Almost every day I pass through the Sigfrid area, the psychiatric clinic in Växjö. One of the buildings, called Italienska palatset, is today used as studios and workshops for artists, and I spend quite a lot of time in the wood workshop. I am definitely curious about the history of the building.

The hospital is old, I have read about ‘A House of the Holy Spirit’ (”helgeandshus”), run by the church, in medieval times in Växjö. In the 16th century, the state took the responsibility for the caring of the half-witted, but the fundament was still religious – the number one treatment was praying for salvation.

The old madhouse was originally found close to the cathedral in the city center of Växjö, but in the middle of the 18th century, the institution moved to the Sigfrid area, a few kilometers south east. The huge hospital building was raised later, in 1857. The architect was Theodor Anckarsvärd, also known for the Theater and the Town hall of Växjö.

In a book by the journalist Thomas Lissing, I find some drawings of Italienska palatset and maps of the hospital area. It is really interesting. You can clearly see the social structure of the hospital: The bedrooms for the first class patients are found on the third floor, with a great view over the lake Trummen and a beautiful park. The smaller rooms for the second and third class patients are located on the first and second floor. The first class patients could use the music room, the reading room and the pool room, while the basic day room was used by the others. Men and women were kept separated – men in the northern part, women in the southern. The social distinction was obvious also for the employees – a kitchen maid earned about 30 times less than a doctor.

Until 1968 the whole area was fenced in, but today the security walls are found only around the institution for forensic psychiatry. The life inside the fences had been more or less isolated from the rest of the society until then. If someone from the outside wanted to get in or anyone from the staff needed to get out, they had to apply for permission. The staff got their own keys in the 1920.

The hospital was almost self-sufficient: Patients worked with farming, laundry, gardening, cooking or production of tools and textiles, and you could find almost all necessary professions and functions among the staff – smidths, chefs, bakers, brewers, doctors, carpenters, teachers, masons – and all of them had their home inside the gates.

The construction plan of the main building has changed a bit, but it is still easy to identify the layers of history. What today is the major art gallery room on the second floor, was formaly used as a day room, and the two smaller gallery rooms were used as bedroom and dressing/washing room. The woodworking shop on the first floor had the same structure.

The Swedish historian Karin Johannisson is well-known for her writings on the connections between psychiatry, the individual and the society. Our bodies (and minds) are battlefields for ideologies. The increase of different kinds of diagnosis in the last decades should, according to Karin Johannisson, be observed and analyzed: More people will probably get diagnoses, and normality will decrease. Depression, restlessness, concentration difficulties, shyness, grief, and crises are all natural parts of being a human.  Many neuropsychiatric diagnoses are of course adequate, and could really support indivdiuals and explanations, but it is also important to consider what a diagnosis does to a person – when you get the diagnosis, a kind of interaction between the diagnosis and yourself starts.

The diagnoses are definitely connected to social issues. Children from low status areas get more often diagnoses than children from high status areas. The problem is obvious: If we keep on explaining a pupil’s difficulties as medicinal, the social, cultural and economic environments will be disregarded. The diagnosis crawls into the identity and internalizes the individual.

The science of psychiatry and the demonization of the female body has for a long time been connected. The female sexuality had to be limited, restricted. We need, according to Johannisson, new and more skewed narratives to explore the position of women in the institutions of madness. Why has the norm breaking behavior of women attracted that much interest during history? Female madness has even been a kind of famous theatre directed by Doctor Jean Martin Charcot at the mental hospital La Salpétrière in Paris: Prepared shows of female hysteria in front of an audience.

Karin Johannission has coined the concept cultural disorders, a kind of illness that is limited in time and to a high degree corresponds with society’s structure and content (culture). Threats, norms and values are inherited in the disorder. Apathy of refugee children, electric and screen hypersensitivity, fibromyalgia, oral galvanism and burnout are examples. And many diagnoses have just left us: Homosexuality was a personality disorder until 1979 in Sweden, 1994 in Britain, 1999 in Brazil and 2001 in China. Being a transvestite was a diagnosis until 2009 in Sweden. Hysteria, which was a common (at least for women) mental illness during the turn of the last century, does just not exist today.

