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A 'welfarist' political economy of skills?: A study of Sweden's vocational education and training system, as an arena för welfare policies, 1946-1991
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Geography and Economic History, Economic history.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This study takes its starting point in the problematic relationship between skills and welfare policies. It poses Sweden’s vocational education and training (VET) as a case which has seen the kind of tripartite efforts that might help us better understand the dynamics underlying a highly developed mixture of social citizenship and efficiency. To better approach this case the study also seeks to combine the theoretical insights provided by the Varieties of Capitalism (VoC) and Power Resources Theory (PRT) schools of thought, capitalizing on an ability to see “both sides of the coin” that such a combination may entail. But to avoid the presumptions that have formed around notions of stable “models” or “worlds”, the study also takes an inductive stance, forming a dialectic strategy that leans heavily on the work of historical institutionalism. Thus a general research question is posed: how can we explain the developments of Sweden's VET as an arena for welfare policies - during the period 1946-1991 - by combining an inductive approach with the insights gained from the theoretical frameworks represented by PRT and VoC? The study proceeds by tracing developments in Sweden’s VET during two sub-periods, taking into account both ideological and business-interest concerns. The aim is first to establish an account of “how” the institutions changed over time. The subsequent analysis brings back the theoretical framework to provide explanations. The study arrives at a number of conclusions: it first of all finds that Sweden’s school-based VET of 1971 itself rested on a firm “cross-class settlement”, which persisted through the reforms of 1991. But when seen as an arena for welfare policies, the foundation appears much weaker: while the reforms of 1971 were influenced by an ambitious welfare policy agenda, the ensuing changes arguably rolled back some of the comprehensiveness and universality previously associated with the labor movement’s education policy. Two underlying hypotheses are presented that focus on the strategic role played by “general skills”: the first hypothesis is that organized capital’s reliance on large firms played an important role in weakening its position vis-a-vis labor, thanks to its dependence on the kind of widely diffused general skills that the labor movement had strategic access to. The second hypothesis is that the same reliance on general skills created difficulties for the Social Democratic Party to create a new cross-class settlement, as circumstances changed. The conclusion suggests further studying the area of general skills as a power resource itself in a comparative perspective.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Economic History, Vocational Education and Training, Sweden, Varieties of Capitalism, Power Resources Theory
National Category
Economic History
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-124288OAI: diva2:950727
Available from: 2016-08-02 Created: 2016-08-02 Last updated: 2016-08-02Bibliographically approved

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