did not include taking a stand in a political debate. Rather, visitors were encouraged to make well-informed individual choices and to form new domestic habits. In both instances citizens were encouraged to contemplate the social and political consequences of their own actions.

The dissertation offers new insights into the history of social engineering. In a Swedish context, Alva and Gunnar Myrdal are understood as a paradigmatic case. This investigation shows, however, that their arguments and actions do not fit very well with some aspects of the standard understanding of social engineering. Their insistence on the need for public discussion, opinion formation and universal education for active citizenship are cases in point. This study also highlights previously under-researched aspects of interwar democratic activism. The actors studied in this dissertation were not primarily discussing or educating people about the danger of authoritarian ideologies. Instead, they were preoccupied with creating conditions in which democracy could survive and prosper. Creating citizen audiences was a way of defending democracy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Höör: Symposion Brutus Östlings bokförlag, 2013. , 350 p.
Keyword [en]
history, social reform, social engineering, population debate, leisure, mass media, political culture, democracy, advertising, Sweden, 1930s, Alva Myrdal, Gunnar Myrdal
Keyword [sv]
historia, socialreformism, social ingenjörskonst, befolkningsdebatt, fritid, massmedia, politisk kultur, demokrati, reklam, Sverige, 1930-tal, Alva Myrdal, Gunnar Myrdal
National Category
History of Ideas
Research subject
History of Sciences and Ideas
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-197683ISBN: 978-91-7139-890-1OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-197683DiVA: diva2:615430
Public defence
2013-05-24, Geijersalen, Engelska Parken Humanistiskt centrum, hus 6, Thunbergsvägen 3p, Uppsala, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2013-04-12 Created: 2013-04-02 Last updated: 2013-04-15

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Tistedt, Petter
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