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Contesting and envisioning ‘trygghet’: the Sweden democrats, social democrats, and the 2018 Swedish general election

Airas, Isabel and Truedsson, Carl (2023) Contesting and envisioning ‘trygghet’: the Sweden democrats, social democrats, and the 2018 Swedish general election. Area, 55 (1). 26 - 37. ISSN 0004-0894

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Identification Number: 10.1111/area.12689


In September 2018, international observers were fixated on Sweden as voters went to the polls. With the national populist party, the Sweden Democrats, predicted to gain significant support, commentators sardonically speculated whether this might finally spell the last bastion of social democracy’s fall from grace? Against the backdrop of the 2015 refugee crisis and growing violent crime rates, would Sweden finally succumb to the emotive appeal of populism? In this paper, we argue for an analysis that starts at the national level to fully appreciate the elements that made Swedish populism unique to its socio-cultural context. We propose that a geopolitics of language fused with ideas from the ‘affective turn’ is uniquely poised to analyse the deeply affective connotations of territorial metaphors and the structures of feelings associated with them. This is done by showing how the 2018 election centred on competing mobilisations of the Swedish concept of trygghet. This affectively loaded concept, denoting a structure of feeling of comforting and holistic safety, finds no equivalent in the Anglophone world. Taking insights from two ethnographic research projects, conducted with the Sweden Democrats and the Social Democrats, we argue that trygghet serves as a rich socio-cultural heuristic device that conveys the geohistorical specificities underpinning the 2018 Swedish elections. Indeed, we show the links between the Swedish notions of trygghet and the folkhem (people’s home) to help explain the rise of Swedish populism.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2020 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: J Political Science
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2023 11:51
Last Modified: 26 May 2024 06:15

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