Oikos & sweden’s conservative revival

11 januari 2021

Earlier this year, a new conservative think-tank was launched in Sweden with the name of Oikos, which means ‘home’ in Ancient Greek. This may not seem like a big deal. There are many think-tanks in Sweden, representing very different political colors. And across the Western world, there are already plenty of conservative think-tanks. But Oikos is the first conservative think-tank ever in Sweden.

This is remarkable, since this is a country where ‘political conservatism’ had been almost completely wiped out. While Sweden’s ruling elites spent several decades trying to depict conservatives as an almost extinct breed of growling cave men, today the country has seen conservatism make a very strong comeback in just a few years. The launching of Oikos — and the fact that its board of trustees includes several widely respected Scandinavian intellectuals — has thus hit the small clubby ‘pond’ which is the Swedish establishment like a tsunami.

At the same time, in parallel with the launch of Oikos, the first national conservative student organization in nearly a century was launched: Konservativa Förbundet (Conservative Union). This is symptomatic of a significant generational change. Today, it is primarily young intellectuals in Sweden who are increasingly drawn to the ideas and insights of conservatism. It is the children of the ‘architects’ of Sweden’s radically progressive and globalist political system — those who used to hang posters of ‘Che’ Guevara on the walls of their dorm rooms — who are, instead, putting up pictures of people like Sir Roger Scruton.

This is not just wishful thinking on my part. Although Swedes are still more progressive than most peoples, the tide is indeed turning. In his 2018 book, Bakslaget: radikalt etablissemang, konservativa medborgare (The Backlash: Radical Elites, Conservative Citizens), published in Stockholm by Timbro, Swedish scholar Markus Uvell, relying on extensive opinion polls and empirical studies, demonstrates that Sweden is experiencing a truly conservative revival. His data shows that, had it been left to the country’s youngest voters, the last election in Sweden would have seen the non-socialist parties win by a landslide. On almost every political issue of significance, Uvell’s findings show that the majority of Swedish voters today hold views that are more conservative than those of the ruling elites of Sweden.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand what is driving this conservative revival. For decades, Sweden has been a real-life, full-scale experiment for progressive, postmodern ideas. But for many Swedes, the results have simply not been satisfactory.

The idea of ‘community’ has been replaced with a sense of alienation; family values with gender ideology; sovereignty and democracy with EU federalism and globalism; national pride with postcolonial discourse and shame; freedom of speech with ‘cancel culture’ and the de-platforming of dissident voices; traditional art and architecture with modernist abominations; safety and security with gang violence; and social trust with cultural clashes.

Asle Toje — a foreign policy scholar, former head of research at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, and a member of the Oikos board of trustees — expressed these very sentiments in a December 2019 essay. He wrote:

The postmodernist sensibility that structures the worldview of our educated elites may pay eloquent lip service to abstract ideals, but for many individuals the world they have created has proved to be a barren, alienating place.

For his part, [the German thinker Johann Gottfried] Herder saw that those who want to liberate us from traditions — from culture and history — often only succeed in freeing themselves from their duties towards actual compatriots in favor of a universal ‘humanity’ that does not exist apart from those who claim to speak on behalf of it.

Just look at the culture this postmodernity produces in Europe. Look at the public artworks. Listen to the hit songs. Look at the architecture. It is as if we had lost some war and are currently occupied by a rival civilization that detests us and is eager to rub our collective noses in what they think of us.

The patriotic and conservative Sweden Democrats have been in the vanguard of the reaction to such developments. The party has been a leader in the Swedish conservative revival and the country’s working class has been its main source of support. But, increasingly, the bourgeoisie and the upper classes of Uppsala, Stockholm, and Gothenburg have also followed suit — and with them, the Christian Democratic and Moderate parties.

The result is that a new conservative bloc consisting of these three parties is gradually taking shape in Swedish politics. This is promising. Such a bloc could genuinely challenge the century-old hegemony of the Swedish left. But in order to be more than a mayfly of discontent, this new bloc will need a broad, deep, and unifying political philosophy.

It will also need natural forums where young aspiring leaders from Sweden’s different conservative parties can meet, socialize, exchange ideas, overcome old grievances, and build bonds of trust. This is precisely where organizations like Oikos and the Conservative Union come in.

The new, globalist, postmodernist left poses a real threat to everything that is good, beautiful, and meaningful in our lives and our civilization. The only way forward for the European right is through coalitions, innovative thinking, and unity.

The harmful effects of progressive ideas on Swedish society has been a canary in the coalmine that too many have ignored. Sweden today is an example of what could happen to the entire Western world if we allow ourselves to be divided. In this, I commend the European Conservatives and Reformists Party for being a positive force for conservative unity in the West — and for being a constructive force in the formation of Oikos and increased unity among Swedish conservatives.

I will conclude with a quote from the conservative J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In one of several dramatic scenes, the two hobbits, Merry and Pippin, are arguing about which course to take in the face of an overwhelming force of evil. Pippin advocates that they should turn their back on the war, abandon their allies, and isolate themselves in their homeland, the Shire.

To this, Merry replies: “The fires of Isengard will spread, and the forests of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn. And all that was once great and good in this world will be gone. There won’t be a Shire, Pippin.”

I agree. Without resolve and unity there won’t be a Shire — an oikos — left for any of us. Sweden is a living example of that. But Sweden is also a living example that there is still hope — and that it is never too late to fight back.◼️

Mattias Karlsson is International Secretary of the Sweden Democrats, former Group Leader in Parliament, and Founder of the Oikos think-tank.