Deregulation of Welfare and Religion – New Challenges to the Church of Sweden By Neoliberal Market Values

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Per PETTERSSON, Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre-CRS, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, Service Research Center-CTF, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden
Sweden is internationally known as a country with a comprehensive welfare system. The Swedish welfare model has the last decades been affected by a strong wave of neoliberal economic philosophy influencing politics and demanding reduced public costs and outsourcing of state-managed activities. Publicly funded services including welfare provision have been progressively deregulated since 1980s. Deregulation and outsourcing of public welfare services has resulted in greater attention to civil society organizations as agents in welfare provision. In parallel with deregulation of welfare, a deregulation of religion in Sweden was accomplished January 1st 2000 when Church of Sweden became a separate agent in relation to the State, as the final stage of a long separation process. This turned the former state church into the largest voluntary organisation, at a time when new expectations were directed towards civil society organisations as welfare providers. Growing impact of neo liberal economic market rationality implied a demand at religious organizations to establish partnerships with the state, which however mean tensions between fundamentally different systems of values.  While the previous state-based welfare model advocated financial solidarity and equal rights to welfare services, the new marked-based model is founded on the idea of the individual's right to freedom of choice and accepts unequal distribution of welfare. From being advocates for a comprehensive welfare system equal for all, religious organizations are presently invited to become contracted parts of a system accepting inequality in welfare provision related to the financial capacity of the individual. Taking the Church of Sweden as an example, this paper discusses the consequences for religious organizations identity and freedom by entering into partnership or contract with public authorities dominated by neoliberal market philosophy. One long term question is if these contractual relationships in practice establish new forms of state-religion regulation?