Tag Archives: Sweden

Erik Westholm, Karin Beland Lindahl & Florian Kraxner (eds.), The Future Use of Nordic Forests, A global perspective (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015)

Nordic forests play a key role in the establishment of the Nordic welfare states. They also play a key role in a global perspective when looking at factors such as energy, climate, land use, ecosystem services and other subsistence uses. In this book the aim is to address how global changes are likely to affect the conditions for future Nordic forest use.

Continue reading Erik Westholm, Karin Beland Lindahl & Florian Kraxner (eds.), The Future Use of Nordic Forests, A global perspective (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015)

Nation-building in the Scandinavian Welfare State: The Immigration Challenge

Introduction

Scandinavia is the area where trust in political institutions and the role of the state is greatest in the world. Political actors in all three Scandinavian countries now compete for the honour of having created and developed the welfare state. It is such a central part of their self-understanding that this political framework can be said to have become a part of the Scandinavian national concept.

Continue reading Nation-building in the Scandinavian Welfare State: The Immigration Challenge

Monika Djerf-Pierre & Mats Ekström, A history of Swedish Broadcasting – Communicative ethos, genres and institutional change (Göteborg: Nordicom, 2013)

 

As explained in the book´s foreword, it draws on a large scale research programme that has been underway since 1993 and is the basis of a large body of empirical studies that have been published in the last decade or two. This book builds on selected parts of these extensive studies and is supposed to give insight into the development of this form of media through description and analysis of some formative features and trajectories of Swedish broadcasting.

 

Although one might think by glancing over the titles and the subject matter of the 16 chapters of the book that its content was a somewhat disjointed collection of essays by different authors, such an assumption would be a serious mistake. In fact the book is carefully structured and each chapter fits like a piece in a puzzle into the overall picture that the book draws up. In that respect the introductory chapter by the editors, Ekström and Djerf-Pierre, is extremely important, drawing up the framework and creating the connections needed to tie the different chapters together into a coherent whole. Similarly the “Reflections” at the end of the book by Paddy Scannel draw together the different threads and create a focus on the role of Swedish broadcasting in broadening, deepening and in fact creating the shared experiences of a general public. “Pea soup, pancakes and The Children´s Letter Box on Thursdays, Ingemar Stenmark and Bjorn Borg at the height of their powers, the Nobel Prize ceremony, a royal wedding, New Year´s Eve and Dinner for One – these and much more besides are trace-marks of the shared and sharable experience og what being Swedish has meant and continues to mean in the output of national radio and television” (Scannel, p. 365). Thus the structure of the book is solid and the editors succeed in creating a comprehensive work with an inner logic.

 

The main part of the book, in between the Introduction and the Reflections at the end, is divided into five distinct parts or themes. Each theme is important for the analysis and description of the Swedish broadcasting history. The first part is labelled “Innovations: Technologies for Broadcast Communication”. Here the topic concerns early introduction of radio and television and different stages in the historical development all the way up to the distribution technology of the satellite.   The second theme is focused on the audience perspective and is titled “Audience Orientation and the Communicative Ethos of Public Broadcasting”. Here the subject matter relates to technologies of audience-making, on the one hand, and children’s public service programmes on the other. The third theme deals with the people that work in the broadcasting field and is entitled “Media professionals: occupational strategies, norms and practices”. In this section the focus is on the recruitment of media professionals and the different patterns that emerge in different periods. Furthermore, important changes in the conception of the role of journalists in Sweden are discussed. This includes the advent of independent and more adversarial journalism as well as the transformation and shaping of the broadcast media of the field of political communication. The fourth major theme dealt with in the book is called “Development of broadcast genres”. In particular chapters in this section deal with sports reporting, documentaries, entertainment and the creation of a new genre, environmental reporting. All these occupy an important post in the development of broadcasting and the relationship between broadcasting and the audiences. The fifth and final theme discussed in a section of the book is “Institutional changes: the example of news and current affairs”. Here an institutional approach is suggested to examine the “mezzo-level in between the individual media organizations and the society at large”. In both chapters under this theme the spotlight is put on the development of news and current affairs. Four definite stages of “journalistic regimes” are identified in Sweden up to 2005, where the determining factor is the conceived role of journalism. The first being the role of the “public educator” that develops into an “information purveyor”, who in turn became the “watchdog and pedagogue” in the mid-1960s and ends up as the “interpreting ombudsman” around 1985 and up to the first decade of this century. Also this section looks at the impact of deregulation and increased market competition on the concept and idea of Public Service Broadcasting (PBS) in Sweden and suggests that the PBS has indeed been more influential on commercial broadcasting than vice versa.

 

All in all the book gives and interesting and enlightening overview of Swedish broadcast history and answers many important questions. Some of these questions deal with details and even technical matters that are important at some stage of broadcasting history. Other questions deal with bigger issues of continuity and change and the links to other media and institutions as well as society in general. It can be difficult to pick and choose what to include in a comprehensive work like the history of Swedish broadcasting, but the mixture provided in the book works well and meets its overall purpose. This is a volume of about 379 pages and the publishers and editors probably faced the question whether they had not reached the optimal size limit. Therefore it might not be realistic to suggest that one theme or chapter could have been added that might have made this contribution even more interesting for present-day discussion. The impact of digitalization – with social media and online viewing habits – on all spheres of Swedish broadcasting and indeed broadcasting everywhere is an interesting question that is left practically unaddressed. To be sure, this is a historical work, not necessarily dealing with the problems of the present. Still, it is through history that lessons can be learned about the present and the future and in the book extensive analyses are presented on the impact of technological change on broadcasting and the forms of public communication. Even a short elaborative chapter under the last “Reflections” on the lessons of history and the future of broadcast might, in this reviewer’s opinion, have been an “icing on the cake”.

 

The book as an artefact is flawless. The font is well readable and so is the layout in general. The appendix on the history of the Swedish Foundation of Broadcast Media is interesting and so is the nice cover picture of a man and a woman listening to the radio, from an oil painting by Axel Sjöberg in 1935.

 

Sven-Olof Olsson (ed.), Managing Crises and De-globalization. Nordic foreign trade and exchange 1919-39 (New York: Routledge, 2014 pbk.)

 

Historical memory is unwelcome by people who have too much at stake in the short term to realise that they may have much more to lose in the medium and/or long term. Historical memory is also unwelcome by people who wish that economic history could fit neatly within the theoretical constructs that they favour because of ideological, political, moral or pecuniary commitments of theirs (cf. Francesco Boldizzoni, The Poverty of Clio: Resurrecting Economic History, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011).

  Continue reading Sven-Olof Olsson (ed.), Managing Crises and De-globalization. Nordic foreign trade and exchange 1919-39 (New York: Routledge, 2014 pbk.)

Mathias L. Pedersen & Jakob Christoffersen (eds.), Nordic Countries. Economic, Political and Social Issues (New York: Nova Science, 2012)

 

The book is somewhat tilted towards the presentation and analysis of economic issues within specific countries, rather than across the Nordic region. The reader is presented with a number of stimulating and topical country case studies that contributes useful background, insights and analysis on different aspects of Nordic economies and the Nordic welfare model. The chapters range from the very descriptive and general to papers with a high level of analytical and empirical sophistication.  Some of the chapters require good knowledge of specific disciplines and their methodological approaches to be of real value, whereas others could be read and easily understood by any reader; e.g. a subset of chapters on Sweden and its international trade sector would likely appeal primarily to a targeted audience familiar with the tools of econometric analysis. Still, the book takes the reader through an interesting and stimulating journey through a variety of topical landscapes.  For some readers the diversity in style and methodological approaches may be an unwanted distraction, whereas for others it does quite the contrary.

 

A connecting denominator across the chapters is the region: the Nordic region and the broad array of current issues, ranging from quality of childcare, occupational safety to highly theoretical issues surrounding the J-curve effect in commodity trade between Sweden and Germany, and the S-curve dynamics of commodity trade between Sweden and the United States, to mention a few.

 

The book is stimulating because of the variety of themes, and perhaps somewhat unique set of issues, and certainly from any standpoint an unlikely combination of topics. On the one hand, the book provides a good dose of stimulation, precisely because it is a somewhat unlikely combination of papers; yet at the same time is provides a certain degree of frustration – the theoretical and econometric papers take up a lot of space – and they are written by some of the same authors on similar topics, with a heavy focus on Sweden. There are three highly theoretical papers on Sweden´s international trade, with some similarity among author teams; although impressive pieces of analytical works, this makes the structure and discussion unavoidably somewhat predictable, and some readers might feel tempted to skip ahead to the discussion and conclusion in those cases.

 

Chapter 1, on “Denmark: Lessons from the Global Leader in Straw-to-Energy”, presents a discussion of the straw-to-energy technology in Denmark, and sets out to identify and analyze factors of Danish success in this field. The chapter and its case studies are highly descriptive and would probably have been more interesting and useful with more emphasis dedicated to analysis. The chapter is based on reports and publications on straw-to-energy, and a set of interviews. The chapter is unfortunately flooded with countless small details that tend to provide more confusion than clarification.  This may be interesting for some readers who are specifically interested in this industry and in information on straw heating, while for others it makes it a challenge to get a sense of the main ideas the author wants to present or convey. A concise and not so surprising list of the major factors of Danish success in straw-to-energy is presented as part of the conclusion, including: political and financial support, nationally supported energy research, developed straw-to-energy technology.  It might have been useful with a discussion of case studies structured more around highlighting these points. It clearly represents a powerful example of a Danish success story, but lacks concrete detail on how it can be duplicated in other places and across the Nordic region.

 

Chapter 2, on “Exchange-Rate Volatility and Sweden´s Trade with Germany: Evidence from Industry Data”, provides an impressive, well-focused and highly theoretical and empirical analysis of trade between Sweden and Germany using a large data set from 1997-2010. While interesting, on the down side, a large part of the chapter is dedicated purely to the presentation of econometric results. This structure may fail to capture the full attention of a broader audience.  Also, the results are not that surprising, namely that small industries are more likely to be affected by exchange rate volatility, and that larger exporters in Germany are able to insulate themselves and hence experience less volatility – this through imperfect competition and various methods of hedging.  The chapter might have benefited from a detailed elaboration of this not so surprising finding – e.g. a description of what types of imperfect competition are referred to. This would probably have made it a more interesting read. 

 

Chapter 3, on “The Norwegian Quota Reform and the Fear of Incompetent Women”, is an interesting, well-researched and important piece of research on the gender representation on company boards in Norway. It employs a solid method and makes use of a sizeable sample size for the interviews, but the empirical work could have been elaborated on. The conclusion is not all that surprising: the results show that new women board members appear to be and are perceived to be as competent as other directors, and hence, the research rejects the human capital theory as an explanation for the low number of women directors prior to the reform of 2003 in Norway – when legislation was passed to specify gender representation on company boards. But one cannot help but want more detail and to ask: How does this compare to other places? Is this a general trend, or to what extent is it specific to the case of Norway and its changed legislation?

 

Chapter 4, entitled “Development of Quality in the Child Care in Denmark – Legislation, Culture and Daily Practices”, discusses the factors that constitute quality in childcare in Denmark.  The study presents a longer list of results rather than focusing on a smaller handful of results that could have been discussed in more detail.  One of the many findings is the increased focus on centralized political goals, specific learning objectives, testing of children etc. since the new 2007 law in Denmark – and how this has negatively affected care in a number of areas. The findings are as important as the debate itself and they certainly raise a number of critical issues. Yet, it would have been more useful with some reference made to the rest of the Nordic region.

 

Chapter 5, on “The Ambivalent Mentality of a Lilliput Nation: Ethnic Relations and Intercultural Learning Among Danish International Workers”, sets out to analyse what the authors refer to as a “paradox” of the difficulties of maintaining a small-scale welfare society despite the overwhelming forces of globalization. They go on to analyse how this “paradox” affects Danish international workers´ abilities to manage internationally and learn from their foreign surroundings.  One might question this “paradox”.  Is there really such a “paradox”? Also, the chapter makes a series of strong statements that seem poorly formulated, appear weakly substantiated and that need further support to be more convincing.

 

Chapter 6, entitled “Is There a J-Curve Effect in Commodity Trade between Sweden and Germany?”, investigates the bilateral trade between Sweden and Germany by looking at 124 industries – a time series analysis for the period 1963-2009.  The analysis finds little support for the J-curve effect, i.e. that a slow adjustment process after a currency depreciation leads to a deterioration of the trade balance.  However, the study does find some evidence of a J-curve effect for a larger number of heavily traded commodities, which the authors suggest may be explained by larger industries being more sensitive to fluctuations in the Swedish krona. The chapter comes across as very methodologically sound, and the econometric approach and tests are appropriate.  Since this is not a chapter in the journal Econometrica, what may be missing to make this of interest to a broader audience would be a more poignant explanation of the results in simple and plain words.  What does this mean? What is the significance? What are the implications for the future of Swedish international trade? Without these more grounded considerations this chapter risks being of interest to a more narrow and specialized audience.

 

Chapter 7, on “Occupational Safety in Finland”, provides a useful and important review of research carried out in Finland related to occupational safety. One of the critical findings of the review is that bullying is a common phenomenon in Finnish workplaces, and that women and healthcare workers in particular are subjected to workplace violence.  As an outsider one is likely to want to know more, i.e. how does this compare to other Nordic countries?  Since the book is about Nordic countries, it would have been useful if some comparison had been drawn to other Nordic countries or cases.  The lack of comparison makes the review slightly less interesting.  Also, why has violence been increasing at the workplace? And how does this trend compare to other Nordic countries?  If it is only a trend in Finland, what explains it?  The literature list is comprehensive and useful for anyone who wishes to conduct research on issues of workplace safety and bullying.

 

Chapter 8, on “Co-operation between Finnish Authorities in the event of Animal Disease: A Rhetorical Comparison of Three Laws from Finnish Legislation”, analyses the hierarchy of authorities in animal health.  Unfortunately, the chapter is not an easy read and the examples presented are not all that well explained. It is also somewhat unclear what the exact objective of the paper is and what the main conclusions are.  Still, the issues raised are important, and the research seems to contribute to filling certain gaps in knowledge, and from this perspective it qualifies as a unique and welcome addition, albeit incomplete. 

 

Chapter 9, on “The S-Curve Dynamics of Commodity Trade between Sweden and the United States”, discusses the S-curve effect. One cannot help but get a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of results, with up toward 12 pages of lists of trade figures and graphics.  One cannot but wonder how useful those are to the average reader. They may be more confusing and only serve to distract from the real message of the research.  This is the third chapter on Sweden and its trade sector. First there is a general analysis on exchange rate volatility, and then two chapters on the J-curve and the S-curve respectively.  Could these chapters have been linked somehow, which might have made more sense – with a general introduction on Sweden and its international trade sector?  The topic is interesting and stimulating, and as in the case of the two other chapters by this first author, it also appears very methodologically sound.  Based on a large sample size and employing and using econometric techniques, the paper finds that there is evidence of an S-curve effect in half of the 92 industries surveyed.  An interesting result is that for the largest industries in the empirical test (accounting for 50 percent of the trade between Sweden and the U.S.), evidence suggests that a real depreciation of the Swedish krona will increase international competitiveness in trade with the U.S.. Some discussion on what exactly this means might have been useful.

 

Chapter 10, on “Assessing Evidence of Swedish Cartel´s Longevity: 1956-1993”, presents an empirically sophisticated paper on the legal formal cartel contracts in Sweden with an examination of the structure and factors that determine their longevity. A historical and econometric analysis is presented using data for the period 1956 to 1993. It is empirically solid work and also highly theoretical. The regression results are perhaps not that surprising, but nevertheless interesting to study: for example, the results suggest that cartels are longer lived under horizontal and vertical restrictions than those that are organized under horizontal restrictions only. Results also suggest that the presence of effective regulation does not increase the longevity of cartels relative to those cartels where regulation is absent.  It is found that cartels tend to break during downswings in foreign and domestic markets. The strength of this paper – as with the other papers in this book on foreign trade – is the empirical presentation. Unfortunately, common for all of them is that the discussion is limited.  Given the nature of the book (and it is not an econometric journal article), one would have expected more in terms of a basic explanation of the empirical and regression results in view of the presumably relatively broad audience – and perhaps more on what these results mean for the Nordic countries in general, now and in the future.

 

I think it would have greatly enriched the book if there had been an attempt to synthesize and find or explore overarching themes or trends, and also, if efforts had been made within individual chapters to connect the conclusions to literature on other Nordic countries, and possibly to compare across national borders where appropriate. Some readers might be left wondering whether the results of the case studies are unique to the specific country investigated, or to what extent they are “Nordic”, and if so, how and why.

 

I would recommend this book to those readers who are interested in a broad range of issues and in particular those who are looking for a snapshot of a range of different and important topics in the Nordic countries.  It is a stimulating and interesting book, and one comes away having learned something useful. Still, given the diversity of approaches and the thematic areas introduced, the book would have benefited from a concluding chapter highlighting some connecting points between the different thematic areas of the ten chapters, and maybe with a discussion of some overarching conclusions that can be drawn about Nordic society and welfare and its place in society.  What lessons can non-Nordic countries learn from these case studies? To what extent are they success stories? 

Per Eliasson, KG Hammarlund, Erik Lund & Carsten Tage Nielson (eds.), Historie didatik i Norden: del 1, historiemetvetanda – historiebruk (Malmö & Halmstad: Malmö högskola and Högskolan i Halmstad, 2012)

The challenge is tackled in two volumes; “historiemetvetanda – historiebruk” [history usage] rewieved here;  and “historisk kunskap” [historical knowledge], in a separate volume, not covered here.

The authors constitute a group who have a background in history teaching and research in history teaching. They cover all three levels of schooling, from compulsory school through upper-secondary and university level.

Continue reading Per Eliasson, KG Hammarlund, Erik Lund & Carsten Tage Nielson (eds.), Historie didatik i Norden: del 1, historiemetvetanda – historiebruk (Malmö & Halmstad: Malmö högskola and Högskolan i Halmstad, 2012)

R. Bohlin, De Osynliga. Det Europas fattiga arbetarklass; M. Linton, De hatade. Om radikalhögerns måltavlor; B. Elmbrant, Europas stålbad. Krisen som slukar välfärden och skakar euron (All titles by Atlas, Stockholm, 2012)

 

The feminist journalist Rebecca Bohlin has looked into the working and living conditions of the least paid workers within the service sector, although reminding to us that many other jobs in different sectors meet similar problems. She has met cleaners, kitchen attendants and cashiers in Stockholm, London, Hamburg and at the same time has interviewed scholars and as well politicians and union representatives about the rise in income inequality and the worsening of working conditions, across Europe and in Sweden.

And to Sweden indeed is devoted the first chapter (Hur mår RUT?). The question of rising inequalities has become hot after 2007, when tax deductions for domestic service (RUT) were introduced, with the argument that the black market was to be stopped. In fact, however, according to the unions and to some research, the outcome has been an increasing in the number of workers (often asylum seekers or anyway migrants, very often women) exploited and with no safeguard: their formal job contract is legal, but their actual working conditions are definitely different, and for the worse. Yet in Sweden, as Bohlin acknowledges, living conditions of the low-paid workers are better that in most other countries.

In the second chapter (Så pressas lönerna neråt) Bohlin analyzes, again through witnesses and interviews, migration policy at the EU level and in some of its member States. She insists on the paradox of a rhetoric stressing the need of labour force from outside Europe, in order to face demographic challenges and to make companies more “globalized”, while at the same time the actual policy is based on a military defence of the “fortress Europe”, at the cost of thousands of human lives every year. And those who succeed in reaching Europe are often exploited both economically and, when women, sexually. And that even in a country that is a world master in workers’ rights and gender equality such as Sweden.

How are trade unions tackling this backward trend to a degree of workers’ exploitation similar to that in the 19th century? Around this unavoidable question the third chapter (Facket famlar efter en ny solidaritet) is built. The answer is not at all self-evident; on the contrary, here one goes on attempt by attempt. However, what comes out from the talks that the author has had with union leaders and members, in Sweden and in the UK, as well as with scholars, is that a trade union like the Swedish one, service-oriented, is not well-equipped to face the challenges that labour movements all over the world have to meet. More interesting it seems the experience of the “Social Movement Unionism”, a strategy that has been tested in South America and is made up of a mix of mobilization, learning, dialogue with local society, negotiations – and protest actions. Exactly what many all over Europe – either workers or unemployed, migrant or local – call for.

 

An even darker side of Europe is the subject of Magnus Linton’s work, that he describes in his Introduction as a book on “majorities and minorities, absolutism and relativism, boarders and lack of them, fantasy and reality”. The author, well-known in Sweden for his reports after the carnage in Utøya, has carried out an inquiry about right-wing radicalism in three European countries: Hungary, the Netherlands and Norway, moving from the awareness that the current economic crisis increases its appeal. Linton has met the main targets of xenophobic and neo-nazi groups, respectively Roma people in Hungary, muslims in the Netherlands and left-wing intellectuals in Norway. The first section (Parasiterna), after reminding shortly the persecution of Roma in history (culminating with their, neglected, massacre during World War II) and the recent deportation of Roma in countries such as France, Italy and Sweden, introduces the reader to the disturbing world of the Hungarian neo-fascist party Jobbik (Movement for a better Hungary), whose programme is openly “roma-centered”, so to say, and that in 2010 established itself as one of the main political forces in the country with 17% of votes. Jobbik’s growing influence resulted in a situation that Linton, with reference to what happened in the municipality of Gyöngyöspata, tells in the following way: “in 2011 in the middle of Europe fascists in uniform marched and families belonging to one of the poorest and most persecuted minorities in the continent were forced to escape what otherwise would have turned into a pogrom”. And Gyöngyöspata was only the beginning. However, the political scientist Zsolt Enyedi, interviewed by Linton, points out that these developments in Hungary were at the same time astonishing and predictable. Their roots can be found in a historical process starting from the fall of the Berlin wall; since then, populism has been a constant presence in Hungarian life and in the end has exploded due to the economic crisis. The fact that in 2010 the nationalist and authoritarian party Fidesz won 2/3 of the votes has made the situation even worse and transformed Hungary into a stronghold of radical Right in Europe.

Another country, another scapegoat: in the Netherlands, as it is well-known, the thesis that “our” problems could be solved if only “we” got rid of Muslims has found one of its most prominent champions, i.e. Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party and major pointer for Dutch politics for years (see the section: Ockupanterna). Though making sure to distinguish himself from people like Anders Berg Breivik (who pointed at Wilders as his ideological source of inspiration) by stressing his own democratic attitude, Wilders has steadily run down Islam, equating it with Fascism. Together with Pim Fortuyn (murdered in 2002 by a left-wing extremist), he has personified the idea that multiculturalism is a luxury only the privileged few can afford and has transformed the Netherlands into the headquarters of islamophobia in Europe.

The Dutch historian Thomas von der Dunk, here quoted, urges to take into account that politics’ highest aim is economic security, as well as the capability for society to accept cultural uncertainty; but when the former decreases, then the need for a strong cultural identity rises.

Roma people and Muslims are easy scapegoats in a continent affected by geopolitical and economic turbulences; but how came that in the rich and enlightened Norway a right-wing extremist killed more than 70 young left-wing activists? What Berg Breivik aims at with his double attack (a bomb in Oslo and the carnage on the Utøya island) was, as Linton explains, to murder at the same time three generations of “betrayers” (hence the title of the section, Förrädarna), i.e. three generations of Social Democrats: the forthcoming (the young activists who met in Utøya), the present (the governmental headquarter in the capital), and the former (Gro Harlem Brudtland, former prime minister, who escaped assassination in the island due to a delay in Breivik Berg’s plan).

What has been betrayed are Norwegian culture and identity, quite obviously. Breivik Berg defines “cultural Marxism” what could otherwise be summarized as “politically correct”, in other words the idea that there are some topics that cannot be questioned, above all feminism and multiculturalism. Linton points out that coinciding with the perhaps unstoppable march of right-wing extremism in Europe is the discontent caused by what has been perceived as the hegemony of political correctedness, which has become more and more centered upon universities. After all, right-wing radicalism is not interested in discussing rationally a question (which is supposed to be the academic approach) but, on the contrary, in imposing its own understanding of reality. And it is succeeding in doing this. Linton recalls our attention to the fact that what is striking in Breivik Berg is not his insanity, but how much he reflects stereotypes and plot-syndromes related to Islam that unfortunately are represented in more or less all the European parliaments (as well as in the EU one).     

 

Not even the book by Elmbrant, one of the most prominent Swedish journalists, is intended to bring comfort to the reader. Here as well the impact of the economic downturn is looked into in a European perspective, yet with a particular attention to countries such as Greece (see chapter 1, Ett land faller sönder) and Ireland (chapter 3, Irland på liv och död). In chapter 2 (Hur hamnade vi här?) the author follows the making of the Euro and then compares the faith of two countries, Ireland and Iceland; both hit by the crisis, but the latter (outside the common currency) recovering better. Italy is not at all forgotten in this account: the doubts about its financial soundness have been recurrent amongst EU – and German in particular – leaders, for many years. However, Elmbrant warns (chapter 4, Skenbilden av krisen) against those, in Brussels as well as Berlin and Paris, who blame upon some countries ? the Southern European ones primarily ? the European financial difficulties, as the problem were simply that if one spends too much, then one has to pay back sooner or later. Elmbrant is well aware that Greece, with all the stereotypes surrounding it, has worked as a perfect scapegoat, but insists on the European dimension of the economic crisis. The trouble indeed is not the Greeks’ unreliability, but the EU powerlessness in the face of much bigger transnational financial powers. In this connection, it needs to be said that left-wing parties have definitely not been united and consistent in their (often late) condemnation of the abuse of power from private banks and finance at large.

It cannot miss, in this critical report about the EU state of health, a chapter on Angela Merkel, significantly entitled She who decides (5, Hon som bestämmer) and on Germany’s hegemonic role. The outcome of financial powers’ and Germany’s supremacy are described in chapter 6 (Europas stålbad), again focusing mostly on Southern Europe, but raising a more general question: the changing role of the Nation-State. Here Elmbrant mentions an article on The New Left Review by the German social scientist Wolfgang Streeck as crucial: the dismantlement of Europe’s social policies has restricted the ability of the State as far as mediating between citizens’ rights and Capital’s diktats is concerned, and by this move increased further the latter’s authoritativeness as well. There have been massive demonstrations against budget-restriction policies, at least in Greece, Spain and Portugal (chapter 7, De unga på marsch), but Elmbrant does not forget that up to now it is the Radical Right the political actor who seems to have taken more advantage from the crisis, and not the Left. Are the European Central Bank and Merkel right when presenting austerity as the only way out of the crisis or can young people protesting in Athens, Madrid and Lisbon point out to an alternative? The last two chapters are built around this question. 

After summarizing the different proposals currently discussed in the EU (in the end all related to the dilemma: more or less unity among member States? See chapter 8, Stopp i Brysseltrafiken), Elmbrant closes his report by handling the question of the future of the common currency (chapter 9, Har euron en framtid?). After looking at expert analysis and people’s mood his answer (well reflecting Swedish attitude to the EU) is: the Euro is doomed to collapse ? after all it has been a mistake from the beginning ? with consequences that in some cases will prove to be devastating.  And thinking at what is going on in many European countries we can easily believe that this apocalyptic scenario is not simply a kind of snobbery from the rich Nordic countries.   

Juha Manninen and Friedrich Stadtler (eds.), The Vienna Circle and the Nordic Countries. Networks and Transformations of Logical Empiricism (Vienna: Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook vol.14, Springer, 2010)

In the years preceding the Second World War, European philosophy was at the high point of its intellectual vitality. Everywhere philosophical societies promoted a dense network of connections among scholars, with international meetings and strong links among individuals and associations. In this context, the Vienna Circle emerges as one of the many, also if probably the most well-known, centres of diffusion of a new style of philosophy, closely linked to the new logic and with a strongly empiricist attitude. At the same time, empiricism, formal logic and psychology constituted (and still constitute) the common background of most of the Nordic philosophers, a background which permitted them to develop connections with Vienna’s cultural environment (well known also for the work of psychologists such as Sigmund Freud, but also Charlotte and Karl Bühler). This piece of history, although limited to the connection between Nordic philosophy and Vienna Circle, helps to clarify the history of European philosophy, and the sharp difference of Nordic philosophy in respect of the development of philosophy in Southern and Central Europe in the half a century following the Second World War. The editors say in the introduction:

 

. . . one of the least known networks of the Vienna Circle is the “Nordic connection”. This connection had a continuing influence for many of the coming decades, beginning with the earliest phase of the Vienna Circle and continuing with a number of adaptations and innovations well into contemporary times. Some of the individual members of this network are remembered, such as Georg Henrik von Wright. But little attention is now given to the fact that these individual members communicated intensively with each other as well as with the Vienna Circle and its international continuation in the Unity of Science movement.

 

The volume here reviewed, dedicated to Arne Naess, is intended to fill the historical gaps and provide a more complete picture of this rich network, which even the Second World War was unable to destroy. In what follows, I will not discuss the second part of the volume, which contains a paper on the unit and disunity of science by Gerard Holton and a series of reviews of relevant books on different topics related to the Vienna Circle. I will instead offer some remarks concerning the main characters of our story, that is: Eino Kaila (1890-1958), Arne Naess (1912-2009), Jørgen Jørgensen (1894-1969) and Åke Petzäll (1901-1957), who founded the Swedish Journal Theoria. However, instead of following the order of the individual articles, I will reconstruct the content of the volume dealing with individual countries, to see their relative contribution to the continuity of the philosophical network in the Nordic Countries.

 

 

From Norway to Denmark

 

I begin with Norway, not least because the volume is dedicated to Arne Naess. Arne Naess is a typical example of a European Intellectual of pre-war times: he studied in Paris and Oslo and went to Vienna in 1934-36 to write his dissertation on Knowledge and Scientific Behavior (published in Oslo 1936). Then he participated in the third Conference on the Unity of Science in Paris, discussing with Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) and Otto Neurath (1882-1945) about truth. He then went on to Berkeley and returned to Oslo, where he was active in the anti-Nazi movement, and he continued to work there after the war, both as a professor and a political activist; he became a UNESCO representative in the East-West conflict, and was a promoter of the international peace movement and later of the ecological movement. Meanwhile he published frequently in Theoria, worked as editor of Synthese and founded and edited Inquiry. Although primarily thought of as a founding father of Norwegian philosophy, Arne Naess may be also considered as central in the development of the Social Sciences in Norway. As Fredrik W. Thue remarks in “Empiricism, Pragmatism, Behaviorism”, shortly after the German invasion, Arne Naess gathered an interdisciplinary group of students to work on foundations, and, after the war, the agenda of the group changed from philosophy towards social research: Naess’ epistemological program, and the experience of resistance against Fascism brought about a strong interest in the practical and normative challenges to postwar society, and an abandonment of his links with Logical Empiricism. Thue analyses Naess’ influence on the organization of studies (with psychology, logic and the history of philosophy as mandatory for all university students in Norway) and his naturalistic behavioral epistemology, nearer to American sociology and antagonistic to Popper’s “principles” of the Open Society. According to Naess, “Spontaneous reactions of empathy between humans presented deeper and more universal moral wellsprings than philosophical dogmas” (p.222). The paper tries to show the strong connections on the one hand between Naess and his pupils – where much space is given to Stein Rokkan (1921-1979) and his criticism of Karl Popper (1902-1994) – and on the other hand between his group and the American liberal-progressive tradition, following the path of John Dewey (1859-1952). From this connection a new attention to sociology and social reform arose.

