Folkhemmets styvbarn : Humanioras legitimitet i svensk kunskapspolitik 1935–1980

Sammanfattning: This study investigates how the legitimacy of the humanities was renegotiated in the context of Swedish politics of knowledge 1935–1980, a period that saw the establishment of a new regime of legitimacy based on rational planning. While higher education and research in general expanded and were turned into prioritised sectors of the welfare state, the humanities were not successfully integrated into the new regime. Using the perspective of the sociology of expectations, I demonstrate how the humanities were excluded from progressive narratives focused on material welfare. In contrast to other categories of knowledge, such as science, technology, medicine, and the social sciences, the Swedish humanities were described as traditional and elitist, and eventually depicted as exceptionally marginalised from a transnational point of view.Using a diverse range of sources from the borderland between science and politics – such as reports from university commissions, conference proceedings, and programmatic articles in the press – this historicising analysis of shifting alliances, negotiations and contests of legitimacy fills an important gap, since previous work on the history of the humanities lacks comprehensive empirical studies on the formation of the discourse of marginalisation. Transcending common interpretations of the so-called "crisis of the humanities" that either focus on the new left circa 1968, or the rise of neo-liberalism about a decade later, I demonstrate that the humanities encountered severe challenges at an earlier stage than is generally assumed, and also how they were marginalised in a context of increasing prosperity. The study illuminates how crisis rhetorics were eventually included in novel strategies of legitimation in the 1970s, as humanities scholars more actively attempted to improve their positions in contrast to previous generations who rather sought to adapt the humanities to the standards of the predominating regime of legitimacy.One of the most common claims for the value of the humanities in current debates stresses their particular function for democracy. This dissertation problematises this claim by using historical cases which emphasise a strained relationship between the humanities and democracy. Specifically, I show how the Swedish humanities struggled to adapt to the new egalitarian democratic society of the 20th century welfare state. In this way, the dissertation provides much-needed nuances to ongoing debates on the legitimacy of the humanities.

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