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Fritidspolitisk styrning efter ungdomsupplopp i Stockholm 1956-1967


  • Martin Ericsson
  • Andrés Brink Pinto


Youth riots, youth cultures, governmentality, Stockholm, 20th twentieth-century, Sweden


In the early post-war decades, several violent confrontations took place
between young people and police in Stockholm. These confrontations
were termed “youth riots”, and left adult observers puzzled: What did the
adolescents protest against? And how should the problem of “youth riots”
be addressed? After two such riots, on New Year’s Eve in 1956 and in the
summer of 1965, the Stockholm Communal Board of Juvenile Welfare
conducted thorough investigations, interviewing hundreds of adolescents
participating in the riots. In this article, these investigations, as well as
the policies these investigations eventually led to, are analysed by means
of theoretical tools from the field of governmentality studies. The analysis
includes two aims: First, to study what kind of knowledge regarding “youth”
and “youth riots” was produced and, second, which forms of power against
adolescents were enabled through this knowledge. The main findings
include that the first investigation produced psychology-oriented knowledge,
where the riots were seen as a result of “mass psychosis”, while the
second investigation produced sociology-oriented knowledge, where the
riots were seen as the result of conflicts between different youth cultures,
such as “mods”. These different forms of knowledge enabled new power
technologies, different from the technologies used previously in Swedish
youth politics. Before the 1950s, these technologies were mainly based on
force; however, after the “youth riots”, Stockholm authorities adopted technologies
aimed at exercising power through the free will of adolescents. After
the 1956 events, the city arranged a number of “New Year’s Eve parties” at
community youth centres in the suburbs, with the explicit goal of making
young people stay in the periphery instead of traveling to the inner city.
After the 1965 riots, the city constructed indoor youth centres in the inner
city, trying to influence young people to avoid outdoor public spaces, thus
reducing the risk of confrontations with rivalling youth cultures and with
adults. These non-forceful technologies of power are understood as a form
of “governing”, and the article argues that although this is a form of power
working through the free will of subjects instead of against it, it still has a
profound capacity of regulating the movement of subjects and citizens in
the urban geography of modern cities.