 

Thue devotes too little space to exploring the links between the intellectual environment around Arne Naess and the optimistic faith that society could be improved by means of an interplay between economic growth, social welfare and political democracy. Hints about the “liberal innocence” of Naess are unfortunately not adequately explained. In any case, an anthology is unlikely to give a coherent account of the career of a complex philosopher. The idea of Naess’ progressive abandonment of Logical Empiricism is rejected by another paper of the anthology, by Friedrich Stadler: “Arne Naess – Dogmas and Problems of Empiricism”. According to Stadler, although Naes apparently stopped working inside the frameworks of traditional Logical Empiricism and the Unity of Science program after World War II – mainly on account of his interest in the social sciences and the ecological movement – he had kept in continuous touch with his Logical Empiricist roots, for instance in his correspondence with Neurath (up to 1945) and with Carnap (up to 1969) and in his many papers on A. J. Ayer (1910-1989) and Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994). Although his criticism of Logical Empiricism anticipates the famous critique of Quine (1908-2000) in “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, Stadler shows how Arne Naess never abandoned Logical Empiricism as a style of thinking and, especially in his later years, returned to his former ideas. A discussion of the 10 volumes of Naess’ selected works confirms the complexity of his overall philosophy.

 

While philosophy in Norway tended to be also closely linked to sociological studies, the role of Finland in the development of philosophy seems to be the most “foundational” of all other countries. Long before Arne Naess gave Norway a steady logical and empiricist foundation in philosophy, Eino Kaila was building a steady ground for cultivating analytic philosophy and logic in Finland as in Sweden and Norway. As Juha Manninen writes in the paper, “Between the Vienna Circle and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The philosophical Teachers of George Henrik von Wright”, the logic textbook used by Kaila for many years was the Abriss der Logistik by Rudolf Carnap, and many books by Carnap were recommended to the students, including Henrick Von Wright (1916-2003). The curriculum included the study of Wittgenstein (1989-1951), mainly the Tractatus. Besides chairing a logic club with advanced students, including von Wright himself and Herick Stenius (1911-1990), Kaila influenced Swedish philosophers, criticizing their psychologism in a strong address given at the University of Uppsala. Together with Jørgen Jørgensen, he convinced the appointments committee in Oslo to give the chair of philosophy to the young Arne Naess in 1939. Actually Kaila’s philosophical career begun when he wrote to Hans Reichenbach (1891-1953), who suggested that he contact Moritz Schlick (1882-1936). Kaila had some correspondence with Schlick, who then asked him to come to Vienna in 1929. Kaila had already written on Shlick, Einstein and Carnap’s Aufbau. Carnap found Kaila’s criticism surprising and interesting, and over a long period the two philosophers met several times. Kaila insisted on the importance of inductive inference and probability, while Carnap was – at the time – very distant from this topic that was to become a primary concern during his last period. Perhaps it was Kaila who moved Carnap in that direction. Kaila’s attention to induction culminated in his Finnish translation of Hume’s Inquiry Concerning the Human Understanding. His critical book on Carnap’s Aufbau was discussed in Berlin by Reichenbach and by the young Carl Hempel (1905-1997), and later in Vienna by Hans Hahn (1879-1934), Felix Kaufmann (1895-1949), Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) and Rudolf Carnap, who reviewed the book in Erkenntnis. Kaila went many times to Vienna and collaborated with Charlotte and Karl Bühler, defining what it is now called “the Kaila effect” – the attention area of the two eyes of a moving person from a child, who typically did not use that area if one eye was covered. (p.58). Between psychology and logic, working on intentionality, Kaila was always critical of Carnap, since his review of Carnap’s Logical Syntax; he did not completely accept physicalism and always asked for a space for a phenomenological language dealing with subjective experience.

 

As an historical influence, Kaila was also important for the development of the Swedish journal Theoria, founded in 1935. Kaila suggested that Theoria could take the place of Erkenntnis, which was in difficulty for political reasons. In fact, Erkenntnis lasted two more years before being provisionally closed; its contributors went mostly to the US, where they contributed to new journals, such as Philosophy of Science (founded in 1934) and the Journal of Symbolic Logic (founded in 1936). We will come back later to the history of Theoria.

 

Kaila’s influence in philosophy in Finland was wide; in the book we find reference to two main figures among his students, Oiva Toivo Ketonen (1913-2000) and George Henrick Von Wright. Ketonen was more devoted to logic than philosophy and went in 1938 to Göttingen, where he met Heinrich Sholtz (1884-1987). In Göttingen he studied under Gerhard Gentzen (1909-1945), and then received his PhD in logic during the 1944 bombing of Helsinki. In the paper “Young Ketonen and His Supreme Logical Discover”, Michael von Boguslawski suggests that the impact of the war was a reason for Ketonen to pay more attention to ethics than to philosophy of science. However his early logical work was well received: Haskell Curry (1900-1982) said that Ketonen’s work, extending Gentzen’s calculus, was the best thing in proof theory since Gentzen. Paul Bernays (1888-1977) and Arend Heyting (1898-1980) also appreciated his work. Ketonen remained in contact with Kaila, working on topics such as the problem of analytic and a priori knowledge.

 

However, the influence of Kaila was much more relevant to Georg Henrik von Wright especially at the beginning of von Wright’s career, when Kaila compelled the young student to study logic and gave him English texts to read. Certainly he was also influential in von Wright’s interest in induction and probability. In 1939, the year of the Russian invasion of Finland, Kaila (then in Helsinki after having taught in Turku) published his introduction to logical empiricism, Human Knowledge, translated into Swedish by von Wright. Despite the invasion, Finland survived as an independent democracy and was able to keep its leading scholars linked together, including a new arrival from the US, Jaakko Hintikka (1929-), described by von Wright (who had met Hintikka in Cambridge) as a “a very gifted young man”. In short, as Manninen says in his paper, “there is an unbroken lineage from Kaila and the Vienna circle to present day philosophy in Finland”.

 

More on Kaila’s philosophy can be found in the papers by Ilkka Niiniluoto, “Kaila’s Critique of Vitalism”, and by Arto Siitonen, “Kaila and Reichenbach as Protagonists Of Naturphilosophie”. Hintikka, without whom it is almost impossible to speak of Finnish philosophy, gives a rather personal account of the connections between himself and Kaila in an interview in The Philosophy of Jaakko Hintikka (in the Library of Living Philosophers collection). Hintikka identifies Kaila as his original inspiration, discusses his connection with von Wright, and makes some remarks on Vienna Circle’s influence coming to an end (referring obviously to the original Vienna Circle project). His interviewer, Simo Knuuttila, is able to put provocative questions that evoke interesting responses on a variety of topics, including reflections on Carnap, Wittgenstein and Quine.

 

Sweden must be considered not only for those Universities — in particular Uppsala and Bergenl — that established strong links with logical empiricism, but also as the country that produced the first Nordic philosophical journal in the analytic style: Theoria. The history of Theoria and its founder, Åke Petzäll, is well told by Johan Strang in the paper, “Between the National and the International – Theoria and the Logical Empiricists”. Over a long period, Theoria could have been described as a “journal of one man alone”; and Petzäll himself heavily influenced the general orientation of Swedish philosophy, based on a style of philosophy in the old tradition of the University of Lund – the so-called “Oxford of Sweden”.

 

Petzäll visited Vienna in 1932 and wrote a small book reflecting upon his conversations with Viennese philosophers, especially Friedrich Weismann. Theoria was launched just three years later, in 1935, becoming an important forum for the exchange of ideas and criticism between the networks of Logical Empiricism and the philosophers of the Nordic countries. By the end of the thirties Theoria had become closely linked with Logical Empiricism. Works by Carnap, Ayer, Hempel and Oppenheim, Popper and Tarski were typically reviewed in the journal, and many logical empiricists, like Neurath and Hempel published in it. A curiosity: the first publication of Hempel’s paradox of confirmation was in French at the request of Petzäll who wanted to promote the journal at the 9th International Congress in Philosophy in Paris (1937). Also Victor Kraft (1880-1975), a member of the Vienna Circle who was to become later the supervisor of Paul Federated (1924-1994), published on Theoria during a period when Petzäll sent monthly packages of food to Vienna. Unlike Erkenntnis, which was the official journal of Logical Empiricism, Theoria continued to publish papers reflecting different philosophical trends and hosted a debate between Uppsala Philosophy vs. Logical Empiricism, both of which emphasized the importance of logical analysis. Neurath had been contacted by the Danish philosopher Alf Ross (1899-1979), who had studied with Axel Hägerström (1868-1939), one of the chief representatives of the Uppsala school and influenced by neo-Kantianism. Neurath subsequently promoted the diffusion of the Uppsala antimetaphysical position. In a detailed report (pp.78-88), it is shown the development of Uppsala School: at the beginning, one of the most relevant representatives of Uppsala School, Einar Tegen (1884-1965), presented a very antagonist stance towards Logical Empiricism, but later other scholars like Ingemar Hedenius (1908-1982), a pupil of Adolph Phalén (1884-1931), developed a more sympathetic attitude.

 

Traditionally Sweden had an anti-metaphysical tradition, centered mainly in the University in Uppsala; but this tradition was not intrinsically connected with the development of modern logic. Although it is normally accepted that Swedish analytic tradition was originated by Alex Hägerström, the paper of Johan Strang shows the relevance of other influences and the important role of Åke Petzäll and his efforts in the diffusion of new ideas through Theoria. Petzäll may also have had an indirect role in the development of formal logic, which was missing in Uppsala. But Petzäll was not only the founder of Theoria. A relevant part of the history of the role of Petzäll within Logical Empiricism is told by Thomas Umbel, in “The Nature and Status of Scientific Metatheory. The Debate between Otto Neurath and Åke Petzäll”. In 1936 Theoria published a debate between Petzäll and Neurath – who wrote a review of Petzäll’s Zum Methodenproblem der Erkenntnisforschung (1935), where the author had given a strong criticism of both the physicalistic and naturalistic trends within the Vienna Circle. One of the main worries of Petzäll was the difficulty of keeping genetic or causal and normative issues sharply distinct; their purported distinctiveness was for him a myth, just like the distinction between analytic and synthetic. Empirical and logical considerations need to find some space within which they connect or at least work together; Neurath, in his replies, eventually reached the idea of the distinction between two types of metatheory, making this debate a direct contribution to the overall debate within logical empiricism.

 

Another influence came from Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), who was a refugee in Sweden, and a friend of Petzäll, and was thus “able to continue his unique neo-Kantian career and dialogue with the logical empiricists”. Cassirer settled down for a time in Uppsala; but with the possibility of a German invasion of Sweden, he left for the US, where he lived until 1945. In this connection, Thomas Mormann discusses the debate in the theory of concepts between Cassirer, Schlick and the Swedish Philosopher Konrad Marc-Wogau (1902-1991), who was Professor of philosophy in Uppsala from 1946 to 1968. The debate between Cassirer, Schlick and Mar-Wogau took place mainly in Theoria with many papers published between 1936 and 1940. Mormann’s article explores the details of this debate, explaining the criticism Marc Wogau devoted to Cassirer’s theory of the formation of concepts, and defending, in the end, Cassirer’s theory. The discussion supports the claim that “Begriffstheorie was a topic where philosophers of quite different orientations met. It exemplifies that once upon a time philosophers, who today are classified as belonging to allegedly quite different traditions, were engaged in discussing similar problems.” (p.179).

 

Denmark played a foundational role for Logical Empiricism in the Nordic Countries mainly through the work of Jørgen Jørgensen, who started his philosophical career with a break from neo-Kantianism that would have been critically received in Sweden. Jørgensen was important in the diffusion of the style of analytic philosophy and the strict interest in the analysis of scientific languages. He also had a promotional role in organizing the Second Congress for the Unity of Science in Copenaghen in 1936. In the paper, “Jørgen Jørgensen and Logical Positivism” Carl Henrik Koch offers a wide analysis of the work of Jørgensen, showing also the relevant connections between Jørgensen and the members of the Vienna Circle, met in 1930 at the 7th international congress of Philosophy in Oxford. After having been invited by Reichenbach in Berlin to give a lecture, Jørgensen arranged for both Carnap and Neurath to give lectures in Copenagen. He suggested to Carnap the title of Die Logische Sintax der Sprache, a book that Jørgensen reviewed in Erkenntnis.

 

In the thirties Jørgensen was a full a member of the neopositivistic movement, participating to the organizing committee of the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science and being an associate editor of the Library of Unified Science (with Carnap, Frank and Morris). He had already done a profound work of reformation of the teaching of philosophy at the University of Copenaghen, where wide space was given to the science, including formal tools of logic and mathematics. He opposed Dilthey’s emphatic distinction between natural sciences and human sciences, stressing the similarity of method in both of them: the unity of science is methodological. Given these attitudes, it is easy to understand how Jørgensen’s ideas were welcomed by Neurath, who in 1938 wrote that “Jørgensen emphasises that all the complicated and most important scientific theorizing starts with the experience and language of our daily life, that we also have to test all the theoretical results of all the sciences by means of the same aids. Jøgensen givens in his lectures not only a program of the Unity of Science but also shows this Unity as an actuality”. (p.166)

 

 

The Netherlands and Iceland   

 

The Nordic countries are closely linked by history and, for all of them except Finland also by linguistic connections (and even Finland has Swedish as a minority language). In addition, some other countries bear important similarities to the Nordic countries. The Netherlands, for example, exhibits some similarities in philosophical culture, whose explanation might be of interest. Therefore, also if the anthology of northern countries does not have a space for it, some remarks may complete the landscape. It is reasonable then to devote some attention to the development of the Signific group, one of the main factors that helped to provide some kind of common core with the Nordic countries. A discussion can be found in a paper by Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen (“Significs and the Origin of Analytic Philosophy”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 70, 2009), on which I rely in what follows.

 

Significs was a circle founded in 1922 by Frederick van Eeden (1860-1932), Jan Brouwer (1881-1966), Gerrit Mannoury (1867-1956) and Jacques van Ginneken (1877-1945). It was composed mainly of mathematicians with strong political interests (in socialist or communist ideas) and philosophical interests in natural language and in psychology. This last aspect is mainly due to the founder Van Eeden, who had contact with William James (1842-1910) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Among those who participated in the Signific group we may mention the mathematician David Van Dantzig (1900-1959) and the journalist Jacob Israël de Haan (1881-1924), a Jewish communist who was assassinated probably for his anti-zionist stance. The connection between the Signific and the Vienna Circles were mainly through Brouwer’s teacher, Gerrit Mannoury, who was in close contact with Neurath and contributed to the forums associated with the Vienna Circle and the Unity of Science movement. Although Mannoury and Brouwer had strong theoretical differences in the philosophy of mathematics, Mannoury accepted Brouwer’s claim of the supremacy of intuitionistic logic in the analysis of natural language, as compared with classical logic (Frege-Peano-Russell). Brouwer himself, as is well known, gave a talk in Vienna that strongly influenced the transition to a new phase of Wittgenstin’s thought. Another link was through Fredrik Waismann (1896-1959), who, together with Otto Neurath, was members of the International Group for the Study of Significs from the 1930s.