There is obviously an intricate interplay between the individual, the society and the science of psychiatry; the human brain (and genitals, particularly if you are a woman) has been a battlefield for different cultures.

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Since the 80’s we have seen strong scientific evidence for a connection between psychiatric diagnoses and creative professions. Professions like artist and scientist are more common in families where for example bipolarity and schizophrenia occurs. Also other diagnoses like depression, anxiety, drug addiction, autism, adhd, anorexia nervosa, and suicide is more common among creative people. The connection is most obvious among writers: It is about 50 % more likely that a writer commits suicide than the average.

Also the relatives of a patient are more often found in creative professions. Among patients with schizophrenia, bipolarity, anorexia nervosa and to some extent autism, there is a higher presence of creativity among the relatives.

The old fellow William Shakespeare says in his comedy play A Midsummer Night’s Dream “The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact.”

The border between the genius, the society, the diagnosis and the artist is obviously blur.


Pierre Bourdieu’s La distinction (1979) is one of the most influential works in sociology ever, and its impact has been far wider than the academy. It is a broad analysis of the French society in the 60’s and 70’s based on a certain thesis: There is a homology between the space of life styles and the space of social positions. Life styles and tastes distinct social groups – culture is power.

Bourdieu found a ‘vertical’ dimension, revealing a socio-economic hierarchy: An aristocracy in one end, a working class in the other, and a middle class in between. To underline the significance of culture Bourdieu coined the concept cultural capital. This tool made it possible to distinguish dimensions within these groups. One of the factors was the distribution of economic and cultural resources: Groups with high cultural capital but low economic capital could be distinguished from groups with the opposite characteristics. Fractions of classes could be distinguished – the aristocracy contained the culture elite and the economic elite.

Culture was especially important in certain groups characterized by high cultural capital and lower economic capital, such as teachers and journalists. They developed a selective taste, and was attracted to for example esoteric literature. The economic fractions had a different relationship to culture – business leaders on higher levels preferred ordinary entertainment or strictly canonized literature.

The education system played a key role to create and consolidate the credence to culture. Bourdieu identified three different kinds of cultural capital: objectifiedembodied and institutionalized. The objectified condition is artefacts like books, records, paintings etc. The embodied condition comprises for example taste, language, and behavior, and takes a lot of effort to achieve. You have to work on it at home, at school, and after.

What have happened since Bourdieu’s famous study? Has the picture changed? Are the results relevant today? In Sweden? There has been a lot of research since Bourdieu’s study, some of them verify the study, and some of them do not. According to the omnivore thesis, times have changed. The distinctions are just not relevant today. The groups with great resources have broadened their taste – today they are omnivores, consuming a wide range of cultural practices. And on the opposite, people from lower classes, are today exposed to what used to be considered as high-brow culture, for example classical music.

A lot of differences and distinctions are as far as I can see, still obvious, at least in Sweden. (See several reports from Swedish agency for Cultural policy analysis/Myndigheten för kulturanalys). The geographical variations are apparent: The differences between the countryside and the big cities are for example clear, urban people are more cultural active than rural. The difference between the big cities (Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö) and the small cities are about the same as between the small cities and the countryside.

Gender is another distinctive category – women are more cultural active than men, but geography is actually more distinctive than gender. And the same pattern goes for level of education and socioeconomic class: Degree and economy is more distinctive than gender. The difference between men and women is clear in every age, but the difference between young females and old females is bigger than between young females and young men. The same pattern occurs if we compare young and old men, and young men and young females.

Another distinction occurs if you consider art forms – females prefer high culture (classical music, dance, and art) more than men. And if you combine professions and gender, yet another interesting distinction occurs: Female leaders are more attracted to culture than male leaders.

There are no details in the data above, and therefore it is not possible to make like a perfect comparison with Bourdieu. But the picture is clear enough – cultural preferences correlate with social structure, and culture is a part of the social stratification.

