Viktor Lovén a
a Malmö University, Sweden
Viktor Lovén a
a Malmö University, Sweden
Lovén, V. (2022). Impeding What It Aims to Improve?: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Swedish National Strategy for Regional Development (Dissertation). http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-52248
Arturo Escobar (2020) claims that seven decades of development have made society more unsustainable than ever, which is seen in the present systematic destruction of nature, the persistent and growing social inequality, the occupation of ethnic and peasant territories, the poverty, violence, femicides, and the European, white and male supremacy. These are all different global crises that cannot be fully separated but are fundamentally combined into one single socio-ecological crisis. Social and environmental problems are interrelated, since they are both caused by historical legacies of domination and social hierarchy. Thus, to address the root causes of the present crisis, it is crucial to link the fight for social justice to the fight against environmental destruction, resulting in one combined socio-ecological struggle (Tokar, 2019; Grzybowski, 2019; Le Grange, 2019; Guerrero, 2018).
Drawing on Escobar’s claim, there is a need to explore whether there are fundamental problems regarding the development framework, including the way institutions communicate about development and social change. This study focuses on the Swedish Government, an institution that is seen as one of the paragons of both equality (OECD, 2018) and sustainability (Skovgaard, Hildingsson & Johansson, 2018), to reveal, critically analyze and challenge the discourses in its current national strategy for regional development. This national strategy sits at the intersection of international and regional development discourses. Being the main document upon which the regional development strategies of all Swedish regions are drawn, it sets the tone of regional development in Sweden. Through confirming or challenging certain discourses, it has the power to construct a certain meaning and knowledge about regional development in all the 21 regions of Sweden. Through studying these discourses, it becomes clear how the government communicates development, what kind of future society it seeks to construct, what changes it aims to achieve and what the potential effects of these changes may be.
In this analysis, the term discourse is defined as an oral, written or nonverbal set of statements that produces meaning and creates a particular knowledge about the world. It constructs social reality and structures the way things are understood and acted upon in society (Rose, 2016). This analysis is not a complete examination of the purpose, initiatives, goals and results of the Swedish Government’s regional development policy, but focuses on exploring the discourses in its most recent national strategy. It is important to question the role of Swedish institutions in the creation of structural discrimination and environmental destruction, both within Sweden and globally. The development discourses of the Swedish Government and other state institutions are powerful, but in proportion to their importance they are relatively under-researched.
These institutions are the keys to implementing and realizing goals through policy, since they define problems, suggest strategies, make policies and set targets. They have the power to either reinforce or challenge the power asymmetries in society, depending on what norms and values they produce and what knowledge they choose to include or exclude in their policy documents (Singleton, Rask, Magnusdottir & Kronsell, 2021).
This study uses critical discourse analysis to answer the following research question: What ideologies and discourses underpin the Swedish Government’s National Strategy for Sustainable Regional Development Throughout the Country 2021-2030, and how consistent are they to the purpose of the strategy? Following Norman Fairclough’s (1995) three-dimensional model for empirical research in communication, culture and society, this analysis describes the text, interprets the discursive practice, and explains the social practice. To widen the understanding of the discourses of regional development in Sweden, this study draws on theoretical and practical experiences from historical and contemporary global development. As a theoretical framework, it uses postdevelopment and postcolonial feminist theories, which reject the concept of development, criticize the concept of sustainable development, and question the notion of one universal, capitalistic, patriarchal, Western truth. They focus on different asymmetrical power relations and view development as discourses and techniques with power to intervene and rule over others (McEwan, 2019).
Impeding what it aims to improve? A critical discourse analysis of the Swedish National Strategy for Regional Development . (2023). In Degrowth journal (Vol. 1). https://www.degrowthjournal.org/publications/2023-09-29-impeding-what-it-aims-to-improve-a-critical-discourse-analysis-of-the-swedish-national-strategy-for-regional-development/
“Impeding What It Aims to Improve? A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Swedish National Strategy for Regional Development .” Degrowth Journal, vol. 1, Sept. 2023, https://www.degrowthjournal.org/publications/2023-09-29-impeding-what-it-aims-to-improve-a-critical-discourse-analysis-of-the-swedish-national-strategy-for-regional-development/.
“Impeding What It Aims to Improve? A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Swedish National Strategy for Regional Development .” 2023. Degrowth Journal. https://www.degrowthjournal.org/publications/2023-09-29-impeding-what-it-aims-to-improve-a-critical-discourse-analysis-of-the-swedish-national-strategy-for-regional-development/.
“Impeding what it aims to improve? A critical discourse analysis of the Swedish National Strategy for Regional Development ”(2023) Degrowth journal. Available at: https://www.degrowthjournal.org/publications/2023-09-29-impeding-what-it-aims-to-improve-a-critical-discourse-analysis-of-the-swedish-national-strategy-for-regional-development/.