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Swedish trade unionism: A renewed social movement?

Journal article
Authors Abby Peterson
Mattias Wahlström
Magnus Wennerhag
Published in Economic and industrial democracy
Volume 33
Issue 4
Pages 621–647
ISSN 0143-831X
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Pages 621–647
Language en
Keywords globalization, international trade unionism, participation, social movement unionism, trade unions, new-labor internationalism, solidarity
Subject categories Sociology, Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


Claims as to the emergence of a new phase of unionism – social movement unionism – returning to its original ‘counter-cultural roots’, are closely allied with the claims as to a ‘new labour internationalism’ that is a significant break from the influential postwar trend of nation-statist unionism. This article interrogates these two popular paradigms from the perspective of the Swedish labour movement. The analysis is based on qualitative interviews with union officials, as well as quantitative analysis of union homepage content and responses to surveys among May Day demonstrators. The general conclusion as regards social movement unionism in Sweden is that the major unions, although increasingly interested in cooperation with social movement organizations, are still far from changing the repertoire of action that has been predominant in the postwar period. International solidarity – among both union officials and grassroots activists – is strongly ambivalent, and attitudes to international support oscillate between charity and self-interest.

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