The Politics of Profit in Swedish Social Services: Investigating the Strategies of the Private Providers' Interest Group

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Gabrielle MEAGHER, Macquarie University, Australia
Marta SZEBEHELY, Stockholm University, Sweden
A striking development in Swedish social services in recent years has been the significant growth of the for-profit private sector. Further, within the private sector, a handful of large, internationally-owned corporations has emerged, and achieved sizeable market shares in most social service fields (Hartman 2011). In addition to its increased role in service provision, the for-profit care sector has also become ‘a formidable power bloc in Swedish politics’ (Svallfors 2015). However, although—or perhaps because—the growth of for-profit social services has been so rapid, it has become politically contested in vigorous public debate about the appropriateness of profit-making and taking from publicly funded welfare services. This paper examines how organised interests in the private care sector have sought to influence public perceptions and public policies on eldercare. We use critical discourse analysis to explore the actors, frames and claims mobilised by the employer organisation for private providers, Vårdföretagarna, in its research, lobbying and outreach activities. We show how these actors, frames and claims are used to ‘mobilize potential adherents and constituents, to garner bystander support, and to demobilize antagonists’ (Snow & Benford 1988). They do so by drawing on social movement language and strategies, and by positioning private provision, private ownership and profit-making as essential to the future of ‘modern’, high-quality and diverse eldercare in Sweden.


Hartman, L. (ed) 2011, Konkurrensens konsekvenser. Vad händer med svensk välfärd? Stockholm: SNS förlag.

Snow, D.A. & Benford, R.D. 1988, Ideology, frame resonance, and participant mobilization, International Social Movement Research, 1, 197-217.

Svallfors, S. 2015, Politics as Organized Combat: New Players and New Rules of the Game in Sweden, MPIfG Discussion Paper 15/2, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne.