How Sweden became a symbol

Over at the The New York Review of Books, there’s an interesting article on my adopted nation, Sweden.

There are two main views of Sweden. The overwhelmingly positive:

“We wanted to find out what it was about Sweden that gave you such an enviable reputation in the world: design, the creative industries, high-tech manufacturing, social justice, popular culture,” Prince William said, sending a palpable shiver of satisfaction through the two hundred assorted representatives of Sweden’s cultural scene. “The list could go on,” he added.

Or the overwhelmingly negative:

 If you follow Breitbart or Fox News in the US, or the Mail Online or the Daily Express in the UK, your Sweden will be a place where criminal gangs have seized control of the suburbs, rape is out of control, and politicians refuse to acknowledge that the problems are caused by immigrants, preferring to sacrifice their nation on the altar of political correctness.

Why is this happening?

This extraordinary focus on Sweden isn’t really an attack on the country itself. It is about using Sweden as a weapon in a far wider clash of values. The “Good Sweden” reputation is built on the qualities listed by Prince William and is amplified globally by brands such as Ikea, H&M, Volvo, and Spotify. At its core is a set of progressive principles—equality, secularism, openness, and transparency—that make the country an outlier in international surveys and a thorn in the side of those who oppose the ideals of Scandinavian social democracy.

So let’s be clear. Sweden is not failing.

The difficulty with that approach is that Sweden is obviously not failing. To be precise, Sweden is the fifth “least-failing” state in the world, according to the Fragile States Index compiled by The Fund for Peace, a Washington-based think tank.

But in conclusion the obvious is true

the place is neither the heaven nor the hell of international news reports

If you’re interested in learning more about Sweden I recommend reading the whole thing

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