Att välja välfärd Politiska berättelser om valfrihet
Sammanfattning: Welfare, and the role of social democracy in defining its content and meaning, is often described as one of Sweden’s distinguishing features. However, in the quest for liberalization and marketization, reforms in past decades have substantially changed the political landscape. These developments have led many to question the viability of describing the main political actors and their attitudes towards the welfare state in terms of left or right. This dissertation contributes to the understanding of ideological convergence and past and current political cleavages by analysing the welfare debate on freedom of choice between the two main political opponents in Swedish politics over three decades. Using a morphological approach, where ideologies are viewed as distinctive configurations of political concepts creating specific conceptual patterns depending on how they are combined, the analysis focuses on the content of the concept of choice by examining the conceptual relationships between political concepts such as choice, the public and the private, equality, equity and need. The analysis reveals a convergence suggesting that the parties have united around a narrower concept of freedom of choice that relates to how it is implemented in welfare services, that is, the choice between different providers of welfare services. However, important differences remain, which are expressed in the parties’ differing conceptions of the power resources citizens need to become truly free individuals. These findings suggest that, while freedom of choice has become a central concept in the political debate, it is not central to the parties’ ideologies. Instead, the core of the parties’ ideologies appears to be articulated in e.g. the political cleavages that remain, which can be described as differing views on the role of politics and competing conceptions of need and equality. It is how these cleavages are translated into policies that will determine possible welfare choices in the future.
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