Emotional Bureaucracies: Emotions Civil Servants, and Immigrants in the Swedish Welfare State



This article examines how Swedish emotional expression is both reflected in and helps to reproduce the ideology of the welfare state. A Swedish ideal of emotional compatibility and continuity between welfare bureaucracies and their clients has been challenged in the wake of refugee immigration. The resulting multicultural society is understood by civil servants to translate into an emotional complexity that has consequences for the levels of emotion in meetings with refugee clients, emotional barriers between staff and clients, emotional reciprocity, and the gendering and mobilization of emotion in bureaucratic encounters. The presence of refugee immigrants is shown to have consequences for the welfare state's ability to ensure emotional reproduction in society. How Swedish civil servants respond to refugee clients provides insights into the emotional dimension of bureaucracies in multicultural welfare states and bureaucratic work more generally.