Folkhemmet ( _en. the people's home) is a political concept that played an important role in the history of the
Swedish Social Democratic Partyand the Swedish welfare state. It is also sometimes used to refer to the long period between 1932-76 when the Social democrats were in power and the concept was put into practice. Sometimes referred to as "the Swedish Middle Way", folkhemmet was viewed as midway between Capitalismand Communism. The Social Democratic leaders Ernst Wigforssand Per Albin Hansson(1930s) are considered the main architects of the "Folkhemmet", with inspiration coming from Rudolf Kjellén. It was later developed by the Prime Ministers Tage Erlander(1950s) and Olof Palme(1960s - 1970s). Another important proponent was Hjalmar Branting, who came into contact with the concept while a student at Uppsalauniversity, and went on to become Swedish Prime Minister.
Hansson introduced the concept in 1928, saying that Sweden should become more like a "good home," this being marked by equality and mutual understanding. Hansson advocated that the traditional class society should then be replaced by "the people's home" (folkhemmet).
The concept came at a time when
nationalizationwas being questioned, and marked the party's abandonment of the notion of class struggle, a concept fundamental to the early Social Democratic movement. Instead they adapted a planned economy and what would be called Funktionssocialism, where businesses were controlled through regulations rather than government ownership. The government would then also have more control over the individual, however, to the extent required to increase the wellbeing of citizens.
Good education was considered particularly important for building the new society. As a result, Sweden became one of the first countries in the world to offer free education at all levels, including all public universities. Also free
universal health carewas provided by the state, along with many other services.
During the 1930s social engineering became an important part of folkhemmet. Alva and
Gunnar Myrdal's 1934 book " Kris i befolkningsfrågan" (partly inspired by Malthusianismand Jean Piaget) inspired a radical and progressive policy for how to deal with the growing population. A number of changes took place in this period including expansion of the public sector, Wigforss' economic policies, Gustav Möller's reform of the pensionsystem, and Gunnar Myrdal's housing policies.
In the 1940s - 1950s, old worn down houses that served as the overcrowded dwellings of the lower class were demolished. Instead, people were offered modern housing with bathrooms and windows to let light into every room, so called "funkis". In the same way, new working class suburbs were constructed in the 1960s – 1970s to fill the needs of the increasing population, the so called "
Alva and Gunnar Myrdal suggested a series of programs designed to help families but also regulations in the form of
compulsory sterilization. This was meant primarily to prevent mental illness and disease, and was thus supported by the government. As in Canada and the US, however, racial politics also became involved, due to a strong belief in the connection between race and genetic integrity among leading scientists and those carrying out the sterilizations. In the later decades it was primarily the mentally ill who were forcibly sterilized, and around 62.000 individuals were sterilized over a period of 40 years until 1976. The Swedish state subsequently paid out damages to those who were sterilized.
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