Idealizing a world departed

The rest of the world is slowly catching up to the long eroded ideals of Sweden, now making its reality through the world via its booming crime-writing industry.

Vast and irreversible social changes have eroded confidence in the government:

[W]hat has changed since the genre was invented in the 1960s by the husband and wife team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö is the overwhelming loss of confidence in the future, and in the state. This does reflect reality.

And while the rest of the world looked to Sweden for its utopian narrative and reputation, Sweden has become more like the rest of the world.  Namely, the very anti-thesis of Swedish-ness, America.

The story of Sweden over the last 50 years has been one of a steady loss of exceptionalism. In some ways the outside world has grown more “Swedish” — we all wear seatbelts, drink less, and believe in gender equality. At the same time, Sweden has grown much more worldly — it drinks more, works and earns less, and struggles with the assimilation of immigrants. The Swedes themselves no longer believe in a Swedish model, or, when they do, it’s very different from the heavily regulated “people’s home” of myth.

A startling statistic:

There were 230 homicides in Sweden in 2009, compared with 143 in Washington, D.C., which has a population a bit more than half Sweden’s size. But compare these figures to what they were in the years when Sweden looked like a utopia. In 1990, there were 120 homicides in Sweden, and 472 in Washington. There is a convergence here that doesn’t flatter Sweden.

More readings while we are on the subject:
· New York Time’s feature on Stieg Larsson and his messy legacy,
· The man who blew up the welfare state, by n+1 on the politics behind Larsson’s writings,
· The Prospects looks at the complicated values and histories that define modern-day Sweden,
· Christopher Caldwell probes deep into Islam on the outskirts of the Swedish welfare state,

More light-hearted readings here:
· By Slate, on Sweden’s bizarre Christmas Eve tradition,
· What an all-Ikea meal looks like, the Atlantic,
· Neighourly rows over the laundry room, CSM, this post [with Zemanta]

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