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State – Civil Society Relations in Transformation: Field Level Response and Resistance

Thu, July 12, 8:30 to 10:00am, Room, 12A 33


The relationship between state and civil society has been a subject for major academic writings. One way to label and organize the relationship has been through the corporatist model and Sweden has together with other Nordic countries been regarded among the most corporatist liberal democracies (e.g. Siaroff 1999). With a start 1980´s there is however ample evidence of a declining corporatism (Lindvall & Sebring 2005, Lewin 1992, Christiansen et al 2010). Some researchers even talk about the magnitude of the changes as “the Fall of Corporatism (Rothstein & Bergström 1999). Looking at the relationship more from a civil society perspective others have talked about a renegotiation of the civil society contract (Wijkström 2012).

The on-going changes in the corporative model will also influence civil society and its organizations since they are core actors both in the formulation of policy and its implementation. So when the model is being transformed this implies that also the organizations will be pressured into transformation processes. The focus in this paper is on how ongoing changes in state – civil society relationship affect the dynamic and character of two fields dominated by civil society actors and characterized by its historical corporatist nature. The study is mainly exploratory and designed as a qualitative multiple case studies with empirical material collected from the sports field and the popular education field in Sweden.

I chose to drive the analysis as a field analysis based on Fligstein and McAdams work on Strategic Action Fields (2012). Special interest will be given to how the relationship can be understood and conceptualized as a part of the shared understandings (ibid.) in the fields. In the paper I argue that the de-corporatization can be conceptualized as a changed in the government field´s shared understanding of the relationship to civil society manifested in e.g. different NPM reforms. Furthermore how this challenges the shared understandings of the relationship in the two studied fields. Finally I analyze how different actors in the fields use multiple and different strategies, to buffer and resist impact of the challenging changed relations. The study gives us a deeper knowledge on how transformations in state – civil society relations take place and how they affect different fields dominated by civil society actors.


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Fligstein, N., & McAdam, D. (2012). A theory of fields. Oxford University Press.

Lewin, L. (1992). Samhället och de organiserade intressena. Norstedts juridikförl..

Lindvall, J., & Sebring, J. (2005). Policy reform and the decline of corporatism in Sweden. West European Politics, 28(5), 1057-1074.

Siaroff, A. (1999). Corporatism in 24 industrial democracies: Meaning and measurement. European Journal of Political Research, 36(2), 175-205.

Rothstein, B., & Bergström, J. (1999). Korporatismens fall och den svenska modellens kris. SNS (Studieförb. Näringsliv och samhälle).

Wijkström, F. (2012). Mellan omvandling och omförhandling i Wijkström, F.(red) Civilsamhället i samhällskontraktet. En antologi om vad som står på spel.