This dissertation's initial proposition is that political ideology can be embodied in ritual form. The use of Social Democrat May Day demonstrations - a political procession similar to parades - in Stockholm as a tool for creating ideology, and to both maintain and disseminate Social Democratic ideology is analysed. One perspective is that May Day forms part of the creation of traditions, or traditionalisation.
The symbolic body that the May Day demonstration constitutes has been provided with different contents in different ideological contexts. With the first May Day demonstration of 1890, the working class appropriated a traditional spring festival. Newspapers invested it with loaded spatial images as civic rebirth, and it was equated with nature's transition from winter to spring.
Until the 1930s May Day was still regarded as a worker's festival. When the Social Democrats gained power in 1932, May Day was transformed into the Day of the Swedish People, employing nationalistic rhetoric. It was argued that this festival had been appropriated by capitalism, but that its true values were now restored. As television appeared in the early 1960s, the May Day demonstration was adapted to this new medium.
Renewal was the key word. During the ideological and economic crises of the 1990s, many ambivalent means of expression have been used. Irony is one, playing on carnevalesque themes such as death and rebirth. The demonstration participant manifested criticism of the party by utilising such imagery and exploiting the spatial dramaturgy of the ritual. The appearance of this carnival theme can be explained in terms of the general ideological uncertainty prevailing in Sweden.
This stemmed from the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme, a political crisis of confidence in the early 1990s, and the fall of the Eastern bloc, amongst other things. At the same time, the historical role of Social Democracy has been strongly questioned. One hot topic is wether or not the Swedish model of welfare should be preserved. Even established Social Democrats argue that this social form is obsolete.
Traditionalism has now become synonymous with retrospection. Within this context, many ask if May Day ought not become a day for general political issues, without processions. There has been similar questioning since the 1890s, and at times the demonstration concept has been claimed to have become stale.The first demonstrations paved the way for the worker's entry into "official" public space.
Through the disciplined demonstration, the workers' movement showed that they could act in a well-controlled manner, without threatening order. This dissertation analyses the workers' May Day as media event, which has been shaped in dialogue with media accounts. It can therefor be argued that as a ritual form, the workers' May Day demonstration is characteristic of the public dramaturgy of modernity.
|Verk av författare med samma namn, Jonas Engman
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