I’ve had this saved as a draft for some weeks now. The discussion ends somewhat abruptly but maybe I will get back to the issue at some point.
Just to continue a line of thought from my previous note: The question about populist parties presenting themselves as “the true Social Democrats”.
The issue may be more relevant in Denmark and Sweden where support for the Social Democrats has taken a hit while the Danish People’s Party and to a lesser extent the Sweden Democrats have gained. Commentators have pointed out that SweDem have played the “real Social Democrats” card by trying to gain ownership of the “Folkhem” concept. As it is, “Folkhem” has a complicated history (it is in many ways a word which lends itself to discourse analysis) being first a Conservative and later a Social Democratic slogan. “Folkhem” also points to the development where Social Democracy changed from being an internationalist to an essentially nationally oriented political movement with the creation of the welfare states in the Scandinavian countries from the 1930s onward as the best-know effect.
Welfare state researchers will note that the national welfare state model probably reached its peak around 1980 (the period used by Gösta Esping-Andersen in his seminal book “Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism”) but that internationalisation and Europeanisation since then has put the national models of welfare under pressure. “Multiculturalism” and “Structural change” do not carry the same emotional weight as “Folkhem”: They are, at best, technocratic terms.
However, we should be careful in focussing too much on the word “Folkhem” as it is a uniquely Swedish term. Danish has no equivalent – “welfare state” is the closest – and this points to the risk of generalising Swedish experiences. As it is, the “welfare state” only really emerged as a political term during the 1960s in Denmark and it was fiercely debated in the 1960s and 1970s. To use discourse analysis-speak, the hegemony of the “welfare state” was less obvious than the hegemony of the “folkhem”.