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Why No Religious Politics? The Secularization of Poor Relief and Primary Education in Denmark and Sweden

  • Lars Bo Kaspersen (a1) and Johannes Lindvall (a2)

Abstract

In many European democracies, religion was an important political cleavage throughout the twentieth century. But in Denmark and Sweden, religious differences have not been translated into political competition. Instead, class conflict has dominated. This article attempts to explain why. Our argument is that in the first decades of the twentieth century, the issue that mattered most for the politicization of religion elsewhere in Europe – the role of churches in the provision of poor relief and education – was already settled. The main reason was that in the nineteenth century, the secular state had captured the organizational infrastructure that churches used to provide these services.

Dans nombre de démocraties européennes les divisions religieuses ont été encore au Xxe siècle, un puissant facteur de clivage politique. Ce ne fut le cas ni au Danemark ni en Suède où le conflit de classe fut prédominant. L’article propose une explication, à savoir que le rôle des Églises dans l’éducation et la gestion de la pauvreté était une question déjà réglée. Dès le Xixe siècle l’État avait pris aux Églises les infrastructures et mis en place une gestion étatisée de ces services.

In vielen europäischen Demokratien des 20. Jahrhunderts war die Religion ein politisch trennendes Element, außer in Dänemark und Schweden. Hier dominierte der Klassenkampf, da, anders als in anderen europäischen Ländern, die Rolle der Kirche in puncto Armenfürsorge und Erziehung bereits geregelt war, da im Laufe des 19. Jahrhundert der Säkularstaat die sozialen Infrastrukturen der Kirchen übernommen hatte.

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Why No Religious Politics? The Secularization of Poor Relief and Primary Education in Denmark and Sweden

  • Lars Bo Kaspersen (a1) and Johannes Lindvall (a2)

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