chapter  7
18 Pages

Enduring Conscription: Vagueness and Värnplikt in Sweden 1

WithAnna Leander

Sweden's version of conscription, its varnplikt, has been a profoundly consensual, vague and malleable institution. This vagueness of varnplikt reflects the necessity to accommodate two contradictory understandings of Sweden, Swedish politics, and Swedish society: that of Military Sweden and that of Political Sweden. The vagueness of the virtues of varnplikt is pivotal for endurance of conscription in Sweden at present. Political and Military Sweden are refashioning their accounts of the virtues of varnplikt. The framing of varnplikt as a virtuous institution has been facilitated by presenting it as deeply rooted in Swedish traditions. For Military Sweden, limiting the impact of social hierarchies was necessary to enhance military effectiveness. The relation of varnplikt to politics is a final issue where the two views on Swedish varnplikt have clashed only to reinstate a consensus around an abstract and necessarily vague varnplikt. The overall consensus has been that varnplikt is important in a democratic state.