Kybernein Institute presents a new investigation of how a network of think tanks led a hidden revolution in Sweden during the 70s and 80s which transformed the foundation of a unique social model.
In the beginning of the 1970s, SAF (The Swedish Employers’ Confederation), the organization representing Swedish business interests, commenced a public opinion-building campaign which became unique in the world through its comprehensiveness and its organizational structure. Its unlimited economic resources and new controversial strategies for influencing opinion were meant to guarantee an ideological and political paradigm shift in Sweden. Swedish business interests and conservatives deemed that the impact of democracy on economic policy and the expansion of welfare had gone too far. They aimed at phasing out the Swedish welfare model and taking control of economic policy.
In only six years the Campaign succeeded with what was thought impossible: breaking the 40 year Social Democratic domination of central government and initiating the dismantling of the Swedish welfare model. They did this despite the fact that the Swedish welfare model had transformed the country from one of Europe’s poorest to one of the world’s richest, had given its people the world’s highest living standards and one of the world’s most modern and most profitable industrial sectors. Although support for the Swedish welfare model was massive, the Campaign persuaded people to voluntarily accept substantial economic reforms which deprived them of a great deal of this welfare. The Campaign even induced their political and ideological opponents, the Social Democrats, to carry out the Campaign’s policies and reforms.
The Campaign was so exceptionally effective and successful that it can be compared to an ideological coup. Entirely without violence or force, it fundamentally changed Swedish politics. It erased all opposition amongst its political opponents, steered and controlled all media, public debates and economic research. It managed to change a nation’s and a whole population’s values and depiction of reality.
The Campaign was so successful that most even today don’t know what happened - or dismiss it as conspiracy theory. The Campaign’s analyses and narratives on the causes of the Swedish welfare model’s failure and the reasons why it should be dismantled live on today, 50 years later, and are repeated almost verbatim by most Swedes.
This successful public opinion campaign can function as a unique example, illustrating the background to many of the problems western democracies experience today, when different power factors manipulate the democratic system using new strategies for forming public opinion. It illuminates as well the background causes of the current rising mistrust of the political system and the media. But the Campaign can also function as a source of inspiration and a guide for all seeking new ways of achieving changes in present-day society.
Kybernein Project Team
Exhibitions and public events
Kybernein Institute presents The Campaign at Index - The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation in Stockholm
17 April - 13 September 2020
Read more about the exhibition here