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Trygghet som handelsvara: Privat folkförsäkring i det framväxande välfärdssamhället 1900–1950
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2016 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The Business of Welfare : Industrial Life Insurance and the Emerging Swedish Welfare State 1900–1950 (English)
Abstract [en]

Industrial Life Insurance (ILI) was introduced in Sweden in the beginning of the 1900s. Following models already used in the United Kingdom and the United States, this insurance was specifically aimed at manual labourers, promising pension savings and compensation to surviving relatives. The insurance was an immediate success, with almost three million insurance policies in force by the mid-1900s. ILI was characterised by extensive and carefully monitored marketing practices. By managing an army of agents, the companies sold policies and collected premiums on a regular basis in the homes of the insured.

The purpose of the dissertation is to analyse the development of a commercial business with social policy aspirations, and how it interacted with other social security institutions. How could ILI thrive in the emerging Swedish welfare state that, according to existing research, allowed little space for market-based welfare alternatives? The dissertation also seeks to contribute to a broader understanding of the contemporary “welfare market” in Sweden today.

From a perspective of welfare formation as a social process, the emergence and expansion of ILI is interpreted as a phenomenon that has shaped, and been shaped by, the social policy arena. The insurance industry’s capacity to adapt to the changing ambitions of the state in this arena is emphasised. Furthermore, its leading representatives’ ability to continuously locate the role of life insurance in the shifting landscape of social policy is underlined. By locating welfare in separate but complementary public and private spheres, the industry contributed to the shaping of the compulsory pension scheme introduced in 1913 and the overall regulation of insurance in the mid-twentieth century. The social security of Swedish citizens was now to be ensured according to the vision of complementary spheres that the insurance industry had advocated for almost fifty years.

The insurance companies’ commercial activities are analysed as a form of governmentality, where the agency system is scrutinized as an interventionist practice that created a long lasting relationship between the companies and the working classes. The dissertation shows how the industrialists’ role as “insurance experts” was used to influence public policies. As public figures and experts on various committees, representatives of the industry advocated a welfare formation that left ample space for their own business interests. The scientisation of security was also essential in creating a product where social aspirations and commercial logics could be united.

The success of ILI thus rested on the interaction with the state apparatus. An arena of social policy was established where commercial companies were to be the supplier of all welfare above the level of “meagre basic security”. Through intense marketing measures, commercial actors influenced the perceptions of security and welfare. The process of welfare formation led to the internalisation of commercial ideals about social security that now constitutes an essential dimension of the Swedish welfare state.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Historiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet , 2016. , 392 p.
Keyword [en]
Industrial Life Insurance, Industrial Assurance, Insurance, Welfare, Welfare State, Social Policy, Marketing, Governmentality, Social Engineering, Actuarial, Sweden, 20th Century, Trust, Agency System
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-129069ISBN: 978-91-7649-391-5OAI: diva2:920677
Public defence
2016-06-11, hörsal 7, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10 D, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2016-05-18 Created: 2016-04-14 Last updated: 2016-05-06Bibliographically approved

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