 

Notwithstanding the persecution of communists, most of these authors did not leave the Netherlands and represented an element of continuity in the kind of philosophical culture – with its links with the analysis of language and logic – that is still typically found in Dutch departments of philosophy and in centers like the Association for Logic, Language and Information (FOLLI). Therefore, although not, strictly speaking, “part” of the Nordic countries, the Netherlands evidently represent a historical continuity with the past of Northern Europe, continuity which – as mentioned earlier – was broken in Germany, Poland and southern Europe.

 

But there is still a gap in the analysis of Nordic Countries presented in the volume here discussed: what about Iceland? It is true, as Manninen and Stadler evidently assume, that there does not appear to have been any very direct or robust connection between Icelandic philosophers and the Vienna Circle. Research reveals mostly negatives, but with some relevant positives, not reported in Manninen and Stadler’s volume.

 

The University of Iceland was founded in 1911, at which time few Icelandic scholars had philosophical training, although Guðmundur Finnbogason (1873-1944) and Ágúst H. Bjarnason (1875-1952) studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Copenhagen.

 

Wittgenstein visited Iceland in 1912 with his friend David Pinsent and spent much of the time instructing Pinsent in aspects of what was to become an important part of the Vienna Circle’s philosophy. However, Wittgenstein did not interact with any Icelandic philosophers during his visit, or later, as far as we know.

 

Philosophy was not taught as a degree subject in Iceland until 1972. Prior to that, philosophy professorsthe first of them being Ágúst H. Bjarnasonwere, for most of the time, in charge of a course in philosophical propaedeutics, following a Norwegian model and therefore with a link to the tradition fostered by Arne Naess.

 

After the establishment of a B.A. degree program in philosophy at the University of Iceland in 1972 and the assumption of the professorship by the Belgian-educated Páll Skúlason (1945- ) in 1975, the Philosophy Department of the University of Iceland has grown to eight members, with interests and specializations in both Analytic and Continental philosophy, and in the history of philosophy, in a friendly mixture.  

 

Þorsteinn Gylfason (1942-2005), who from 1972 until his death taught philosophy at the University of Iceland, was an undergraduate at Harvard and later a student of Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) at Oxford. He was personally and philosophically acquainted with Peter Geach (1916-) and Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001)—both students of Wittgenstein—and with Willard van Orman Quine (1908-2000), whose thought was, as is well known, directly influenced by that of Wittgenstein. All of these philosophers paid philosophical visits to Iceland at Þorsteinn’s behest and interacted with Icelandic philosophers. Þorsteinn himself taught and wrote robustly about Wittgenstein.

 

Mikael M. Karlsson (1943- ), who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Iceland, where he has taught for nearly 40 years was, from early in his career, an admirer of the late Wesley Salmon (1925-2001) and was Salmon’s informal colleague at the University of Pittsburgh. Karlsson has taught and written about certain of Salmon’s ideas. Salmon wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1950 under Hans Reichenbach, who had founded the so-called Berlin Circle, a philosophical group whose orientation was similar to that of its Austrian counterpart; and, in many respects, Salmon continued and developed the work of Reichenbach. This is perhaps a weak, and rather indirect, link with the Vienna Circle, but is not entirely negligible. Mikael M. Karlsson has also been heavily influenced by Quine, both through Quine’s writings and through personal interaction; and he was likewise an advisee of Stephen Toulmin (1922-2009), who was influenced significantly by Wittgenstein while at Cambridge.

 

With these indirect links, Icelandic philosophy, too, can claim some connection with the philosophers of the Vienna Circle. The particular geographical position of Iceland, between US and Europe, is another element of the connection with analytic philosophy, although the term is not so relevant in countries where there is a continuity of philosophical tradition from the pre-war environment. The term “analytic philosophy” is not a sound category and is typically avoided in the Nordic countries and in the US, where the tradition stemming from the Vienna Circle has a strong grounding, although—as Hillary Putnam has remarked—the term may be useful in southern countries or in Central and Eastern Europe, where connections with the tradition were severed after the Second World War. These last remarks bring us to the general background behind the publication of this volume.

 

 

The Analytic tradition and the Continental Break

 

It is well known that World War II had a disastrous impact upon the development European philosophy during the second half of the twentieth century, an impact that has lasted until today. The war destroyed the wonderful net of connections among philosophers and among other academics: the Vienna Circle, the Berlin Circle, Significs, the Peano School, and the Warsaw School interacting on the European Continent, with strong ties also to Great Britain. With these connections largely destroyed by the war, the great debates in the philosophy of logic, language and science were abandoned, and Continental philosophy became heavily pervaded by hermeneutics under the influence of Heidegger, amalgamated with remnants of Marxism and phenomenology.

 

Many of the best philosophers from Austria, Poland and Germany left Europe during the Nazi period and developed their careers in the United States, where their contribution to the development of American philosophy was enormous (just think of Rudolf Carnap, Kurt Gödel, Carl Hempel, Hans Reichenbach and Alfred Tarski), or alternatively in Great Britain (think of Wittgenstein, Waismann and Popper).

 

There was a mainstream of European philosophy that was stimulated by the discovery of the new logic and was greatly interested in the development of science. Why did the Nordic countries — in contrast to the southern countries and Central Europe — resist what may be called “deviation” from the mainstream of European philosophy? Why was the analytic tradition that began, bloomed and expanded in pre-war Europe preserved after the war only in the Nordic countries?

 

The continuity with the analytic tradition in philosophical research and teaching in the Nordic countries is no longer a mystery, given the detailed history of the influential philosophical figures in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark in the post-war period presented in this anthology. Part of the reason for the continuity and robustness of the “Nordic circle” of philosophy is simply the fact that Nordic philosophers did not abandon Europe and kept the links among themselves alive within the Nordic sphere, while central and Southern Europe, deprived of many of their best philosophers, abandoned the neopositivist tradition, and the analytic style connected with it, and probably threw out the baby with the bath water.

 

The concentration of the present book on the specific relations of the Nordic countries with the Vienna Circle runs the risk of lapsing into an historical survey of old theories and missing the general framework which developed from the lively connections among European philosophical centers. I think there is a way of reading this book not only for the purpose of registering the links with the Vienna Circle, but to better understand the uniqueness of the contemporary Nordic tradition in philosophy as compared with other parts of Europe. The close and direct connections between Vienna Circle and some of the founders of philosophy in the Nordic countries help us to better understand the reasons for the continuity of philosophical tradition that came to link the Nordic countries more closely to American philosophy than to Continental philosophy so-called, although in fact there is nothing more “Continental” than analytic philosophy. The book reveals hidden connections, is full of details and quotations from personal communications and theoretical debates and helps us to understand the absolutely unique situation of philosophy in the Nordic countries after the Second World War, as compared with other parts of Europe. The anthology therefore represent part of a wider history of philosophy in Europe and gives Nordic countries a primacy of continuity of the European philosophical tradition in contrast to the “deviation” of the Continental philosophy (I refer to the thesis of Tugendhat, according to whom analytic philosophy is the proper heir of the great tradition of philosophy since Aristotle). But, due also to the return of the old traditions implanted in the US, the analytic style of philosophy is now coming back to its original home; and it is reassuring to see that not only central Europe and Eastern Europe, but also Southern countries, under the initiative of European Society for Analytic Philosophy, are beginning to recover their connections with the great European tradition, through a series of meetings devoted to fostering analytic philosophy – These are called “Latin Meetings in Analytic Philosophy”. This “Southern circle” recalls the tradition of meetings within the Nordic sphere that played an important role in the past and that have continued, and developed, up to the present day.

 

It looks as if “Mediterranean” Europe is “recovering” from a long period of philosophical turmoil and is ready to re-build and reinforce its broken connections with the past, following the example of the Nordic countries.

 

Philip J. Anderson and Dag Blanck (eds.), Norwegians and Swedes in the United States: Friends and Neighbors (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012)

The collection is divided into four distinct sections—Context, Culture, Conflict and Community—each undertaking a thorough examination of the relationships and interactions between the largest immigration populations from Scandinavian to the United States. As the subheadings suggest, a comprehensive study of the relationship between Norwegians and Swedes in the United States cannot be sustained on comparison alone. Indeed, as Donna R. Gabaccia outlines in the very useful foreword to the book, the narrative of this relationship continues to develop new strains due in part to increasing attention to “inter-ethnic perspectives” concerning American immigration history in general and Scandinavian interactions in particular. It is the developing story of Scandinavian “inter-ethnic perspectives” that the collection aims to uncover and narrate and as a whole this aim is successful. As Gabaccia rightly points out, however, the collection downplays the “importance of contention” between the two groups, by choosing to highlight “the Americanization that brought both groups of immigrates closer to each other.”

 

The first section on context contains two substantial introductory chapters: “Friends and Neighbors? Patterns of Norwegian-Swedish Interaction in the United States” by co-editor Dag Blanck and “Norwegians and Swedes in America: Some Comparisons” by H. Arnold Barton. The opening chapters strive to broadly describe the identities of each group and the patterns of interactions between them. Blanck develops a useful chronology for grappling with the complex issue, dividing recognizable patterns of interaction into three periods. Blanck emphasizes that although there has yet to be a systematic and comprehensive study of the history of the Scandinavians in the United States, certain patterns emerge from the studies that do exist. When division did occur between Norwegian and Swedish immigrants it was along religious lines, more so than national ones. In matters of the heart, however, Norwegians and Swedes found each other the most desirable and within the political sphere they were each others’ closest allies. Barton’s comparative study of the two groups is admittedly more speculative in nature, but no less productive in results by focusing on the differences between the groups. Some of Barton’s findings are less surprising than others. That the Norwegians were the more nationalist of the two immigrant groups makes sense in term of Norway’s political development over the nineteenth century ending with its independence in 1905. That Norwegian Americans wrote more novels than Swedes was unexpected. As was the conclusion that Swedish Americans generally outpaced their Scandinavian neighbors in the sciences and technology, the visual arts and business. As Barton states, differences such as those I have pointed out are compelling and open new lines of investigation for further research. How to assess why these differences occurred, however, is not as easy or apparent.

 

The second section examines the central position that diverse aspects of culture held in the Norwegian and Swedish immigrant experience. The following three chapters stood out: Odd S. Lovoll’s opening chapter, “Preserving a Cultural Heritage Across Boundaries: A Comparative Perspective on Riksföreningen Sverigekontakt and the Nordmanns-Forbundet” skillfully depicts how even as societies were started in both Norway and Sweden to promote home colonization, the two societies mentioned in the title were founded to cope with expanding populations outside the nation state. Lovoll’s explanation of how each society aimed to create a notion of worldwide nationality founded on the promotion of cultural retention within emigrant populations is thought provoking, particularly regarding the underlying conservative politics at its core, a point I would have liked to see more thoroughly developed. In “Freedom, Identity, and Double Perspectives: Representations of the Migrant Experience in the Novels of Vilhelm Moberg and O.E. Rølvaag,” Ingeborg Kongslien illustrates that although each author penned works of historical fiction and not historical accounts per se, due to the authors’ personal experiences the novels nevertheless provide ample and reliable insights into Scandinavian emigration, including those historical, psychological, sociological and existential. James P. Leary’s “Är Du Svenske?”–”Norsk! Norsk!”: Folk Humor and Cultural Difference in Scandinavian America” is the highlight of the section as it is rich with familiar jokes that become compelling examples of the development of cultural difference between Norwegian and Swedish Americans. Leary convincingly maps how “Scandihoovian” humor is more about negotiating relationships between Norwegians and Swedes in the United States than about any actual reference to the homeland. Indeed, he illustrates that what often appears as insider teasing is in reality a way to communicate cultural difference to the wider, and often undiscerning, American public.

 

The third section of the collection identifies areas where conflict arose between the Scandinavian immigrant groups. The first two chapters examine how Norwegian independence affected relationships between Norwegian and Swedish Americans, while the second two chapters scrutinize the complex divides, factions and mergers within the varying denominations of the Lutheran Church in the United States. Jørn Brøndal’s “We are Norwegians and Swedes Now, Not Scandinavians”: The Impact of Norwegian Independence on Scandinavian American Politics in the Midwest” and Ulf Jonas Björk’s “An End to Brotherhood?” Swedes and Norwegians in America Discuss the 1905 Union Dissolution” are complimentary chapters that detail the ramifications of Norway’s independence on political and social alignments between Norwegian and Swedish Americans. The conclusions of both chapters reflect back to my earlier statement concerning the collection overall: conflicts were limited and those that arose were short-lived. As each chapter suggests, pan-Scandinavianism seems to have post- dated any animosity, albeit at varying levels across time and place. Kurt W. Peterson’s “A Question of Conscious: Minnesota’s Norwegian American Lutherans and the Teaching of Evolution” is the stand out piece of the collection. Peterson targets the imperative position that Norwegian American Lutherans held in early twentieth century debates concerning the status of evolution in public schools and by doing so, places current discourse on the subject into a new, and nuanced historical context. The chapter is filled with—what was for me at least—compelling insight into how Lutheran history supported the separation of church and state, thus ultimately rendering null the scheme to legislate the exclusion of evolution in Minnesota’s public schools and universities. Peterson asserts that, “many Lutherans wanted nothing to do with [legislation] because they wanted nothing to do with the Reformed tradition. Their fight was not simply over the teaching of evolution; for them, the heart of their Lutheran theological heritage was at stake.” Equally compelling is the way in which Peterson details the close ideological ties between Norwegian American Lutheranism and the broader Evangelical movement.

 

The closing section of the collection is a fitting bookend to a study that casts a wide net as it examines both distinct features and broad trends within the Norwegian and Swedish American community. That this section is the largest reinforces the collection’s unifying intentions. Each chapter features a case study of a specific cluster of Norwegian and Swedish immigrants within the United States. The section is rich with description and details, demographics and specifics, whether investigating the nontraditional immigrant position held by many Norwegian and Swedish engineers and architects, as in Per-Olof Grönberg’s contribution, or chronicling the narrative of an insulated Scandinavian enclave on the shores of Lake Superior, as in Philip J. Anderson’s piece. All but one chapter, however, focuses on Scandinavian communities in the Midwest. The exception being Jennifer Eastman Atterbery’s “Scandinavian’s in the Rocky Mountain West: Pragmatic and Programmatic.” Atterbery’s very interesting examination of Scandinavian settlements in Montana and LDS Utah (touching only briefly on California) broadens the scope of what is an otherwise very regional-specific section. In fact, the exclusion of the West is one of the shortcomings of the collection as a whole and I would have liked the same rigorous scholarship that pervades the collection applied to Norwegian and Swedish communities in California, Oregon and Washington, or for that matter, to those in New York and the East. One of the most outstanding features in this section is the way in which personal narrative and family history interjects into large-scale and oftentimes characterless demographic statistics. In more than one instance, particularly in Byron J. Nordstrom’s “Norwegians and Swedes in Willmar, Minnesota, in the Early Twentieth Century,” general and sweeping statistical information is transformed from the tedious to the compelling by granting the dates, numbers, and anonymous names on the page, a narrative. By fleshing out both the communities under study and particular individuals within those communities, the closing section is a fitting end to what is a comprehensive, informative and insightful study of Norwegians and Swedes in the United States. The information presented in this study will most certainly fuel and encourage subsequent research and publication in the field.

