Abstracts for issue no 127-128

In memory of Amalthea - hundred years of solitude / Viktor Lundberg

In the summer of 1908, young left-wing activist Anton Nilson placed a home-made charge at the body of the ship Amalthea, accommodating English “blacklegs” in the Malmö harbour, southern Sweden. The explosion mortally wounded Walter Close from Hull and injured around twenty of his fellow-countrymen. Short after the attack, Nilson and his accomplices were taken into custody and declared guilty of the crime. Nilson was sentenced to death, but nine years later reprieved and released. After this, he became a controversial and mythical person in the history-making of the Swedish labour movement during the twentieth century.

In the summer of 2008, the Amalthea incident has been remembered and celebrated in many ways, in media but also through actions and events organized by the broad labour movement, but also by radical left-wing organisations. In time for the hundredth anniversary, on July 12, several different political messages were imprinted on the quay where Amalthea once was moored. The mainstream and hegemonic history of the Amalthea incident, manifested in bronze mainly by (parts of) the reformist labour movement and Malmö municipality, thus was obviously challenged. In fact, this hundredth anniversary of the Amalthea incident uncovered into light an otherwise often marginalized and solitary political culture of radical anarchism in modern political history of Sweden - a controversial culture that Anton Nilson and his companions in the year of 1908 were involved with.

How shall we understand class, past and present? / Ulrika Holgersson

The development of western societies in the last decades has been described as the transition from industrial to post- or late-modern society, based on structures of knowledge. New systems of technology and energy have arrived and the global labour market has been transformed, resulting in the replacement of working class jobs in heavy industry by the expanding managerial and service sectors. In the 1990’s, connected to these changes, an intense sociological debate also occurred concerning “the death of class”.

Departing from these discussions the aim of this article is to open up for reflections on how to find new ways of analyzing class, past and present. An important conclusion is that there is an interesting agreement between the defenders of class and their post-modernist opponents, that the modern class narrative remains relevant at least to the time of early industrial society.

However, my objective here is to reject the modern class narrative altogether. I call for a broader and multifaceted narrative, not predisposed to run in any given direction, yet including culture as well as economics, conflict as much as hierarchy, pre-/early-modern as late-/post-modern times. From a post-marxist perspective, using cultural analysis, class will not be seen as an objectively countable phenomenon, but a social construction - in the process of classifying groups, or in the way in which we talk and move in space - in a similar mode to the making of sexual difference or gender.

Food, body and health / Fredrik Nilsson

Food, body and health have become important issues in debates about the good life. A variety of medical experts take part in the debates as well and their scientific knowledge is of crucial importance in the formation of health discourses with social, political and cultural effects. These discourses are based on science but are at the same time entrenched in cultural values concerning the good life. These values are firmly based on a middleclass or bourgeois way of life. Thus some habits are considered problematic and even dangerous whereas others are highly valued. People who do not aspire to or “manage” to live a good life, according to bourgeois standards, are deemed irrational or lacking a firm character. As a consequence medical experts tend to produce and reproduce class as a discourse.

In this article, the author investigates how ideas about class and class identity are constructed in medical studies of obesity. Using a historical perspective he shows how this field of expertise have been affected by cultural values and how these values, to some extent, have undergone changes as obesity have moved downwards in the social hierarchy.

Class, human worth and money / Orsi Husz

This article discusses class, economy and culture in a rather down-to-earth way. Empirically the study focuses on debates on household budgets and the growing anxieties of economical decline among the Swedish middle classes during the first half of the twentieth century. Class is conventionally defined by socio-economical or/and cultural criteria. The point of this paper is to analyse source material about the economical situation of (self-defined) middle class groups from a cultural perspective. Theoretically I address the question how people try to make the seemingly contradictory economic value and ideal values commeasurable in everyday practice. In other words I show by three historical examples how writings about financial issues can shed light on cultural and moral boundaries between classes and how the ambiguous concept of value/values can be used as an analytical tool in the study of class.

My examples are from 1.) a book published 1907 discussing the “wage regulation” in the household (Hemmens lönereglering by Elna Tenow). 2.) pieces of financial advice to private persons offered by the home economics experts of the Taxpayers’ Organisation from the 1920ies to the 1940ies and 3.) an extensive newspaper debate in1950 called “Justice to the Middle Class”.

Beyond Borders: anti-apartheid as a transnational social Movement / Håkan Thörn

In this article I argue that collective action against the apartheid system in South Africa should be conceptualised as a transnational social movement, related to a context of political globalization during the post-war era, and part of the construction of an emerging global civil society during this period. Distinct national movement organisations existed, but they were all linked internationally, and their actions, as well as the actions of states, were conditioned by global contexts. The anti-apartheid movement thus proves an important historical case in relation to the recent interest in transnationalism.

The Nordic Connections and the Boycott of South African Trade in Finland / Tapio Bergholm

During the Cold War the Finnish trade union movement usually supported the official neutrality policy of the Finnish government. The Finnish line was not to take stand on questions where super powers had controversial views. Therefore the Finnish government took a quite low profile concerning South African policy of apartheid. On the other hand, apartheid was condemned by the international trade union movement. The Finnish Transport Workers’ Union launched a total boycott of South African exports and imports on October 20th 1985. Due to substantial and popular support of this boycott, and developments in other Nordic Countries, the parliament passed in 1987 a law which made nearly all trade between Finland and South Africa illegal. A medium sized trade union had pushed Finnish foreign policy to a new more active direction.

Publicerad: 2 december 2008
Uppdaterad: 28 juli 2011