Understanding the Pippi Longstocking Paradox and Statist Individualism

A Comparative Study of Swedish Individualism Using a Mixed-Methods Approach

Pippi Longstocking, one of the most admired Swedish fictional characters, in many ways epitomizes the pursuit of total individual sovereignty. At the same time her obedient neighbours Tommy and Annika, and her portmanteau full of gold coins, represent a background of considerable social order and safety. Pippi thereby embodies a seeming paradox: the fact that while Swedes are claimed to be utterly individualistic, they nevertheless remain highly supportive of collectivistic solutions in the shape of a strong welfare state, and also display notorious marks of conformity in their choice of life-style, spare time activities and even in their clothing.

This project seeks to understand this 'Pippi Longstocking Paradox' through the theoretical lens of 'statist individualism', according to which Swedes are rationalistic individualists who expect the welfare state to liberate them from dependency on family and friends. This theory is promising in several ways, yet it has not until now been contrasted with attitudinal or contemporary data. This project represents the first encompassing study of individualistic attitudes and their consequences for the welfare state in contemporary public opinion in Sweden, and is undertaken in collaboration with historian Lars Trägårdh at Ersta Sköndal University College. How does individualism interplay with conformity and collectivism? And how more precisely do Swedes understand freedom and independence?

Principal investigator: Gina Gustavsson (Department of Government)

Period: 2018–2022

Funding: SEK 1 665 000, junior scholar research grant from Forte

Gina Gustavsson

Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor at Department of Government, Faculty

+4618-471 3349
Last modified: 2022-02-04