 

Tra utopia e realtà: Olof Palme e il socialismo democratico. Antologia di scritti e discorsi, (ed. and trans.) Monica Quirico (Rome: Editori Riuniti university press, 2009)

Monica Quirico has produced a nicely edited and translated work that collects together into Italian some of the writings and speeches of the assassinated Prime Minister. The volume consists of an introduction by the editor-translator and a division of Palme’s work into four sections: socialism and democracy, Swedish reform, the Neo-Liberal offensive and solidarity without limits. The book also possesses a useful glossary that succinctly explains various acronyms and persons of interest.

As one reads the speeches and writings of Palme, one is struck by their relevance for today. The texts reveal a politician that was formed at a time when social democracy was not only viable and rich with promise, but one also finds an astute awareness of the threat of Neo-Liberalism and the difficulties and challenges posed by globalisation and a globalised economy. With the collapse of the Left and the dominance of a globalised market-place politics, Palme still offers hope, even after his demise. One feels the palpable urgency of his message and his commitment to improving society and the state of the world.

The Introduction, written by Quirico, presents a biographical sketch of Palme, outlining the sources and influences that helped shape him throughout the various periods of his life. Born into a Conservative family, Palme developed a deep concern for injustice and inequality while studying both in Sweden and abroad. Quirico sets the stage for her readers to begin to appreciate the various concerns and programmes of Palme’s politics. Section One focusses on the speeches and writings of Palme that examine the nature and struggles of socialism and democracy. I should note, here, that the writings and speeches contained in the volume are not arranged in a strict chronological order; rather, they are organised around certain themes, which the editor-translator has rightly identified as indicative of Palme’s political vision and legacy. One sees in this section Olaf Palme’s struggles with various forms of socialism and how they represent themselves at the international level. Palme rejects communism as a viable form of socialism, as it undermines individual freedoms. The communism that he has in mind is the Soviet form. He is also critical of capitalism, for it values profit over individual and collective wellbeing. In fact, striking in Palme’s speeches and discourses is his conviction that individual wellbeing is intimately linked with societal or collective wellbeing, including global community. Democracy and active participation in democratic politics requires a just distribution of goods so that all peoples can actively participate in government. Palme identifies work as an important social mechanism that will allow more active participation. Unemployment eats away at the very possibility of a more communal and active sense of political life. He remarks, “The fight against unemployment takes on a crucial value in this respect, if we wish: to avoid wasting our economic resources; alleviate social tensions and personal suffering that stem from unemployment; maintain trust in our democratic form of government and reinforce democracy. Full employment not only creates wellbeing, it also distributes it. There is no greater division than between those who have work and those who do not. Moreover, the person who now suffers runs the greater risk of being unemployed. All that has been said up until now can sound quite obvious, so much so that it may ring as commonplace. But the problem is that such obvious commonplaces are not often spoken. It is good to repeat them, lest we forget them.” (99 Translation mine)

Section Two collects together some of Palme’s work on social reforms in Sweden. Here, the Swedish statesman’s commitment to the welfare state model of politics is very clear. There is an emphasis not only the intimate connection between a just and equal economic distribution of goods—an economic vision oriented toward a more encompassing goal of communal good rather than individual profit—and democracy, but one also finds here his conviction that solidarity is vital if Sweden is to carry out its social welfare values. We read: “The strength of a welfare state for all…is: it is just in and for itself such that all may benefit; it makes possible a redistribution among people in different phases of life and among different social groups; it is balanced because it consists of both rights and obligations for all; it protects the most vulnerable. International comparisons reveal how inefficient selective politics are in trying to lead those who live in conditions below average; it creates liberty, avoiding the enclosure of persons in a state of dependency, which could be difficult to get oneself out of; it offers autonomy. Individuals can live their lives, even when they become ill or old; it guarantees freedom of movement, for rights follow the person wherever he or she may be; it consists of a limited bureaucracy insofar as it does not revolve around the rise and fall of certain economic conditions, which is opposite to systems that only concern themselves with the most marginalised of a society.” (161–61 Translation mine) The section ends also with Palme reminding Swedes of their uniqueness in the world and their global contribution, especially concerning advances in social wellbeing and the environment. He sees Swedish unions as making vital contributions on this score.

Section Three is one of the most poignant and salient sections of the book. Quirico has collected here Palme’s writings and discourses on the Neo-Liberal offensive. Given that, today, we have completely succumbed to the Neo-Liberal model, especially in the West, what Palme criticises and fears have come true. In many ways, reading these speeches from our present point of view makes him seem like a prophet. The late 1970’s and early 1980’s introduced massive economic difficulties on the world stage. One feels in the texts of this section the effects of massive unemployment, an increased cost of living due to inflation and high interest rates and the fleeing of European and North American labour markets by producers of goods in favour of places where labour is cheaper and, therefore, more profitable. The social democratic and welfare state models advanced by Palme are under severe attack as unable to sustain the goals he claims it could promote. He comments on the dissolution of unions in North America and England: “To launch a politics directly aimed at workers, especially when it deals with unemployment, social security, etc., is to attack the union, incriminating its legitimacy as the voice of its members. This is what is happening in country after country. This is why it is necessary that unions react, uniting their respective forces at the international level. The strong unions of Sweden have a particular responsibility in this battle for human rights and the freedom of unions. It is to you, I am convinced, that the future belongs.” (194–95 Translation mine) Today, unions have lost their voice and workers are subject to the whims of the markets—the security of the welfare state is no longer.

Section Four concludes the volumes with a hopeful message and, perhaps, a useful tool to mobilise us against the excesses and faults of a globalised Neo-Liberal economy, with its recent crashes in 2008 and 2011. We find here various addresses that Palme gave against apartheid as well as in former war-torn Vietnam. Ultimately, solidarity, especially at an international level, is invoked as a source of change and reform; it can also prevent us from falling into a politics of fear and oppression. Solidarity is no longer local, but global, and it entails a profound social responsibility—one that Palme lived whole-heartedly, for example, as mediator in the Iran-Iraq war and in his fight against apartheid. “All of us have a role to play in the struggle against apartheid. I have reported to United Nations and to other agencies of the measures of our government. We are actively engaged so that other countries may adopt, in turn, measures similar to ours. One of the reasons why we are concerned that our actions are compatible with those of others at the international level is so that the probability increases that others may follow our example […]” (260 Translation mine)

Unfortunately, Olaf Palme’s life came to an abrupt and unexpected end with his assassination in Stockholm in 1986. With his death, his fight for a more democratic society based on justice, equality and a communal well being rooted in solidarity and responsibility also came to an end. Quirico has given us an important resource for preserving and studying Palme’s legacy and political message of the need for certain values that preserve and promote human life and society as well as create a more just and equitable world. Perhaps Palme’s speeches and writings may help in reinvigorating the left or producing a new social democracy. Only time will tell.

 

Kristina Kappelin, Berlusconi – Italienaren (Stockholm: Brombergs, 2010)

Kappelin knows, and loves, Italy: there is no trace, in her work, of a superiority complex towards Italians – such folkloristic people! ? which is on the contrary a common feature of some foreign media when dealing with Italy. Rather, Kappelin tries to understand how came that a country with a unique cultural and historical heritage has let itself be bluffed by a man who has – perhaps irreparably – compromised Italy’s reputation in the world.

And the book is indeed not only about the founder of “Forza Italia”, but instead, as it is made clear by the meaningful title (Berlusconi. The Italian), about Berlusconi as embodiment of some national peculiarities, so to say.

Italy in the whole have not yet been able to reflect about Berlusconi’s almost twenty-year dominance over the country’s political and economic life, pressed as it is just now (February 2012) by a never-ending emergency – the risk of a financial collapse – which caused, in November 2011, the appointment of a “technical government” (i.e. voted by the Parliament but not resulting from the last general election) being charged with the task of crisis management. Furthermore, although “style” is significant – professor Mario Monti does not “peekaboo” the German chancellor (Kappelin reminds Berlusconi’s blunders in chapter seven, Tittut i världen) and seems not to be used to spend his nights with twenty- to thirty young girls at the same time – the common feeling is that there has not occurred any shift in economic and social policies, which remain unfair and not effective (at least in the view of re-launching the economy and not only balancing public finances). This sense of continuity prevents to look at “Berlusconism” as a close (?) period in Italian history.

What does Berlusconi’s success reveal of Italy, according to Kappelin’s book? Basically, three aspects: the power of organised crime; the Catholic Church’s influence upon domestic politics and culture; the well-grounded male chauvinism.

The first two points (which particularly chapter sex, Maffian, and eight, Klockorna i Peterskyrkan, focuse on, although they are recurring issues all over the book) are frequently cause of embarrassments to Italians when talking with foreigners.

And indeed it would be unthinkable in Sweden – Kappelin is not so explicit, but the starting sentence of her book is: how come that Italians vote for Berlusconi? ? to pervert justice in the way Berlusconi did in Italy (by the notorious ad hoc laws, described in their origin and content in the chapter five, Konflikten med rättväsandet), and to witness powerless to the connivance between politics and criminality. This is due probably to a political tradition in Nordic countries which Henrik Berggren and Lars Trägårdh have described as a high degree of social trust, meant both as trust in other people, including strangers, and confidence in common institutions due to their transparency[1].

However, Kappelin’s thesis is that what explains why  a politician, who from a Swedish point of view is completely incomprehensible, has been so successful is, besides his relationship with organised crime on one hand and with the Catholic Church on the other hand (at least until the last sex affaires), male chauvinism: a key factor, the Swedish journalist stresses already in the Introduction, in understanding Italy’s decline, from the economic stagnation (now recession) to the lack of trust in the future. And in chapter one (Italien och Italienarna. En introduktion) Kappelin points out indeed that the country is like a journey back in time, in a masculine and sensual world, where “l’apparenza” (look)[2] means all and where a downward compromise has been achieved between the individual and the State: as you (State) do not accomplish your duties towards me (citizen), I am not bound to accomplish mine towards you. It is the triumph of the “furbo” (cunning fellow)[3].

With such a background, it is quite obvious that women have no chance, with few exceptions, to establish themselves as political and economic independent actors. Their unhappy fortune in Berlusconi’s Italy is the subject of chapter three (Madonnan, horan och Silvio Berlusconi): those that are good looking are reduced to nothing more than ornamental elements in a society ruled by old and unappeasable men and therefore appointed as parliamentary members and even ministers exactly because of their “apparenza”; the others, the common women, who are not mistresses of some sultan, are mostly doomed to insignificance in the economy and in politics.

Berlusconi, Kappelin insists on this point, has not invented male chauvinism, which on the contrary is well-grounded in the country’s culture; his sin with no redemption is to have turned this national inclination into a rule and the “velina”[4] (young girls almost naked whose only task in Berlusconi’s TV programs is to shake their body in alluring ways) into the ideal model of womanhood.

And thus we come to another valuable contribution of Kappelin’s book, after the effective part on women’s role as mirror of Italy’s decadence (and again here we could remind that on the contrary Nordic countries are on the top in the world’s gender equality ratios): to the huge concentration of media power achieved by Berlusconi much attention is drawn upon (see particularly chapter four, Makten over medierna), but this problem is not presented at all as an Italian peculiarity. Rather, Kappelin warns that also countries which have repeatedly condemned Berlusconi for his conflict of interest have no safe defence against such a risk.

The final part of the book focuses on how Berlusconi has changed Italian political style, turning electoral campaigns into sales where even the promise of one million – and not half a million, as Kappelin writes – new jobs can be sold to people in search of an encouraging fairy-tale, with immigrants welcomed as scapegoats (chapter nine, Dragkampen i Italien – resultat och misslyckanden), and on the dangerous meeting between authoritarian democracy and media populism (chapter ten, Auktoritär demokrati och medial populism). No one before Berlusconi, Kappelin points out, had dared to draw a comparison between Mussolini and himself with a kind of self-congratulation. But what the author argues is not that the founder of “Forza Italia” is the new Mussolini: the difference is that the latter aimed at building a new Italian,  whilst the former is satisfied with the existing one. The point is rather that the centre-right parties, with Berlusconi in the forefront, have taken over and reverted the “cultural hegemony” based since 1945 on antifascism as the key-source of national identity, and have systematically put down liberal institutions (starting from parliamentary and judicial powers) – and politics itself.

In this perspective, Berlusconi’s Italy appears as a political laboratory for the whole Europe. This is the somehow not expected conclusion from a non-Italian author, which enables the book to be not only a commented review of stereotypes about Italians (and about differences between Northern and Southern Europe), but a more demanding reflection about possible future developments of democracy at an international level. Out of Italy many have laughed when seeing Berlusconi’s blunders and listening to his hymn (“Meno male che Silvio c’è”), but – Kappelin warns – his “style” has become a model for a new generation of right-wing politicians, starting from David Cameron in the UK.

Thus it is not easy to get rid of Berlusconism as though it were a mere interlude in Italian history, perhaps cherishing the always comfortable thesis that it has been a further demonstration of the Gattopardo’s core idea: in Italy everything is to be changed so that nothing changes. On the contrary, Berlusconi, this is Kappelin’s conclusion, has substantially changed the way Italians look at themselves – and at the the others – as well as the ways of contemporary politics. And it will take time to go back to previous ones – or to find something new.


[1] See H. Berggren, L. Trägårdh, Social Trust and Radical Individualism. The Paradox at the Heart of Nordic Capitalism, in The Nordic Way, Stockholm, Global Utmaning, 2010, pp. 18-19.

[2] In Italian in the book, see p. 18.

[3] In Italian in the book, see p. 29.

[4] The book has been written before the “Ruby affaire”.

Göran Greider, Ingen kommer undan Olof Palme (Stockholm: Ordfront, 2011)

To the pressing return of Palme’s figure in the debate on the future of Swedish Social Democracy an intense book by Göran Greider – poet and journalist, one of the ten most authoritative intellectuals in Sweden – has remarkably contributed: Nobody escapes Olof Palme[1]; an evocative title for a work which is not meant as a biography but rather as a “walk”, taken during and just after the 2010 electoral campaign, across Palme’s life as well as through the changes occurring in the Swedish Social Democratic party – and in Sweden in the whole – under the last decades (subsequently to Palme’s death).

Greider’s path – made up of meetings with old and new activists, in Stockholm as well as in more peripheral areas – starts from four places in Stockholm with a symbolic value in Palme’s life: Östermalm, the upper class neighbourhood where he grew up; Vällingby, the ultra-rationalistic suburb where the Palmes moved to in the 1950s; the street (Västerlånggatan) in the Old Town, where he lived in the last years of his life; and the road (Sveavägen) in the modern city centre where he worked (the Social Democratic party has its head office there) and where he was murdered.

In the first chapter (Östermalmsgatan) Greider points out that the Swedish Conservative Party (Moderaterna), although claiming the legacy of Tage Erlander (Palme’s predecessor, prime minister from 1946 to 1969, the age of the making of the impressive Swedish public sector), still looks at Palme as a taboo. Unless… he is not purified by any Socialist corruption. Greider is persuaded that exactly this embarrassing contamination explains why the centre-right parties as well as the Social Democrats try in any way to escape Palme.

