1st Edition

Alva and Gunnar Myrdal in Sweden and America, 1898–1945 Unsparing Honesty

By Walter A. Jackson Copyright 2021
    336 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    336 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Alva and Gunnar Myrdal are the only couple ever awarded Nobel prizes as individuals: Gunnar won the prize in Economics in 1974, and Alva won the Peace Prize in 1982. This dual biography examines their work as architects of the modern welfare state and probes the connections between the public and private dimensions of their lives. Drawing on their extensive personal correspondence and diaries between their electrifying first meeting in 1919 and their protracted marital crisis in the early 1940s, this book presents the psychologist and the economist as they sought to combine love and work in an equal partnership. Alva and Gunnar simultaneously experimented with a new kind of intimate relationship and designed the social supports necessary for women both to bear and raise children and to contribute their talents and energies to society. Like all genuine revolutionaries, they struggled to free themselves from the burdens of their upbringings; to evaluate their own actions with what they called "unsparing honesty," and to test their policy recommendations in practice, measuring everything against the values they shared.

    1. Unsparing Honesty

    Part 1: Becoming Alva, Becoming Gunnar

    2. Alva’s Family on the Edge of Poverty

    3. Alva in the Family Crucible

    4. Alva and the Great Hunger

    5. From Kalle Pettersson to Gunnar Myrdal

    6. Gunnar the Outsider

    Part 2: Alva and Gunnar

    7. “Faith is that which the heart trusts”

    8. “Souls as great as ours”

    9. “How to operate on the heart”

    10. “I was surprised that you understood me so well”

    Part 3: Gunnar in Crisis, 1941

    11. The Dialectic of Love and Power

    12. Collapse and Catharsis

    13. Trolls, Strindberg, and Faust

    14. The Feminist Complex

    15. Dilemmas of Gender and Race

    Part 4: Alva in Crisis, 1944

    16. Together and Separately

    17. The Formation of the Psyche

    18. Dream Diary

    19. Politician’s Wife or Independent Woman?


    Walter Anderson Jackson III (1950–2015) is best known for Gunnar Myrdal and America’s Conscience: Social Engineering and Racial Liberalism,1938–1973 (1990), which analyzes the making of Myrdal’s An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944) in relation to early twentieth-century Swedish and American social thought. Jackson grew up in the South during the Civil Rights Movement and earned a BA (mcl) from Duke and a PhD from Harvard. His life’s work was prompted by questions about racial inequality in the United States and the perspective a European social democratic thinker brought to this fraught issue. Jackson published numerous articles on white racial liberalism, African American sociologists and anthropologists, and theories of interracial relations. Beloved by students and the public for grounding the civil rights struggle in local history and highlighting the voices and viewpoints of participants, he appeared on the 2015 PBS program, “American Denial.”