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Rallying around the unwaved flag: national identity and Sweden’s controversial Covid strategy

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-03-17, 12:20 authored by Gina Gustavsson, Jonas Larsson Taghizadeh

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Sweden soon found itself alone and heavily criticised for its internationally deviant strategy. Why did this approach nevertheless receive widespread public support in Sweden? This article develops and tests a novel rally around the flag (RRTF) theory, which places national identity centre stage. In contrast to previous work, the article differentiates between national pride, national chauvinism, uncritical patriotism, national attachment, and ethnic nationhood conception – expecting only the first three of these to be related to supporting the Swedish Covid approach. Survey data from a politically representative sample of Swedes support the expectations. It is concluded that the popular support for the ‘Swedish experiment’ is to be understood as an RRTF – although in this case the flag was ‘unwaved’. This suggests that even national identities that draw their pride from institutional rather than cultural superiority lend themselves to RRTF processes.


This work was supported by funding from the Swedish Research Council (project: Liberal Nationalism in the Welfare State, no. 2014-06442) and by funding from Forte (project: Nationhood in a Pandemic, Nordic Gold or Nordic Noir, no. 2021-00832).