The second chapter (Tornedalsgatan) focuses indeed on the biographies (by Henrik Berggren, by Kjell Östberg and by Klas Eklund[2]) offering an embalmed portrait of Palme as statesman (and in the case of Berggren’s work, also trying to turn Palme into a liberal). After all, why should the upper class give up claiming the most talented politician grown up from its own ranks (although unfortunately gone over to the enemy)?

Greider makes clear that his own aim is on the contrary to discuss the most controversial elements in Palme’s political career. The author’s thesis is that the Social Democratic leader can be understood only in the light of the social movement, aiming at a social transformation, which he led from 1969 (when Palme was appointed party leader and subsequently prime minister) to 1986, both in power and in opposition: the working class and its allies. According to the author, “the movement is the message”, as he makes clear already in the short Introduction, coming back to this idea in the second chapter, where moreover he points out that nowadays in Sweden the only political organization aiming at, and succeeding in, building a political movement is the xenophobic party, the Sweden Democrats.

In the light of these worrying processes, Greider questions one of the commonplaces about the crisis of the Left all over Europe: what is needed – in Sweden and not only – is not so much to work out again the transformation thinking (it is not ideas and analysis which are missing), but instead to find new forms of organisation for social movements.

The author is critical with the influential historiographic trend explaining the ideological development of Swedish Social Democracy as a gradual but at the same time unavoidable removal, from the 1930s onwards, of all Socialist core ideas; starting of course from Socialization, being replaced by the more reassuring – and thus more suitable to ensure Capitalists’ support – social democracy.

Greider recalls the great visions the Swedish Social Democrats built upon the cross-class consent they enjoyed, stressing that these were not inescapable paths, but instead the outcomes of choices made by the labour movement: first the “people’s home”, launched in 1928 by Per Albin Hansson and since then revised several times as slogan; then, between the 1950s and the 1960s, the “strong society”[3], to refer to the need of an active role of the State aiming at safeguarding citizens’ welfare. In both cases, socialization played no role. Nevertheless, Greider asks himself: what does it mean that in the last years of Palme’s life, after more than four decades of Social Democratic rule (yet interrupted by the centre-right government 1976-1982), almost four workers out of ten had a public employer?

By doing so Greider raises the question as far as the identity of Swedish Social Democracy is concerned, i.e. the role of the State in re-shaping the power relations between classes. His answer is that such an achievement reflected an unmatched degree of socialization of the economy. According to Greider’s analysis indeed the SAP did not restrained its intervention to a socialization of incomes, but rather built an imposing public production system. This is exactly the history which has been removed: the making of a “embryonal Socialism” in Sweden. The centre-right can not take possession of it, because of the incompatibility with its own social-liberal vision; furthermore, this history makes many Social Democrats feel uneasy as well.

After making amends for the sins of Soviet Socialism, it is time, Greider writes in the third chapter (Västerlånggatan), to look forward: if not nowadays, in ten, twenty years the good “utopia” contained in Communism will become topical again.

The great chance missed by the Swedish Social Democracy, the third crossroad it had to face, is indicated by Greider in the debate on wage earner funds, started in the early 1970s (but with earlier roots) from the awareness that capital formation should be increased without helping at the same time wealth concentration. Put forward in 1975 by the trade union economist Rudolf Meidner, the proposal provided the establishment of funds – stocks being strategic property – to be administered by workers and constituted through the transfer of a share of annual corporate profits; they were supposed to shift gradually the ownership in medium to large companies from employers to workers. The SAP strove to turn the funds into an instrument of capital accumulation; when they were finally introduced by a law, in 1983, had no longer anything to do with the original proposal, being rather an element within a general anti-crisis policy. That, too, as well as the People’s Home and the Strong Society, was a choice, Greider stresses, without playing down at all Palme’s contribution in neutralizing the subversive component of the funds, in the face of the hysterical reactions from business circles.

The divide between Palme and his successors is identified by Greider not in the capacity to take unpopular decisions – which Palme, too, took, and which the author accepts as hard lesson of politics – but rather on one hand in Palme’s attachment to Democratic Socialism and on the other hand in his successors being unable to make it clear that, notwithstanding unfavourable circumstances, the aim is still the same: to ensure equality and safety. It is not by chance that what is considered worthy being celebrated in Palme is his internationalism, not his democratic socialism, i.e. not the politician who recalled the Socialist legacy always present (even though in an underground way) in the party history.

In the final chapter (Sveavägen) Greider points out to the two conditions which can allow a revival of Democratic Socialism in the XXI Century. The first is that as long as we live in a capitalist society, Marxism, yet not self-sufficient (but rather to be supplemented by the Green thinking and by social movements other than the labour one), remains the best conceptual tradition we have at our disposal in understanding – and in changing – reality. The second condition is to give raise to new social movements and at the same time to revitalize the existing ones, too often unable to communicate with each other.

The goal is, once again, with more urgency than ever, labour liberation.

Endnotes

———————————————————————————————————-

[1] G. Greider, Ingen kommer undan Olof Palme, Ordfront, Stockholm 2011.

[2] See M. Quirico, Olof Palme: One Life, Many Readings, “Nordicum Mediterraneum”, 2011, VI, 1.

[3] At that time the distinction between State and civil society was weak, in the Swedish political lexicon, thus the translation into another language has to take into account this ambiguity, due to the close relation between the two spheres. See L. Trägårdh, The Paradox of Swedish Political Culture: State and Civil Society in Sweden, Introduction to State and Civil Society in Northern Europe. The Swedish Model Reconsidered, ed. by Id., New York-Oxford, Berghahn Books, 2007, pp. 1-3.

Olof Palme: One Life, Many Readings

In short, historiographic reflections have been penalized by a kind of personality cult, even if reversed in the case of Palme’s opponents.[1]

 

1. Literature on Olof Palme

 

His spectacular political career, on the one side, and his tragic end, on the other side, have nourished – already when Palme was still alive – a thriving and deplorable literary genre made up of speculations on his demoniac nature, his crimes, or at best his inadequacies;[2] as well as conspiracy theories of all kinds and hundreds hypothesis on the murder.[3] . In the end of the 1980s the first biography came out, written by the journalist Björn Elmbrant:[4] it is still an unavoidable reference. It was followed later by the purely political biography written by the journalist Peter Antman and by the Social Democratic politician Pierre Schori,[5] who was State Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the second Palme government. Collective volumes[6] followed too, including contributions that focused on particular aspects of Palme’s politics/policies (first and foremost the foreign one)[7], and memoirs by representatives of the Social Democratic Party.[8]

Due partly to the awareness that much was left to be studied with regards to Palme’s life and political role, and partly to the approaching 25th anniversary of his tragic death, recent years have witnessed a renewed biographic effort, thanks first of all to the monumental work (nearly 900 pages) by Kjell Östberg, a historian who has devoted great part of his scientific production to social movements and to the relationship between intellectuals and politics. One could wonder what was left to be said about Palme after this two-volume biography, published between 2008 (1. I takt med tiden. Olof Palme 1927-1969 – Behind the times. Olof Palme 1927-1969[9]) and 2009 (2. När vinden vände. Olof Palme 1969-1986 – When the wind turned. Olof Palme 1969-1986[10]). Nevertheless, in 2010 two more works were published: the short Palme, by Klas Eklund,[11] who was one of the economic advisors of the second Palme government; and the impressive (more than 700 pages) Underbara dagar framför oss. En biografi över Olof Palme (Wonderful Days in Front of Us. A biography of Olof Palme)[12] by Henrik Berggren, historian but above all leading writer of “Dagens Nyheter”, the most influential Swedish newspaper, which typically endorses “independent liberal” stances.

The aim of this article is not to review the last three biographies mentioned above, but to try to identify their methodology, so to speak, then singling out – in a way which may come across as arbitrary – some of the controversial points in Palme’s political career (leaving out both scandals and vulgar attacks), as they will prove to be good opportunities for comparing the interpretations given by their authors.[13]

2. Different ways to tell a life

Eklund’s book differs from the other two works for it is part of a series devoted to the Swedish Prime Ministers in the last hundred years (i.e. from Karl Staaff to the present PM Fredrik Reinfeldt). Each volume is meant as a quick introduction to a specific PM, and in fact Eklund’s Palme is a fairly simple political biography (with only a limited attention to Palme’s private life). Nonetheless, its final section (Arvet efter Palme, Palme’s legacy) makes it different from a flat list of facts and dates. In a few pages, the author takes indeed a stock of Palme’s outcomes and failures and then even goes so far as to try to imagine what could happen if Palme had not been murdered — a kind of counterfactual history, in other words.

Östberg’s and Berggren’s biographies show at first glance a similar structure, not only due to their remarkable length, but also insofar as both aim at an in-depth reconstruction of Palme’s life and role, as well as of the world around him (i.e. 20th-century Sweden and international, history). The title of the first volume of Östberg’s biography, Behind the Times, summarizes very well the author’s starting point, as it is made clear in the Introduction: first of all, the idea that Palme went across several ages during which history turned more than once to a new direction; secondly, the acknowledgement that Palme showed an extraordinary talent for grasping the Zeitgeist and the changes affecting it, and therefore was in the best position for exerting an effective influence on what was going on.

Östberg’s approach is not at all individualistic.[14] His biography is rather a history of Palme within the history of the Swedish labour movement and of its changing relationship with Capital, with a swinging from collaboration to conflict that took place exactly under Palme’s political apex. That does not imply that Palme’s individuality is sacrificed in the end, but rather that the dilemmas which he had to face and the choices which he made are understandable only in the view of the power relations between classes and of the pressures upon the labour movement and its organizations coming both from the Right and from the Left. That explains why the two volumes of Östberg’s biography represent an imposing picture of 20th-century Swedish political and social history.

To sum up Berggren’s work is a trickier task, because of a kind of paradox which somehow undermines it. The main perspective is definitely individualistic, with regards both to the methodology – Palme’s behaviour (as a person and as a politician) is often, too often perhaps, interpreted from a psychological and philosophical point of view – and to the interpretation – Berggren portrays Palme, whom he states to have voted for in 1982 and 1985,[15] far more as a liberal than as a socialist. On the other hand, it is exactly Palme who disappears eventually in the demanding history of Swedish culture and, in a way, Swedish civilisation in the 20th century, which constitutes the actual core of the book. Though fascinated by the gallery of poets, artists, film-makers, theorists and journalists – besides politicians – that Berggren recalls and outlines with great skill, the reader can not help wondering: “where has Palme gone?”

3. “Class treason”

One of the more investigated turning points in Palme’s life are the reasons that led a talented offspring of one of the most influential families in Stockholm to join the Social Democratic Party (SAP) in 1951 – after drawing attention to himself as student leader on an international scale –, only to be appointed two years later as secretary of the then prime minister, Tage Erlander, at the age of twenty-six years.

All three authors stress the formative impact on the young Palme – until then holder of the conservative vision (even if with social and international openings) inherited from his family – of the journeys made around the USA (1948), Eastern Europe (1949) and Asia (1953). These experiences meant the dramatic discovery of a reality made up of misery and oppression.[16] All three authors refuse the common yet misleading explanations focusing on Palme’s opportunism: a young man with his background could have chosen far more promising careers. Besides, that the Social Democratic Party, in power since 1932, would have kept its position until 1976 was something that no one in the beginning of the 1950s could expect. On the contrary, many took for granted the forthcoming end of the Social Democratic age, as the party, perhaps as a consequence of being so successful, seemed unable to renew itself.[17] Why the labour movement then?

Eklund puts forward the easiest explanation: Palme joined the SAP because of his ideology: anti-colonialist, reformist, anti-communist.[18]

Östberg’s thesis is summarized in a few words in the very last page of the second volume, but his whole work illustrates it. Two were the driving forces which turned Palme into a Social Democrat: the awareness that the world was about to change – and that he was in the best position, with his talent and his social and intellectual network, to contribute to a new age – and what Palme himself called the “joy of politics”;[19] a feeling, the latter, that evokes the portrait of the politician by vocation outlined by Max Weber:

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective. Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth – that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only a leader but a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word. And even those who are neither leaders nor heroes must arm themselves with that steadfastness of heart which can brave even the crumbling of all hopes. This is necessary right now, or else men will not be able to attain even that which is possible today. Only he has the calling for politics who is sure that he shall not crumble when the world from his point of view is too stupid or too base for what he wants to offer. Only he who in the face of all this can say “In spite of all!” has the calling for politics.[20]

As to Berggren, he argues that one could expect that Palme would choose a career in politics, due to his interest in social problems, as well as in journalism or research, due to his strong liking for intellectual life; but in the former case, siding with the Right; while in the latter keeping a more distanced approach to the public debate. What Palme did was to combine these two alternatives by turning to political engagement in the ranks of the Social Democratic party. Palme’s unexpected choice was therefore twofold, as both an active role in politics and even more so a left-wing position did not belong to his social background, even if Berggren often insists on the continuity between Olof and his grandfather, Sven, the founder of the family fortune, who advocated social reforms.[21] It is noteworthy that Palme’s political radicalism and the reformism that both Eklund and Östberg point out as one of Palme’s main features (with Östberg referring to it in a double meaning: the awareness that reforms were needed and the talent for bringing forth reforms), are kept in the shade in Berggren’s work. Yet, what comes in the spotlight is an overall attitude of cultural radicalism that, in Sweden, is traditionally associated with the Liberal party.

4. Radicalism abroad and compromise at home?

 

 

One could be tempted to wonder whether the biographers’ conclusions as to Palme’s joining the labour movement have influenced their interpretation of his politics as a whole; or whether on the contrary the opinions on Palme’s place in Swedish history, developed at the end of their works, have favoured a retrospective reading of Palme’s first controversial step, that is to say, “going over to the enemy”, as his decision was perceived by many of his class peers. Whatever the answer, it is most interesting to see what kind of connection is established in the three biographies between the talented upper-class young man who committed himself to the struggle for the labour movement and the worldwide-known politician who displayed his radicalism in foreign affairs and was nevertheless inclined to compromise in domestic politics, both with the opposition parties and with the business community. What the biographers face here is the debate about Palme’s position within the party, and his role within the history of Swedish Social Democracy as a whole.

4.a Foreign policy

Palme’s radicalism in foreign policy has been related above all to his firm condemnation of the Vietnam War, which created considerable troubles to Sweden in its diplomatic relations with the USA. This was an irony of fate, given that Palme has been defined by many — Östberg and Berggren among them[22] — as the most American among Swedish politicians, due to his education, his journeys and his contacts in the USA.

Palme expressed his contrariety to the American military intervention in Vietnam in a few well-known speeches and articles: the so-called “Gävle speech” delivered in 1965, when Palme was minister of Transport and Communication;[23] the speech held at the Vietnam demonstration on February 1968,[24] when Palme was minister of Education and Culture and marched close to the North-Vietnamese ambassador in Moscow – and the picture came out in hundreds of newspapers all over the world; the article on Song My (a Vietnamese village destroyed by 19-20 years-old US soldiers) published in 1970,[25] when he was already prime minister; and finally Hanoi, Christmas 1972, a speech broadcast on the Swedish Radio and which is worth being quoted:

We should call things by their proper names. What is going on in Vietnam today is a form of torture.

There cannot be any military justification for the bombings […].

People are being punished, a nation is being punished in order to humiliate it, to force it to submit to force.

That’s why the bombings are despicable.

Many such atrocities have been perpetrated in recent history. They are often associated with a name: Guernica, Oradour, Babi Yar, Katyn, Lidice, Sharpeville, Treblinka.

Violence triumphed. But posterity has condemned the perpetrators.

