1st Edition

Sweden’s Pandemic Experiment

Edited By Sigurd Bergmann, Martin Lindström Copyright 2023
    332 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    332 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book considers Sweden’s pandemic management which differed so significantly from much of the rest of the world: it provoked intense and wide-reaching interest, curiosity and criticism. Trans-disciplinary Swedish authors from the humanities, life sciences, social sciences, and cultural studies use a variety of tools to mine deeper into some of the central elements and dimensions in their country’s pandemic management such as understandings of freedom, the execution of power, denialism, exceptionalism, patriotism, the role of expertise and trust in the national state to give a deeper understanding of Sweden’s decisions, failures, successes, and the lessons to be learned.

    Aimed at readers with interest in global health and politics it will also be of interest in disciplines such as virology, epidemiology, history, cultural studies, ethics, media studies, medicine and economics.

    The Open Access version of this book, available at http://www.taylorfrancis.com, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

    Introduction: Sweden Stumbles along the Third Way
    Peter Baldwin 

    1. In the rupture between this and another world to come: introductory remarks on pandemic emergency and Sweden’s response  
    Sigurd Bergmann and Martin Lindström     

    2. A timeline of events: December 2019 to February 2022
    Sigurd Bergmann

    3. An expert authority without real experts? Deliberate disinformation from the Swedish Public Health Agency on the SARS-CoV-2 infection’s spread in the population
    Anders Vahlne         

    4. The COVID-19-pandemic and the Swedish strategy: central aspects of the implementation of the strategy in relation to evidence-based medicine
    Martin Lindström       
    5. The Swedish COVID-19 response: from poorly judged utilitarianism to history revisionism and the tragedy of the commons
    Emil Bergholtz        

    6. Learning from failure: mastering a pandemic in the triad of science, politics and trust
    Sigurd Bergmann 

    7. Epidemiology and COVID-19¬: why numbers are important and can be misleading
    Nele Brusselaers        

    8. The political economy of estimating immunity levels
    Rodney Edvinsson 

    9. Children at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic
    Johanna Höög 

    10. The Biopolitics of Herd Immunity
    Lapo Lappin        

    11. Collaborators, supporters, and science judges: how trust in the Public Health Agency’s messaging was achieved
    Kajsa Klein

    12. Sweden unmasked: reading state and society through the pandemic
    Jens Stilhoff Sörensen        

    13. Sweden’s preventive medicine: a drastic end to a 280-year long story of success
    Gunnar Steineck 




    Sigurd Bergmann is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim; Visiting Researcher at the Faculty of Theology, Uppsala University; and Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center at Munich University. His research covers religion and the environment, and religion, arts and architecture, and among his multiple books and articles are Weather, Religion and Climate Change (2020), Religion, Space and the Environment (2014), In the Beginning Is the Icon (2009), and God in Context (2003).

    Martin Lindström is Professor of Social Medicine at the Medical Faculty, Lund University, Sweden. He holds a PhD in Social Medicine (2000) and a second PhD in Economic History (Historical Demography) (2015). Lindström is a Fellow of the Center for Economic Demography (CED) and EpiHealth, both at Lund University. His research covers social capital and health, socioeconomic differences in health, life course epidemiology and historical demography (including epidemics in the 18th and 19th centuries). Lindström has authored many international research articles and chapter contributions in edited books.

    "Detailed narrative accounts are essential for learning lessons from the global tragedy of Covid-19. Sweden’s approach—which became famous for all the wrong reasons—is meticulously documented here. It should be essential reading for those involved in planning for future public health emergencies."

    - Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, GP and Public Health academic, University of Oxford, UK

    "For many reasons this book is a unique and special contribution to public health coming at a unique time. There are many reasons why "herd immunity" is not applicable in a pandemic. This book will tell why. There are more reasons why government as medical scientific leader is also not applicable. The COVID-19 pandemic proved that ,and this book tells why. Which government should we follow (many differed one from another)? Why should we limit expertise where we know it is limited or even lacking?"

    - Robert Gallo, MD, Gudelsky Professor of Medicine and Microbiology/Immunology and Founding Director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md., and Co-Founder and Chair of the International Scientific Committee of the Global Virus Network

    "From the earliest months of the coronavirus pandemic, international observers have been taken aback by Sweden’s policy choices in responding to COVID-19. Countering its long history of leadership in public health, the Swedish state has advanced a laissez-faire approach in which the population is allowed to be exposed to the virus in a manner that experts believed would remain controlled. To date, it has remained difficult for outsiders to understand Sweden’s permissive attitude towards the pandemic, the unwillingness of national leaders to revisit counterproductive policies, the state's controversial trafficking in misinformation, and ultimately a lack of reflection on highly disparate rates of infection and death.

    Sweden’s Pandemic Experiment resolves these puzzles by offering a rich account of the context informing Sweden’s COVID-19 response. Its interdisciplinary contributors illuminate a wide array of inputs—sociological, historical, cultural, and political—to the so-called "Swedish way." As they show, Sweden’s pandemic failures have drawn on a constellation of institutional failures: in media, in crisis management, in health care, in public health, and in national scientific research institutes.

    Presented without fear or favor, Sweden's Pandemic Experiment should prompt a reckoning in Swedish society. This meticulously documented account will also be a model for researchers elsewhere, inspiring comparative analysis of pandemic strategies that have underperformed in other global settings."

    - Martha Lincoln, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at San Francisco State University and author of Epidemic Politics in Vietnam: Public Health and the State (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021). 

     "This volume is one of the first to provide an interdisciplinary critical assessment of the Swedish response to the pandemic of COVID-19. This is a timely and welcome contribution to study the interplay of scientific, political and public discussion about a ‘Swedish puzzle’ that has triggered essential moral questions while deeply affecting the social compact."

    - Yohann Aucante, Associate professor at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS); author of The Swedish Experiment. The COVID-19 response and its controversies (Bristol University Press, 2022).

    "Different national states launched different medical-political strategies to combat the Covid pandemic. If nations are willing to learn from each other how to cope with such unusual situation that, however, may repeat with an other infectious disease, such strategies must be comprehensibly assessed and evaluated according to ethical standards. Bergmann and Lindström present such critical assessment for the specific Swedisch case. I see this interdisciplinary volume as paradigm case for a holistic survey which is of interest far beyond the Swedish case as such. It is a "must read" for all persons and organizations worldwide even if it may remind doubtful whether there are final "lessons learned".

    - Konrad Ott, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of the Environment at Kiel University.

    "It is a must-read. It contains highly referenced and detailed descriptions of public health strategies and misrepresentations in Sweden. A very different narrative is told than the one which is being used to shape much of our pandemic policy."

    -Kevin Kavanagh, MD, founder of the patient advocacy group Health Watch USA and a frequent contributor to Infection Control Today.

    "The detailed timelines and supporting evidence that provided a very thorough critique of Sweden’s response are especially impressive. It is fascinating to read about how resistant the public health authorities were to change the direction of their advice despite evidence to the contrary. The book does well to explore the concept of herd immunity and why it should never be our goal unless we properly understand the infection, have safe and effective vaccines, and a vaccine non-hesitant population."

    - The Lord Ara Darzi of Denham, current member of the House of Lords, Academic surgeon, holding the Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery at Imperial College London; Chair of Institute of Global Health Innovation, St Mary's Hospital.