During the 1970s, Sweden saw the rise of a new set of pedagogical methods and techniques, aimed at educating and training people to become emotionally emancipated and authentic in their relationships with others. The purpose of my doctoral project is to analyze this pedagogization of emotional life and interpersonal relations as a historically specific form of government. Using theoretical perspectives and tools from the field of governmentality studies, the dissertation asks which human subjects and relationships the pedagogical initiatives were supposed to produce, what benefits were ascribed to them, and how their proponents argued for their value in contemporary Swedish society.
The investigation is organized around three case studies, concerned with the introduction of pedagogizing authenticity techniques within three different arenas of social life: the workplace, the family, and sexual relationships. Drawing upon a wide range of empirical materials, including instructive manuals and contemporary media reports, the study explores the parallel introduction of “sensitivity training” at the workplace, “active parenting” as a new method for educating parents, and sensuality training aimed at enhancing pleasure in sexual relations.
By shifting the focus away from the countercultural movements, which have received considerable attention elsewhere, this investigation shows that techniques to promote authenticity and emotional liberation were widely circulated in 1970s Sweden, and advocated by established and powerful actors. The emotional and relational competences that the authenticity techniques were set to produce were ascribed a crucial role not only for the transition to a new economy, but also for the formation of a specific democratic ideal and practice, that is characterized in this dissertation as emotional democracy.
My dissertation demonstrates that the authentic, self-expressive, sensitive and responsibilized subject, regarding herself and her relationships with others as projects of optimization, emerged earlier and in other contexts than previous studies of the “neoliberal” or “advanced liberal” modes of government have claimed.
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