“Just Look at Sweden!”: Archaeology of a Conditioned Response

Piero Colla


Ever since the 1930s, the notion of “Swedish exceptionalism” has been a constant in the Western European consciousness. Since the very outset, the image of this nation-laboratory has engendered both fascination and repulsion. Its political and social experiences have been consistently interpreted and transfigured according to two meta-narratives, describing a technical modernity that offers either salvation or a threat. Even the rhetoric surrounding the “exhaustion” of the model turns out to be a topos that is recycled over and over again. The historical development of the role that an imaginary Sweden is called upon to play – as an exemplar of peaceful resolution of class conflict, a prototype of an individualistic society or a technocratic Big Brother – mirrors the relationship that the European collective mind-set of the 20th century (and beyond?) maintains with its own values, in which it seems that dreams and fears must be embodied in a concrete, “distant” society in order to be represented or exorcised.


Swedish Model; Collective imagination; National Identity

Full Text:



Alicante, Y. (2010, September 22). La normalisation de la politique en Suède. Le Monde. Retrieved 2013, January 3 from www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2010/09/22/la-normalisation-de-la-politique-en-suede_1414566_3232.html.

Altavilla, E. (1967). Svezia, inferno e paradiso. Milan: Rizzoli.

Bellocchio, M. (1967), La Cina è vicina (drama film released in 1967): Italy.

Brevskolan (1941). Den svenska livsformen. Stockholm: Kooperativa förbundet.

Cassirer, E. (1925). Sprache und Mythos. Teubner: Leipzig-Berlin.

de Chessin, S. (1930, May 31). Une expérience d’architecture fonctionnaliste. L’Illustration, 4552, 190.

de Chessin, S. (1935). Les clefs de la Suède. Paris: Hachette.

Childs, M. (1936). Sweden: The Middle Way, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Colla, P. (2000). Per la Nazione e per la Razza. Cittadini ed esclusi nel "modello svedese". Rome: Carocci.

Colla, P. (2002). “Race, Nation and Folk: on the Repressed Memory of World War II in Sweden and its Hidden Categories”. In L. Trägårdh and N.

Witoszek (eds.), Culture and Crisis (pp. 131-154). New York: Berghahn Books.

Durand, J.-P. (ed.) (1994). La fin du modèle suédois. Paris: Syros.

Enzensberger, H. M. (1982). Svensk höst. Stockholm: Dagens Nyheter.

Forshaw, B. (2010, June 1). Millenniummyten, Fokus. Retrieved 2013, January 3 from www.fokus.se/2010/06/millenniummyten.

Gustafsson, L. (1961, July 24). Ett inre äventyr iönske-Sverige, Expressen, p. 3.

Huntford, R. (1972). The New Totalitarians, London: A. Lane.

Ingrao, P. (1984). “Le ragioni dell’interesse per il caso svedese della sinistra italiana”. In S. Lugaresi and M. Telò (eds.), Governo di sinistra e politiche di riforma in Europa: il caso svedese (pp. 207-215). Milan: F. Angeli.

Jenkins, D. (1969). Sweden, The Progress Machine, London: Hale.

Karlsson, K-G. (2004). “The Holocaust as Politics and Use of History - The Example of Living History.” In K. Almqvist and K. Glans (eds.), The Swedish Success Story? (pp. 241-251). Stockholm: A. and M. Axelsson Johnson Foundation.

Levi, C. (1956). Il futuro ha un cuore antico. Torino: Einaudi.

Mounier, E. (1950). Notes scandinaves, Esprit, 18(2), 253-286.

Peltier, B. (1997, August, 27). La lente décomposition d’un ‘modèle’ de protection sociale. In Le Monde, p. 2.

Ruth, A. (1984). The Second New Nation: The Mythology of Modern Sweden. In Daedalus, 1- 2, 53-96.

Silverman, B. (1998). The Rise and Fall of the Swedish Model, Challenge, 41(1), 69.

Soldati, M. (1970). I dispe¬rati del benessere. Mondadori: Milan.

Strode, H. (1949). Sweden: Model for a World, New York: Harcourt.

Tomasson, R. F. (1970). Sweden: Prototype of a Modern Country, New York: Random House.

Trägårdh, L. and Witoszek, N. (eds.) (2002). Culture and Crisis. New York: Berghahn Books.

Truc, O. (2006, September 19). En Suède, la droite met fin au règne social-démocrate. In Le Monde, p. 12.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12869/TM2013-1-03


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 2282-0043 - Registered at the Court of Rome on Nov. 8, 2012, no. 305/2012

All articles are © Europa Ricerca Onlus