Local level state capacity in Sweden in the 19th century

Lilla salen Session 4: The long road to the welfare state… and beyond: retirement, old-age provision and eldercare in the past and present organized by Jaco Zuijderduijn and Tobias Karlsson


Johan Ericsson


Most accounts of state capacity treat only the central state or the state as a unitary actor. Apart from missing diversity on a horizontal level – branches of the central government might have higher or lower capacities –this approach crucially omits vertical and geographical differences. This is even more important in countries with far reaching local self-governance, be it at state, regional or local level. In this article I will use the case of Sweden between in the 19th century to highlight how what is often seen as a strong unitary state actually functioned in a much different way than what is often assumed. Many of the new tasks that government took on from the second half of the nineteenth century fell on the shoulders of local government. Local level state capacity differed substantially both from that of the central government and between different localities.


No PDF available.