Now a new name will be added to the list: Hanoi, Christmas 1972.[26]

Östberg presents the reader with the diverse reactions raised by Palme’s statements. For most of his party fellows his engagement on such an issue not only was absolutely sincere, but also in line with the labour movement tradition of internationalism; right-wing representatives complained his home (ab)use of foreign policy, aiming at opposing the growing influence on social movements gained by the New Left in the 1960s; others have seen in his position a sign of his opportunism and careerism: he benefitted from the solidarity movement with the Vietnamese people and strengthened his position within the party and/or consolidated his reputation as international politician.[27]

Eklund maintains that thanks to Palme’s Gävle speech “it became legitimate to criticize the USA”, and that his statements shifted the whole Swedish debate on international affairs to the Left. At the same time, he notes that the Vietnam issue strengthened Palme’s political identity, anointing him once and for all as an icon of the new time; because of his age (38 when the War started), no one among the Social Democratic representatives was more suitable than him to undertake the task of competing with the New Left for the “hegemony” on the new social movements.[28] Berggren shares this analysis, emphasizing furthermore Palme’s skill in awaking a kind of national feeling, a sense of honour which moved a little country like Sweden to express its indignation in an unusually plain language. The words “Swedish neutrality” – which under the Second World War had got a quite bitter taste – came to be related to the solidarity with the struggle for independence of Third World nations. That is why Berggren refers even to a paradigm shift, as Palme introduced an interpretation of what was going on in Vietnam which challenged the one up to then prevailing, i.e. that the USA fought always and only for democracy, yet without embracing a Communist perspective.[29]

The home impact of the debate on the Vietnam War is also the focus of Östberg’s chapter Vietnam!.

The starting point whereby to explain Palme’s behaviour is the same, i.e. the Social Democrats’ awareness that they were in danger to lose support from the Left, and that the person in the best position to try to resist that trend was Palme, whose anti-communism was well-tested. Unlike Eklund and Berggren however, Östberg is more sceptical about the outcomes of this strategy: if Palme succeed in keeping the party together around the Vietnam issue, the SAP lost nevertheless the battle for the hegemony on the Vietnam movement. It was not devoid of significance that business – including trade of military technology – and intelligence relations between Sweden and the USA were not affected by the turbulence roused by Palme’s vehemence, and that did not increase the SAP’s credibility among the New Left activists. Östberg’s conclusion is that the Vietnam War did not ruin at all Palme’s attachment to US liberalism, with its belief that the best way to resist Communism was to gain influence on radical social movements. But Palme was in no way a pure pawn in the party’s hands (as Eklund and Berggren, too, acknowledge); he did not hesitate to make statements that in few hours could compromise years of careful diplomatic relations. It was not Palme to create the Vietnam issue; but his role in putting it on the agenda can not be underestimated.[30]

On the occasion of the Portuguese Revolution (1974) some of the core values in Palme’s view of international affairs came again in the light, according to Östberg: colonialism vs liberation struggles, poor countries vs rich ones, democracy vs fascism as well as communism, great powers vs small States. In the neutralization of the pressures aiming at questioning the Western Order, the Socialist International played a crucial role, and Palme, thanks to the influential example of his country, was in the forefront – in his own way: not by clash but by dialogue, favouring a reformist outcome of the Portuguese revolutionary phase.[31] Eklund discusses shortly the event, by writing that Palme contributed to avert the danger of a too radical shift to the Left and secure the establishment of a Democratic government;[32] while Berggren puts the accent on the rapproachement that took place on that occasion between Sweden and the USA, as both countries feared  revolutionary developments in Europe.[33]

 

 

4.b Home politics

It is a widespread opinion that Palme, in spite of his radicalism in foreign policy — which however, as we have seen, is to be understood in the light of his effort to put forward Social Democracy as a successful alternative to Communism — showed a willingness to compromise when domestic policy was concerned that often aroused dissatisfaction in his own ranks. If there is a wide consensus on the wave of reforms passed by his first government (1969-1976) – on gender equality, Welfare State, labour markets – that consolidated the notion of Sweden as a “model” country, other issues were highly controversial, both within the labour movement and in the relationship with the opposition. Here the focus will be on Palme’s line with regard to the wage earners’ funds, a cross which went along with him from the middle 1970s to 1983, and the so-called “Third Way”, the economic policy introduced by Kjell Olof Feldt, minister of finance in the second Palme government (1982-1986). By examining these issues it will be perhaps easier to understand Östberg’s, Eklund’s and Berggren’s concluding remarks on Palme’s role in the history of Swedish Social Democracy.

Between 1975 and 1983, under the influence of the radicalization of society and of the debate of the perverse effects of the solidarity-focused wage policy[34] – a cornerstone of the Rehn-Meidner model, i.e. the Swedish model for economic policy from the late 1950s onwards – the Swedish labour movement discussed the proposal put forward between 1975 and 1976 by the leading economist of the General Labour Confederation (LO), Rudolf Meidner, so as to establish employee funds (löntagarfonder) that would gradually shift the ownership in medium to large companies from employers to workers.[35] The principle “equal pay for equal work”, aiming at avoiding inequalities among employees, caused that profitable companies, not being required to pay wages commensurate with their higher profits, found themselves with a surplus that was not being redistributed among the workers, thus ultimately widening the gap between capital and labour.[36]

The debate on Wage Earners’ Funds turned into a hot potato for the Social Democrats, who were about, in 1976, to face an uphill general election. Certainly, these funds did not help; the right-centre parties and the Employers’ Association charged the labour movement with the will to introduce in Sweden a socialism of the Eastern kind.

The question which is interesting to raise when comparing different interpretations of Palme’s politics is not so much why he was against the funds – his whole political education and experience led him to oppose socialization – but rather why the prime minister managed the issue in a way which has been blamed either as ambiguous (by the supporters of the Meidner plan) or passive (by his opponents). Eklund and Berggren focus on the latter problem, the more “tactical” one, though not leaving out entirely the ideological dimension. Eklund’s starting point is his own personal thesis, whereby Meidner’s plan went far beyond what up to then had been discussed within the labour movement – and what in fact was needed – in order to resist the concentration of property; as it aimed at socializing the Swedish economy, it was not consistent with the Swedish model, which – as Eklund recalls – has identified in taxation, legislation and the Welfare State the counterbalance to Capital. On the other side, however, Eklund acknowledges that Palme was aware of the discussion which was going on within the LO, even if he expected that at the end the Union leadership would invite its activists to a realistic approach. But it did not go this way. As to the party leadership, after the 1973 general election, even if still in power, it had to face the “lottery-parliament” (the seats in parliament were equally divided between the two blocks) and it seemed not particularly interested in the issue; that is why Palme and his colleagues in the government did not follow it close up from the beginning.[37]

Berggren agrees on the idea that Palme, reluctant to interfere in the debate within the union, relied on the LO chairman, Gunnar Nilsson, in order to neutralize the funds; the latter nevertheless had to take into account the appreciation which the funds enjoyed among the workers. Furthermore, the personal relationship between the two labour leaders was not so good. Berggren points out as well that Palme had difficulty in understand the plan’s core in itself. It seems that Palme said, referring to the LO’s support to the plan: “They have gone further than what I had thought in my most unrestrained imagination!”[38]

Eklund discusses also Palme’s political calculations: besides the workers’ support to the project, it must be borne in mind that when the confrontation on the funds actual set up took place, between 1978 and 1980, the SAP was in opposition and for the first time Palme’s leadership was questioned, not so much because of the electoral defeat in 1976, but due partly to his “flirt” with the Liberal party (then in power by a minority government), and partly to his intense engagement in international affairs (e.g. the Socialist International, the commission on disarmament, the Iran-Iraq war). Additionally, his upper class background could expose him to criticisms from the labour movement, if he dared go against the union on such a crucial issue. Finally, though against the funds on principle, he could not but support them in the face of the opponents’ attacks: the enemy was not allowed to settle the labour movement’s programs.[39]

Compared to Berggren’s and Eklund’s, Östberg’s work devotes more attention to the ideological implications of Palme’s dilemma. In the author’s view, the wage earners’ funds were the major issue among those which forced Palme to take a definite position between market and planning: it was unthinkable under that circumstance to keep the balance peculiar to the Social Democratic Third Way. Meidner’s Plan was – this is Östberg’s view – perhaps the most ticklish question Palme had to face. Paradoxically, the challenge – to question private property – did not come from the Left, but from the pillar, together with the SAP, of the Swedish way to reformism, that is to say, the union.

Whose influence on society was, in the first half of the 1970s, at its peak; but at the same time, the Swedish Employers’ Confederation started right then its ideological and political counterattack. Palme’s strategy was first to postpone the issue (after the 1976 general elections) and then to neutralize the most “subversive” elements in the plan, stressing from the beginning its compatibility with a market economy. And at last the aim – to reassure the business circles – was achieved by adding a fourth goal to the three formulated by Meidner (to transfer a quote of profits from capitalists to workers; to oppose property and wealth concentration; to establish workers’ influence on the economy through property): to favour capital formation, for the benefit of industrial investments. This was not exactly what had aroused, in 1975-1976, the union activists’ enthusiasm. In the early 1980s, the Meidner plan, then completely perverted, came to be incorporated into the program against the economic crisis worked out by the SAP.[40]

Noteworthy is that while the three biographers agree that the law on funds passed by the parliament in 1983 and introducing a pension funds scheme, had nothing to do with Meidner’s original plan, they differ as far as the effectiveness of Palme’s line is concerned. For Eklund, the whole discussion on the wage earners’ funds was one of Palme’s worst failures from an ideological point of view, as he stayed all the time on the defensive and contributed to a deep demoralization in the labour movement’s ranks.[41] On the contrary, Palme’s strategy seems to Östberg to have been successful, in terms of impact on the public opinion: he could neutralize the plan, without provoking too serious inner splits.[42] Berggren is more neutral, just joining under the category of “symbol-politics” the impressive demonstration against the funds held by the Employers’ Confederation on October 4, 1982 and the passing of the law few weeks later.[43]

The program against the ongoing economic crisis implemented by the second Palme government and to which, as we have seen, the wage earners’ funds were utilized, is considered as well one of the most controversial chapters in his political career.[44] In 1982 the minister of finance Kjell Olof Feldt presented three alternatives: an expansionist policy; a restrictive one; and what he called “the big bang”, that is to say, a policy aiming at stimulating investments and production, but at the same time squeezing domestic demand by means of devaluation. The last one was accepted. On this point, it is of particular interest to read Eklund’s points, as he was one of Feldt’s staff members. According to him, Palme and Feldt failed in the task of curbing the spiral of inflation, provoked by unrestrained wage claims by the unions. Palme showed once again – this is Eklund’s thesis – his weakness before the unions, portrayed by the author as a short-sighted organization, unable or unwilling to grasp the requirements of the economic system.[45] However, in the pages dealing with the “war of the roses”, that is to say, the unions’ dissatisfaction with the SAP’s profit-oriented economic policy, the author recognizes that the labour movement had to accept major changes in the Swedish model yet with no return (e.g. an active industrial policy or wage earners’ funds worthy of the name).[46]

Berggren is content with reporting Palme’s satisfaction for the economic recovery, which he comments upon in an interview given on February, 28 1986 (mind the date) when he declared, with a tragic irony of fate, that 1986 was a year full of opportunities,[47] thereby acknowledging that Feldt’s policy was effective and that the Social Democrats had once again fortune on their side.[48] Yet, the long-term consequences, both economic and political, of the shift begun under Palme are not deepened by Berggren. They come instead in the forefront in Östberg’s work, where it is pointed out that the real nature of the ”Third way” (as the new economic policy was called, i.e. neither expansionist nor restrictive) was bound to be widely discussed. Was it consistent with a Social Democratic orientation or did it mean the surrender to Neo-Liberalism? Certainly Palme supported his minister of finance, and he did so by arguing that the new economic policy was a condition for preserving the Welfare State.[49] Nevertheless – and this is one of the crucial points in Östberg’s biography – Palme accepted it as a necessary evil, while to Feldt’s eyes the policy was dictated by a long-term adaptation, perceived as unavoidable, to a more market-oriented political climate. As a sign of the ideological disagreement between the two leading Social Democratic politicians, Östberg brings forward Palme’s disappointment when Feldt made a statement in favour of the privatization of Swedish pre-schools; also in his last interview, few hours before being murdered, Palme confirmed his strong support to the public sector, which he regarded as a key aspect of modern civilisation.[50]

Berggren too reports Palme’s firm reaction to the openings to neo-liberalism made by his minister of finance, but the interpretation of their relationship is definitely different. Palme was moved, Berggren argues, not so much by the concern of safeguarding a distinct Social Democratic platform, but rather by tactic calculations: a breakdown in the labour movement tradition would have caused inner splits and favoured the building of a competing party on the Left. Berggren agrees that Palme was against privatization, but at the same time the author believes that the prime minister shared many of Feldt’s viewpoints and perhaps that is why he reacted so firmly. With a member of the government staff Palme indeed seems (Berggren unfortunately does not refer to any source) to have made clear his awareness that increased competition, effectiveness and freedom of choice within the public sector (a condition that Berggren should have emphasized) were needed.[51]

Eklund’s version is somehow in the middle: he recognizes an ideological gap between Palme and Feldt, but reduces it essentially to a matter of make-up: the former kept a more traditional rhetoric when arguing in favour of the new economic policy, while the latter made no secret of the fact that the “Third way” was part of a process of “modernization” of the national economy.[52] Palme’s early and vehement condemnation of the dangers inborn in Neo-Liberalism – social atomization, destruction of the environment, democracy turned into an empty box – is not mentioned here.

5. Continuity or breakdown?

Maybe Palme was only tired or even depressed because of the long time in the frontline, the many troubles that he had to face from the very beginning since coming back in power in 1982 (the U-boat affair, the Bofors and the Harvard scandals, incessant union unrest), and the many personal attacks that he suffered from; maybe he was planning to leave, perhaps accepting an appointment as United Nations (UN) Commissar on Refugees, or staying on for a while.[53] What is certain is that everything was shattered by the shots which echoed in the evening of February 28, 1986.

Berggren, with a choice that can be disappointing to the reader and nonetheless reveals some elegance, stops his long story then, when the Swedish prime minister died in the heart of the city where he had spent all his life, not far from his childhood home, close to the SAP building, next to the wife he had been married with over nearly thirty years.[54] Nothing is said on the inquiry that followed.

Eklund shortly summarizes what happened in the aftermath: the widespread belief that a murder of a prime minister can not but be the outcome of a plot; the only person ever charged with the crime (and then released) being a single and violent individual, Christer Pettersson; the kind of private investigation (backed by the SAP leadership) which did its best to confirm the PKK (the Communist party of Kurdistan) hypothesis.[55] Eklund writes nothing about the tremendous failure of the Swedish justice in an inquiry that has exceeded even the one on the murder of US president John F. Kennedy.

Östberg’s second volume takes up in the end an epic style: on the one hand we follow a man and a politician who was fed up, worried for the world and for his own safety, getting older and no longer as unquestionable as he had been in the 1970s;[56] on the other hand, we enter the opaque area of hate campaigns arranged by a blend of different groups, ranging from the extreme right of the Employers’ Confederation to unaffiliated anarchic psychopaths, affecting Palme in his last years more than ever before.[57] In other countries the relationship between a murder and the preceding hate campaign against the victim has been regularly scrutinised, apart from the person who materially committed the murder; in Sweden this scrutiny has been less common. Under this perspective, Östberg definitely contributes a significant study. Besides, his chapter devoted to the murder and the ensuing inquiry is a useful and involving reconstruction of what happened and what ought not to happen, yet without trying to add one more Truth about the murder to the long list of hypotheses – some of them pretty fanciful – formulated until now.[58]

After twenty-five years the murder is still unresolved, the SAP has lost two elections in a row (2006 and 2010), and Palme remains a controversial issue. Who was Olof Palme? Which was the connection between the Olof Palme who made the US government fly into a fury due to his condemnation of Imperialism and the Olof Palme who backed the business-friendly “Third way” in economic policy?

