(Social) Democracy in the Blood? Civic and Ethnic Idioms of Nation and the Consolidation of Swedish Social Democratic Power, 1928–1932



This paper attempts to explain Swedish Social Democrats' consolidation of power between 1928 and 1932 through an examination of idioms of nation. Qualitative analysis of articles and editorials from a Social Democratic and a liberal newspaper is carried out. The analysis focuses on how civic, ethnic and, a mixed civic-ethnic idiom of nation were deployed in order to expand the Social Democrats' electoral base. The Social Democrats could combine egalitarianism/democracy with ethnic nationalism because ethnic bases for the nation were more inclusive than other, especially class, bases available to them. Two challenges for the literature on nationalism and the welfare state are raised: (1) the civic-ethnic distinction must be rethought to accommodate the Swedish case, wherein ethnic nationalism was used for “civic” ends; and (2) the focus on the Social Democrats as promoting working class interests may be misplaced given the party's mobilization on the basis of nation.