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Managing Identity Formation in Social Movements – Leadership, Adult Educations and the Re-formation of the Swedish Working-Class

Jenny Jansson
Uppsala Universitet
Jenny Jansson
Uppsala Universitet
Open Panel

Abstract

The Swedish labor movement is and has been the strongest labor movement in the world. The labor movement played a crucial role in establishing the famous Swedish model, characterized by ensuing labor market peace, consensus solutions to labor market conflicts and a comprehensive welfare state. However, in the beginning of the 20th century the labor movement was not a unitary movement but was torn in different fractions. This paper argues that the support for the reformist wing and the consensus tradition was established among the Swedish workers through the construction of an organizational identity imposed on the workers through adult educations; in study circles the workers were taught the core values of the labor movement as they were defined by the leadership and a strong collective identity was established, which facilitated the Swedish model. Management of identity formation has been neglected by identity research on social movements and internal adult education as means for identity formation has not been at focus although internal adult educations constitute good opportunities to define “the self” and “the others” and can therefore be a powerful tool for leadership in social movements. An analysis of historical documents demonstrates the important role the adult educations played as a means for re-shaping of the working-class identity in Sweden.