Totalförsvarets livspolitik
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science advice
total defence
food security
Cold War


The life politics of total defence: Knowledge supply of Swedish food security and preparedness

In the Cold War, Sweden’s total defence extended to all parts of society. Preparations for war were a normal part of daily life. Military history has received more attention in historical research, but Sweden’s civil defence has recently attracted increasing interest.

This article sheds new light on the knowledge supply and political governance of the Swedish total defence. We focus on Swedish food security and preparedness (livsmedelsberedskap), which was part of the economic defences that fell under the country’s civil defence system. We examine governmental investigations into the changes in Swedish agricultural production deemed necessary to reach the Swedish government’s planned level of preparedness. Two forms of what we term ”life politics” are charted in the studies commissioned or carried out by the Swedish Board of Agriculture in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We examine how these investigations made possible political interventions targeting the human population as well as the life of plants and the cultivated land. We provide new perspectives on Sweden’s civil defence by studying the significance of non-human life forms to Swedish public preparedness, which have received significantly less attention from historians than the human population and the development of, for example, new defence technologies and weapon systems. We use the concept of life politics to chart the different meanings ascribed to different forms of life.

The article primarily contributes to the historical research on scientific advice in Sweden’s total defence, and to studies exploring the connections between the Swedish welfare state and Swedish defence planning.

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