”We will be on our own”: Swedish Perceptions of Threats and National Identity in the Context of Economic Defence Planning, 1962–2002
Keywords:economic defence, stock-piling, Sweden, cold war, modernity, threat
This article focuses on the notions and motivations behind the expansion of Sweden’s late twentieth-century economic defence (supply security), a little-explored but crucial branch of the Swedish total defence at this time. By in particular exploring the role of modernity with regard to the formulation of threats and national self-images, we find that economic defence planners were vexed by a dilemma. On the one hand, embracing modernity was an integral part of Sweden’s self-image as a successful and progressive nation, but on the other hand, the increasing specialisation of the private sector and deepening foreign trade dependencies introduced growing vulnerabilities. The increasingly complex vulnerabilities of modern society thus made the task of ensuring Sweden’s supply security more and more difficult. Still, while bringing light to the downsides of modernity and arguing for the need to mitigate new vulnerabilities by means of various solutions (such as stockpiling crucial goods), the central economic defence authorities nevertheless remained loyal to the fundamental notion that Sweden as a nation must embrace modern progress. Some of the solutions brought forward by defence planners were, in fact, presented as part of this progress in terms of the ingenuity of Swedish engineers or the strength and flexibility of the private sector. We also explore the motivations for Sweden terminating this nationally organised supply security system at the turn of the 21st century. In this context, we show that the self-image of being modern played a crucial part, particularly when state officials began to describe the threat of war as being ”outdated” (Swe. omodernt). As it was now associated with something both unnecessary and contrary to the Swedish self-image of being modern, the supply security system was finally decommissioned by 2002.