All of this sounds lovely, but the key phrase you use is ‘high trust society’. We shall see how long that lasts with a few million more Somalis and Eritreans. London may have issues but unlike Malmo it doesn’t have grenade attacks in broad daylight.
Sweden has a problem with criminal gangs, no disagreement here. And there have been some outrageous attacks in the past years. But it really only affects people’s life as much as they let it affect them.
I have met a Swedish lady from the countryside who wouldn’t dare to go through Malmö at night. She also advised me to cross the street when I see someone Afghan-looking. There are people like her who live in a media bubble that feeds their paranoia every day. But as much as Sweden has a problem with crime (the whole world has), those people have a problem with their media consumption and the way they look at the world.
Personally, I have lived in Malmö myself for some months and met a lot of people happily living there without any worries. Needless to say I felt safe at all times as I felt save everywhere on the world, or rather everywhere in Europe. I’ve been to places where you have to be cautious. I’ve lived in Mexico City for some months. I was quite careless there, too, and nothing bad happened to me, but I’ve met several people who have been robbed at gunpoint. You don’t have this level of insecurity anywhere in Europe. And most definitely not in Sweden.
Sweden is extremely safe, and it just feels so odd that some people try to make it look like it isn’t. You can become the victim of a crime anywhere. I could start talking about knife attacks in London I’ve heard of in the media. But to whose benefit?
I’ve migrated from Germany to Sweden due to lockdowns and mask mandates. One of the major differences I noted is the media focus. Swedish media focuses much more on individual crimes than German media (not sure about British for comparison). Where all the news in Germany are about big political topics, the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, climate change…, in Sweden the news is often about crime (e.g. when there is a shooting or a knife attack) and court processes. Yesterday, I’ve read a headline on a Swedish bus that the guy who killed many people with his car in the German town of Trier was sentenced to life in prison. I haven’t seen this in the German headlines. I think this focus on crime in the media, is a big part for the explanation why Sweden is notoriously seen as more criminal and dangerous than it is, including by Swedes themselves. Another part of the explanation is the crime itself, of course, whose existence I don’t deny. But it’s mostly gangs fighting each other and nothing that affects my everyday life at all.
Behind this success lies a moral logic that defies the stereotype that Sweden is based on collectivist values such as equality and solidarity. Upon closer inspection, it appears that the lynchpin of the Swedish social contract is an alliance between the state and the individual — one I have named “statist individualism”. In our high-trust society, the state is viewed more as friend than foe.
One could put it that Sweden *is* based on collectivist values such as equality and solidarity, but that the maintenance of these values is left to a central state and its associated bureaucracy, with people providing mainly a general sense of egalitarianism and an obedience to the group opinion that the state personifies. People are individuals, yes, but conformist individuals – which is not that strange if you consider that you are just one person alone against the large forces of the state and public opinion.
Seen from neighbouring countries ‘statist individualism’ seems to be very much about the ‘statist’ part. Swedes are stereotypically more subservient to public opinion and elite dictates than e.g. Danes. You could make a theory out of it: If you systematically weaken the support structures that hold people together in families and community groups, a trusted (it is, no disagreement there) state can take their place and become also a moral authority, a sort of common superego, in the absence of competition. A case in point might be the apparently much greater support for ‘Me Too’ in Sweden than Denmark. Once it is ‘official’ that things need to change people line in, with less room for individuals deciding that it is all too much.
I never thought I would see an UnHerd article praising individualism over communitarianism. It feels more like a Guardian column.
I have lived in Sweden and although it is very comfortable, it’s also one of the loneliest places I’ve experienced. Welfare is definitely insufficiently developed in the UK, but it should be a means not an ends. A means to help people live while also driving them towards their communities and encouraging family harmony. It’s amazing the level of reconciliation that can be achieved when the best alternative is undesirable.
It came as a surprise to me when, during the COVID lock down, commentators were discussing the Swedish approach and in a number of cases they remarked. in passing, that Sweden has the highest number of single person households in Europe.
