‘Don’t look at what they do, look at why they do it’: Employers, Trade Unions and Power Resources in Sweden

Dimitris Tsarouhas


Over the last decade, Swedish labour relations have attracted relatively little scholarly attention, not least due to their ‘normalization’ along the lines of continental European practices. This article argues that the Swedish Model of labour concertation and social partnership has survived the turbulence of the 1990s, and the main reason for that is the salient power resources that uniosn and social democrats have retianed. The Model’s recent resurgence is intimately linked to the ability of the trade unions to co-regulate the labour market, which is a result of the organisational and institutional resources they possess. These are, however, under attack since the election of the Reinfeldt government in 2006. A complete explanation of their contemporary role in Swedish industrial relations necessitates a nuanced theoretical approach that rejects purely materialist and interest-oriented perspectives. Instead, the article suggests a historical institutionalist framework combining interests with ideas embedded in institutional configurations.

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