Looking Back in Anger? The Assault on ‘Small-State Realism’

John Gilmour

in Sweden, the Swastika and Stalin

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780748627462
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671274 | DOI:
Looking Back in Anger? The Assault on ‘Small-State Realism’

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A debate has developed between two main schools of historiographical interpretation of Sweden’s wartime conduct which can briefly be summarised as ‘small-state realism’ and ‘moral interpretation’. ‘Small-state realism’ rested on propositions such as that the welfare and survival of the Swedish people were at stake. This interpretation would dominate discourse until the 1990s. Maria-Pia Boëthius’1991 book attacked the moral basis of ‘small-state realism’. The shift in emphasis from ‘small-state realism’ interpretation to moral interpretation meant that the Coalition Government could be portrayed as ‘running errands for a tyrannical butcher’. Two paradigms are suggested to aid interpretation. Cosmopolitanism and communitarianism lie at the core of the argument on ‘right’ or ‘wrong while Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ helps to clarify why the post-war generation has had such difficulty understanding the rationale of a wartime policy that was approved by most Swedes. Following Boëthius’ book there was a new, revelatory wave of disclosure about those aspects of Swedish-Nazi contacts which had previously been ignored.

Keywords: small-state realism; morality; Maria-Pia Boëthius; Alf W Johansson; SUAV; Cosmopolitanism; Communitarianism; Maslow; Holocaust

Chapter.  7247 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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