1972: First Impressions of Sweden

In the summer of 1972 after only a year as a Teaching Associate at Minnesota University Sociology Department, I abandoned my attempt to do a Ph.D. at Minnesota. My Swedish wife and I decided to go to Sweden, a country I had never been to before. My aim was to do my doctorate there. See https://socialconstr.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/an-interactionist-approach-to-macro-sociology/.

The point about my doctorate plans was that I went to Minnesota from a lectureship in sociology at Aberdeen University, after I became interested in symbolic interactionism. My plan was to research the Scottish Highland Clearances using original research done on this subject by a number of Scottish researchers, notably Ian Grimble The Trial of Patrick Sellar and John Prebble, especially The Fire and Sword Trilogy. But I would use this material to develop an individual-based symbolic interactionist approach to the highland clearances. The relevant post is here on My Symbolic Interaction blog of 50 posts to date. How a symbolic interactionist became interested in ordoliberalism can be read on my ordoliberalism blog in my post of 21 August 2014. You can also read an advertisement for a New York konditori in the Swedish tradition: http://www.konditorinyc.com. But in this post I want to explain the background to how we came to Gothenburg, where I had my first impressions of Sweden.

Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city and the manufacturing capital of Sweden, with Volvo cars and trucks and with an old established shipbuilding tradition that ended in 1980, at the mouth of the Göta älv, as well as fishing, and multinational corporations like SKF, the Swedish ball bearings maker, the original factory of which is still in the Old Town. Stena Line is still the world’s largest privately owned company.

Gothenburg tram network (see the Wikipedia page on this) dates from 1879. The city also has an impressive Maritime Museum. The founder of Gothenburg in 1621 was Gustavus Adolphus, who also commissioned the Dutch to build the canals that have added much to the attraction of the city. So from the start Gothenburg looked west. See http://www.ilovegoteborg.se/gbg_guide_paddan_en.asp I was surprised also to learn that Gothenburg had strong trade links with Aberdeen. In any  event, we got ourselves second-hand bicycles and began to explore the city and its environs.

The nearest to Artillerigatan was a recreation area called Skatås, with marked paths also signs showing their length in km, and resting places, barbecues, simple outdoor exercise equipment and limbering up equipment. This was a favourite place for us to go. I had never seen a recreation area like this before. Skatås in Gothenburg was also beautiful, with steep hillsides, lakes you could walk around. I was very impressed.

We also took our bikes onto the ferry connecting Gothenburg to Fredikshamn, still run by Stena Line, a small harbour in the far north of the Jutland peninsular (scroll down in the link above for the map). The crossing took about 3 hours, so it made for a good full-day excursion by bike, made even more comfortable because this part of Denmark is very flat.

Finally we liked to walk around the fish market. Restaurants selling seafood were also very good in Gothenburg. Haga, Gothenburg was already then a gentrifying inner suburb, but still with several flea markets where we could buy household equipment for our flat.

After I moved back to the Swedish National Research Institute in Gävle in 1983 I never went back to Gothenburg until the very end of my working life when I went there as opponent for a dissertation. I have fond memories of Gothenburg. How I became interested in housing as well as in ordoliberalism is discussed in the following post, for it was in Gothenburg in the early 1970s that I became a housing researcher.


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