It has to be noted here that the three biographers are all fascinated by his talent, meant both as intellectual brightness and as ability in problem-solving (hence Palme’s success in bringing forth actual reforms); yet they acknowledge too that this talent could turn into a double-edged weapon in the relations, both political and personal, with others.[59]

In Eklund’s final remarks, Palme appears as the highest expression in Sweden of the 1950s and 1960s Zeitgeist: the commitment to achieve demanding and long-term reforms; nevertheless he is also described as unlucky, for his appointment as prime minister in 1969 took place at the same time when the Golden Age ended, and he was not inclined to face a downward age.[60] What has been perceived by someone as Palme’s ambiguity or contradiction, or, worse, opportunism, depended instead on a diverse approach to the different fields of reality: Palme was left-wing as far as social, educational and foreign policy were concerned, but he was right-wing as to economic and security policy. He personified the unending swing in Swedish Social Democracy between Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy.[61]

Berggren’s interpretation is equally continuity-oriented: Palme was a democrat, moved to politics more by an “existential” choice than by an ideological conviction; along his whole life, he remained a pragmatist. As such, his role can not be defined either as a Cold War soldier (under the 1950s standard banners) nor as an anti-imperialist (under the 1960s and the early 1970s ones). Rather, Palme showed the typical Social Democratic ability to achieve viable arrangements. After tracing Palme’s relationship with politics back to his existentialist philosophy – a puzzling thesis broadly developed in the book– Berggren goes further in his accentuation of Palme’s individualistic dimension – and in the removal of the socialist one. The other distinguishing features that he singles out are indeed, besides the international perspective, Palme’s belief that the individual has a duty to pursue what he maintains to be Truth and Justice, and Palme’s strong volunteerism.[62] In the end, according to Berggren’s biography, Palme seems to have shared with Swedish Social Democracy only an attitude to compromise, on one side, and to modernization, on the other side; the latter element implied also to improve people’s living conditions, but more in a liberal perspective (i.e. to give everybody the chance to lead his own existence) than in an endeavour to make society more equal.[63] According to Berggren’s analysis, Palme’s awareness that society can safeguard freedom only by securing equality (and in a substantive meaning) is negligible.[64]

Östberg’s conclusions are more complex with regard to the dilemma continuity vs breakdown. Palme was behind the times until the Golden Age went on; in the mid-1960s he was able to understand, thanks to his good relationship with intellectuals and young people, that the Zeitgeist was changing. That favoured the portrait of him as a radical, but also the disappointment of those who had misunderstood Palme’s position. He was not a radical, Östberg stresses; rather he took his place in the party centre-wing. His condemnation of colonialism and violence was sincere, and at the same time perfectly consistent with his reformism: he hoped and believed indeed that sooner or later the countries fighting for their liberation would have followed the Swedish way, that is to say, the achievement of political, social and economic democracy by reformist politics. Somehow he contributed to the radicalism of that age without being a radical.[65] The impact of the reforms passed under his first government was such as to raise in many (both sympathizers and opponents) the question: are the Social Democrats about to reverse the Swedish system?

To this climate Palme contributed by the radicalism accompanying the passage of the reforms. But – Östberg insists on this crucial passage – when the borders of Swedish reformism were questioned, e.g. on the occasion of the debate on the wage earners’ funds, he refused to go over. He lost touch with the Zeitgeist, as the historical phase when he had developed his ideas and approach – the age of the trust in never-ending economic growth and therefore in an increasing Welfare State– was over. This loss was not Palme’s failure, but the result of the challenge issued by the ongoing economic crisis and the spreading of Neo-Liberalism to the whole Swedish Social Democracy. From the 1950s to the 1980s Palme maintained a unitary vision, although trying to tailor it to changing conditions: the task was to extend democracy from the political dimension to the social and economic one, yet without questioning private property.[66] Such was Olof Palme in fact: when blaming the USA and the USSR for their arrogance and oppression, when putting gender equality on the agenda, when flirting with the Liberal Party, or neutralizing the more demanding union claims; he was a Social Democrat, who experienced the shift from an age when everything seemed possible to a crisis undermining all the certainties and requiring new answers.

How and whether Palme’s heirs have succeeded in this hard task: to be up to the new challenges without getting rid of the Social Democratic tradition – hence of Palme’s legacy too – is today, at least apparently, matter for discussion, in one of the toughest phases of the party’s history.


[1] See Å. Linderborg, Socialdemokraterna skriver historia. Historieskrivning som ideologisk maktresurs 1892-2000, Stockholm, Atlas, 2001, pp. 108-111.

[2] See B. Östergren, Vem är Olof Palme? Ett politiskt porträtt, Stockholm, Timbro, 1984; Claes Arvidsson, Olof Palme. Med verkligheten som fiende, Stockholm, Timbro, 2007. Noteworthy is that the publisher of both these highly polemic works, come out at a distance of twenty-three years, is the same, the new-liberal think-tank “Timbro”.

[3] Among the many possible references, K. and P. Poutiainen, Inuti labyrinten: om mordet på Olof Palme, Stockholm, Grimur, 1995 (on the domestic track); J. Bondeson, Blood on the Snow. The Killing of Olof Palme, Ithaca, Cornell University, 2005 (on the track related to the traffic in arms); H. Hederberg, Offret & gärningsmannen: en essä om mordet på Olof Palme, Stockholm, Atlantis, 2010 (guilty: Christer Pettersson, the only person sentenced, yet then released, for the murder).

[4] B. Elmbrant, Palme, Stockholm, Fischer&Rye, 1989.

[5] P. Antman, P. Schori, Den gränslöse reformisten, Stockholm, Rabén Prisma/Tiden Debatt, 1996.

[6] See E. Åsard (ed. by), Politikern Olof Palme, Stockholm, Hjalmarson & Högberg, 2002, focusing on Palme’s view of politics, massmedia, foreign policy and rhetoric.

[7] See for instance A. Kullenberg, Palme och kvinnorna, 1996; U. Larsson, Olof Palme och utbildningspolitiken, Stockholm, Hjalmarson & Högberg, 2003;  A.-M. Ekengren, Olof Palme och utrikespolitiken, Umeå, Boréa, 2005; G. Björk, Olof Palme och medierna. Umeå, Boréa, 2006.

[8] See I. Carlsson, Ur skuggan av Olof Palme, Stockholm, Hjalmarson & Högberg, 1999 and T.G. Peterson, Olof Palme som jag minns honom, Stockholm, Bonnier, 2002.

[9] K. Östberg,  I takt med tiden. Olof Palme 1927-1969, Stockholm, Leopard, 2008; see, on this e-journal, IV, 2009, 1, my review.

[10] Id., När vinden vände. Olof Palme 1969-1986, Stockholm, Leopard, 2009; I have reviewed both the volumes in Olof Palme e i venti della storia, “Meridiana”, 2008, 62, pp. 233-243.

[11] K. Eklund, Palme, Stockholm, Bonnier, 2010.

[12] H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss. En biografi över Olof Palme, Stockholm, Norstedts, 2010.

[13] In order to accomplish such a task, I will profit by the “confrontation” among the three biographers arranged by the “Liberala Klubben” at the ABF (Arbetarnas bildningsförbund, Workers’ Educational Association) in Stockholm, on December 8, 2010, which I attended to.

[14] See K. Östberg,  Inledning, in Id., I takt med tiden cit., pp. 13-14.

[15] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, p. 8.

[16] See K. Östberg,  I takt med tiden, pp. 61-68 (on the USA), pp. 74-76 (Eastern Europe), pp. 104-106 (on Asia);. H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, pp. 111-141 (USA), pp. 156-159; K. Eklund, Palme, pp. 22-23.

[17] See K. Östberg,  I takt med tiden, pp. 108-112; K. Eklund, Palme, p. 24.

[18] See K. Eklund, Palme, p. 24.

[19] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, p. 421.

[20] M. Weber, La politica come professione, in Il lavoro intellettuale come professione (1919), Torino, Einaudi, 1983, pp. 120-121; for the English translation, see www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/ethos/Weber-vocation.pdf.

[21] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, p. 109.

[22] See K. Östberg,  I takt med tiden, p. 394; H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, pp. 313-315.

[23] One month after the speech, the USA embassy in Stockholm sent a report to the State Department in Washington where the event that Palme would be appointed as the next prime minister was faced with anxiety. Cfr. K. Östberg,  I takt med tiden, p. 279.

See the English translation in http://www.olofpalme.org.

[25] See O. Palme, For My Lai in our hearts… (1970), and a partial English translation of it in Olof Palme speaking. Articles and Speeches, ed. by G. Banks, Stockholm, Premiss, 2006, pp. 137-141.

[26] See O. Palme, Hanoi, Christmas 1972 (1972), in Olof Palme speaking, pp. 141-142.

[27] See K. Östberg,  I takt med tiden, pp. 165-166.

[28] See K. Eklund, Palme, p. 43.

[29] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, pp. 355-357.

[30] See K. Östberg,  I takt med tiden, pp. 309-311.

[31] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, pp. 131-139.

[32] See K. Eklund, Palme, p. 64.

[33] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, pp. 517-518.

[34] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, p. 527.

[35] See the English translation of the 1975 Report, R. Meidner (with the assistance of A. Hedborg and G. Fond), Employee investment funds : an approach to collective capital formation, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1978.

[36] See K. Eklund, Palme, p. 72.

[37] See K. Eklund, Palme, pp. 72-75.

[38] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, pp. 529-532; Palme’s quotation p. 531 (the Author yet does not refer the source of Palme’s statement).

[39] See K. Eklund, Palme, pp. 76-77.

[40] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, pp. 247-256.

[41] See K. Eklund, Palme, p. 78.

[42] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, pp. 258-259.

[43] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, pp. 627-628. The confrontation on the wage earners’ funds, that is, the inner splits between the LO and the SAP and within the SAP, and the bourgeois mobilization, is however reconstructed quite hastily by the author.

[44] According to Östberg, it is one of the most controversial issue in the whole Swedish contemporary history. See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, p. 299.

[45] See K. Eklund, Palme, pp. 91-92.

[46] See K. Eklund, Palme, pp. 103-104.

[47] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, p. 655.

[48] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, p. 617.

[49] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, pp. 301-304, within the chapter on The War of the Roses.

[50] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, p. 312.

[51] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, pp. 639-640.

[52] See K. Eklund, Palme, p. 93.

[53] Eklund’s idea is that Palme would have left in 1987, or perhaps two years later (after the 1988 general election), and that his successor would have been Anna-Greta Leijon; in other words, the SAP would have elected its first female party leader in the late 1980s, and not in 2007. Paradoxically, Leijon’s political career was damaged due right to a scandal involving the party leadership which had to do with the inquiry on the murder of Palme. See K. Eklund, Palme, p. 123.

[54] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, p. 657.

[55] See K. Eklund, Palme, pp. 106-107.

[56] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, pp. 366-385.

[57] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, pp. 362-365.

[58] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, pp. 386-405.

[59] See K. Eklund, Palme, pp. 108-109; K. Östberg, När vinden vände, passim; H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, passim.

[60] See K. Eklund, Palme, pp. 108-109 and 113.

[61] See K. Eklund, Palme, pp. 120-121.

[62] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, p. 179.

[63] See H. Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss, pp. 333-334.

[64] See P. Antman, Arvet efter Palme , in P. Antman, P. Schori, Den gränslöse reformisten, pp. 45-48.

[65] See K. Östberg,  I takt med tiden, pp. 394-396.

[66] See K. Östberg, När vinden vände, pp. 417-418.

Arne Jönsson, Valborg Lindgärde, Elisabet Göransson (eds.), Wår Lärda Skalde-Fru Sophia Elisabeth Brenner och hennes tid (Ängelholm: Skåneförlaget, 2011)

 

 
 
The present volume, which stems from a Symposium held in Lund in August 2009 and entirely dedicated to “the first poetess” in Swedish literature, brings together some twenty scholars and experts in various fields of knowledge ranging from linguistics to numismatics. The common scope of their efforts is to shed light on the manifold aspects of Brenner’s literary work, life and times. Lovers of Burman, as well as readers who missed out on her acclaimed second novel, may thus turn to this monumental work to discover (or rediscover) Brenner, whose work (Poetiske Dikter, 1713) was published, widely read and appreciated during her lifetime both in Sweden and abroad, but neglected or scorned by the generations that followed the Baroque.  

 

Brenner’s biography is thus not at the heart of any of the 24 essays composing the volume. Rather, the general reader is informed about the art of a poetess well versed in religious poetry and in the popular genre of tillfällespoesi, written for family, relatives and close friends, members of the nobility and monarchy, academics and politicians, often on occasions such as weddings, child births and funerals. Brenner’s habit of commenting on women’s rights and values in her poetry led her to become known as “the first Swedish feminist”. Because of her language skills (Brenner was bilingual in German and Swedish in addition to mastering Latin, French, Italian and Dutch), her name appeared in several 17th-century European catalogues listing doctissime.

 

Through the division of the material and the shifting scholarly approaches, the average reader is led step by step into the vast, yet little known, world of Brenner. Apart from several interesting investigations that contextualize and relate the various poetic genres mastered by the poetess to the literary canon, Jon Helgason’s discussion of Brenner as a Swedish Sappho is worth highlighting. His essay seemingly enlightens the discussion of the varying uses of the mythic character of Sappho as an attempt to legitimate women writers. In the age of Brenner, Sappho had come to represent female authorship through the role model of the learned woman. In order to find an official place as a woman of letters, Brenner was therefore expected to adhere to a cultural construction that Helgason calls the 18th-century’s “short-lived negation of the witch”. Similarly, Brenner had to come to terms with a female ideal in which learning, sense and virtue had taken the place of vision, irrationality and instinct — a short digression before the sensibility of the late 18th century’s literary heroines would come to pull the rug from under her feet.

 

Paratextual aspects in the broader sense are the focus of Anna Perälä’s and Valborg Lindgärde’s essays. Indeed, Perälä writes a chapter on the history of the book as she sets out to discuss the relationship between word and image in the printed editions of Brenner’s work and the poetess’s own taste for graphical embroidery accompanying the poems. Lindgärde instead tackles Urban Hiärne’s promotional campaign for Poetiske Dikter. Several contributions are made regarding Brenner’s ability to write in numerous European languages. Verner Egeland, for example, comments on her few Petrarchan, though perfectly contemporary, compositions in Italian inspired by Marini and Tasso. As a conclusion, interart parallels are established between Brenner’s work and the visual arts, as well as with music.

 

The trilingual volume (Swedish, Danish, English) is wonderfully produced with a rich apparatus of illustrations accompanying the essays. Its organizing principle, which puts the poetess and the woman in the shadow of her work, her time, the cultural history and the literary tradition, offers a fresh approach to the writing from an earlier age. This treatment caters to both the difficulty and the reward involved in reading the book. The task of piecing together an all-round portrait of Sophia Elisabeth Brenner from the numerous and autonomous contributions is entirely left up to the reader.