The social construction of Swedish neutrality

Challenges to Swedish identity and sovereignty

By Christine Agius

The social construction of Swedish neutrality


  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9002-2
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: July 2013
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Comparative politics, Sweden, POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / Diplomacy, POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / European, Comparative politics, Diplomacy, Politics
  • Series: New Approaches to Conflict Analysis


The end of the Cold War and the 'War on Terror' has signalled a shift in the security policies of all states. It has also led to the reconsideration of the policy of neutrality, and what being neutral means in the present age. This book examines the conceptualisation of neutrality from the Peloponnesian War to today, uncovering how neutrality has been a neglected and misunderstood subject in International Relations (IR) theory and politics. By rethinking neutrality through constructivism, this book argues that neutrality is intrinsically linked to identity. Using Sweden as a case study, it links identity, sovereignty, internationalism and solidarity to the debates about Swedish neutrality today and how neutrality has been central to Swedish identity and its worldview. It also examines the challenges to Swedish neutrality and neutrality broadly, in terms of European integration, globalisation, the decline of the state and sovereignty, and new threats to security, such as international terrorism, arguing that the norms and values of neutrality can be reworked to contribute to a more cosmopolitan international order.


1. Writing neutrality: from the Peloponnesian war to the Cold War
2. Neutrality 'is what states make of it': rethinking neutrality through constructivism
3. Neutrality as a Social Democratic project: tracing the origins of Swedish neutrality, 1814-1945
4. Sweden's post-war neutrality doctrine: active internationalism and 'credible neutrality'
5. The crisis in Swedish Social Democracy: paving the path for a new identity
6. A new Swedish identity? Bildt, Europe and neutrality in the post-Cold War era
7. Into Europe with the SAP: Sweden as an EU member state
8. The war on terror and globalisation: implications for neutrality and sovereignty
Conclusion: the failure of neutrality?


Christine Agius is Lecturer in International Relations and Politics at the University of Salford

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