(and no this is not to start a thread about COVID here)
One aspect of Swedish “socialism” is the extent to which women are able to rely on the state as a substitute (in financial terms) for a breadwinner husband.
The massive numbers of government or quasi government workers in care, local councils etc, with a comfortable job and “income” for life, paid out of taxes?
The ones working in the industries generating those taxes, tech, industry, even financial services?
You essentially have married couples staying separately in their own homes, with “husbands” paying alimony from day one via the government.
pro-business publications such as The Economist and The Financial Times praise the Nordic model of capitalism.
An interesting new definition of pro business 🙂
Both publications are clearly pro business.
Why are we comparing a relatively isolated, largely monocultural country with a population not much larger than London’s with the UK? Economies of scale matter. Finland’s system is intriguing and appealing, but again very suited to a small – not historically global – country. Apples and oranges.
This reminds me of the idea that communism can only work in families and socialism can only work in churches. This allows for the necessary judgement and consensus. Sweden has 10 million people.
I was amazed as to how many Swedish parents there are at Eton gatherings….
A very positive sign given the influx of ‘others’.
What the state giveth, the state can taketh away. I’d sooner rely on myself – and I love my family !
What an interesting perspective, and really good to learn about this often feted society that we so clearly caricature and misunderstand as we try and slot it into our world view.
So let me do just that again: Sweden is rather unicultural. How possible is individual statism in multicultural Britain?
Good point. It is interesting to compare with Sweden with Denmark. There are lots of things in common: A historically unicultural, uniracial and unireligious society. High trust. An egalitarian streak enforced by social controls against not fitting in (‘Jante-loven’ for those who know). Similar welfare models where the state takes over the care that used to be done by families. The big difference may be the ‘statist’ part, the state and elite as a social superego. Also maybe a certain arrogance – no Dane would dream of publishing the ‘Danish Society’ as a model for export, it would be at once an unseemly way of putting yourself above others, an unrealistic project, and a target for ridicule.
The prime minister of one of the new Eastern European countries (Slovakia?) supposedly said that he had indeed considered implementing a Scandinavian welfare state, but had been forced to abandon the project because the country suffered from a critical shortage of Scandinavians. Other countries should take note.
I’ve often thought that behind every failed economic model, every Western attempt to advance the common weal through statist methods you’ll find Sweden, it’s the ultimate rebuff to conservatives, because it’s hard to deny that Sweden works quite well. But as you say, there’s a worldwide shortage of Scandinavians. So here in Scotland for instance, we might admire Scandinavians, think we’re a bit Scandinavian, but we’re NOT Scandanavian. It’s a cargo cult mentality, we think that if we can just tax and spend like Sweden, Volvo and Ericsson will just pop out of the ground.
Sweden made an absolutely fortune from exporting literally millions of tons of iron ore to Germany in World War II.
Thus ‘cushioned’ they were able to indulge in their disastrous social welfare experiment, no doubt to somehow exculpate themselves from the guilt of having kept Adolph & Co going for so long.
Why disastrous? Seems to work pretty well, no?
Well yes in some ways, the suicide rate has dropped dramatically in recent decades, but now we have the ‘immigration time bomb’ to look forward to.
The fact that these immigrants are throwing hand grenades around in Malmo, as mentioned by another commentator does not bode well.
What would we say if hand grenades were being tossed around in say Rotherham or Stow-on—the-Wold?
Do you think they’d let you even find out? About hand grenades in Rotherham.
Hard to hide on CCTV.
And quite a lot of ball-bearings to both sides!
Never been to Sweden but might suggest there are also other factors such as having to cope with the weather – icy winters with summers where there is little darkness which produces a problem solving mentality and resilence.Add in govts that for decades have been trying to clampdown on alcohol abuse.Like Switzerland avoiding being involved in the first and 2nd world wars helps.
A rather idealistic portrait of Sweden that may have held some truth 20 years ago, but ignores the reality of a now increasingly fragmented country of ghetoised ethnic communities, and suburban/ rural white Swedes who live in parallel universes.
it seems that the swedes are the only grown ups in the room in many ways !!