In the name of society
: the branding of Swedish civil security technologies and their exclusionary effects

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This dissertation investigates the recent transformations of security practice and arms industries in post-Cold War societies. Specifically, I analyse emerging actors and technologies positioned in the sociohistorical context of Sweden in the 90s and 00s, and how new threats and risks as well as new ideas for how to secure society became constructed and imposed in structures of so-called total defence; that is, in the strong historical traditions in Sweden of war preparedness and domestic arms production. This transforming field is not only heterogeneous in how it mobilises both public spokespersons and private companies from both the civil- and military domains, but it is also distinctively situated in the larger context of Europe and its security industry that has emerged in similar ways in recent years in line with the ongoing militarisation of Europe and strengthening of the EU’s external borders and surveillance systems. Exploring these empirical issues, I draw on the works of Bourdieu and other critical thinkers and social theorists, and employ a perspective of field economies and symbolic power in order to offer a more profound reading of what is often imprecisely referred to as military-industrial complexes, and how these are changing in late modern societies. In the dissertation, I aim to render visible some key effects of these recent transformations of security and defence fields. For example, I show how Swedish actors, including spokespersons coming from the state and its bureaucracies, have begun cooperating and competing in a more directly transnational context, and how their professional struggles and stakes are increasingly located in, framed as, or disguised by R&D in the security area. The legal arrangement interlinking the fields of Swedish and US security practitioners, for example, is designed as a science and technology agreement but may just as well include counterterrorism cooperation, information sharing, and political opportunities. Moreover, I demonstrate how the major arms industry in Sweden has come to expand increasingly into “civil”- or “societal” security technologies, including products and services for surveillance and border control. These technologies, I argue, are both associated with or feeding into military production, and tend to become wielded socio-politically in controversial arms export contexts. Here, industrialists and spokespersons continue to exploit and reconstruct the historical Swedish nation-brand of being “innovators”, “humanitarians”, and somehow “neutral”. The dissertation concludes that fields of security and defence, both in Sweden and elsewhere, are configured around resilient structures organised historically by the interests of military- and elite actors, but that they have indeed transformed to the effect that public-private security industries now follow dual logics and produce tools for controlling at once the frontiers and interiors of societies.
Date of Award1 Jul 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorDidier Bigo (Supervisor) & Claudia Aradau (Supervisor)

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