In a report from last year, the conditions in Stockholm for youths in the age of 13–16, were studied (Youth’s Life styles in high and low status areas/Ungas livsstil i låg- och högstatusområden). The study gives an expected picture: Lower grades, lower attendance in organized sports and culture activities, and less physical activity were found in the low status areas. The gender differences were actually also higher in these areas.

Last year The National Endowment of the Arts in the US, published the report When Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance, and some of the results support the social dimension of cultural activity sketched above. The main reason for attending art events is, according to the survey, “socializing with friends and family”. Income does not effect the answer on this question. And one of the main reasons for not attending is actually lack of company. Social networks are obviously a motivation. (Perhaps cultural institutions should spend more interest in creating environments for socialization?) Even the funding and the organization of the event are of importance: More than 50 % of the adults attending, do so to support community organizations or events sponsored by community members.

Despite what is said above, we should not forget the importance of the content. The untold stories need to be told, the unrepresented need to get represented. Without supply there is just nothing. The crucial thing is to find combinations of the social dimensions, the medium and the content. Representation is always a kind of prioritization. When public funding is redirected, transferred from one institution to another, it is a painful experience for the institution losing its power.

Which is the problem with the social differences in cultural activity? A common answer is that culture represents democracy, freedom of speech and other basic values of our society. Art is certainly one of the most powerful tools to make distinction between social groups, but probably art could be used also for other and more refreshing purposes.

Capacity building

Cooperation is one of the sacred words in contemporary working life. It’s connected to networking but to a higher extent authentic, emotional, and human. Cooperation is definitely important, but at the same time difficult – I am sure you have been engaged in collaborations without substance or with bad results. Formulations on cooperation has occurred in job ads in Sweden for many decades, during the last years sometimes in combination with “personal drive” (a dissertation by Karin HelgessonPlatsannonsen i tiden/The Recruitment advertisement was published a few years ago).

So, what is needed to set up a good environment for professional cooperation? Of course you need structures open to collaborations. And one of the basic features is different models of contact areas, connecting competences, departments and individuals. But everyone used to collaborations in real life, knows that there is a personality dimension involved as well. To cooperate with some persons is just wasted time, the same individuals are over and over again involved in collaborations breaking down – groups marked by disharmony and blaming, but without trust and comfort, will never succeed.

How can we understand these conditions and personalities? Should we trust the psychologists? Well, I am not sure, but it is at least an option. A well-known psycho-biologic personality model is TCITemperament and Character Inventory (presented by RobertCloninger in the 90’s).

The model identifies four dimensions of temperament: Novelty seeking, Harm Avoidance, Reward Dependence, and Persistence. These traits are more or less inherited, and could be identified early in life. The character contains three dimensions:




These dimensions are affected by socialization and culture, and are formed by the temperament dimensions, content in life and social conditions. All of the temperament and character dimensions are in one way or another involved in collaborations, but cooperativeness is of course of certain interest – to what extent does an individual identify with and accept others?

Cooperative people are tolerant, empathic, helpful, and compassionate, and a low degree of cooperativeness can, according to Cloninger, be found in all categories of personality disorders. Also self-directedness is definitely connected to collaboration; the dimension contains for example responsibility vs. blaming.

A combination of low cooperativeness and low self-directedness is a major obstacle for collaborations, and is, according to Cloninger, actually found in all types of personality disorders.

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According to one of the most referred studies, 53 percent of the work force in Sweden today will be replaced by digital tools in twenty years (research by Stefan Fölster). That’s a lot. Applications and software, instead of business administrators, industrial workers, assemblers, librarians and so on. The only professions left untouched, require originality, artistry or social skills – researchers, interaction designers, some groups of artists and educators, imams…

How should we handle this? Well, to put people in retirement is not an option, the only sustainable way forward is capacity building within organizations and companies. We need to develop learning organizations. New skills, new competencies, new knowledge.

Cooperativeness is fundamental also within collegial learning and formative assessment, two widely practiced methods in educational settings. As we will see below, the methods certainly requires social skills. (For a comprehensive guide, check out the master – Dylan Wiliam.)

Collegial learning is a summarizing term for different kinds of capacity building, where colleagues by structured collaborations are gaining knowledge and skills. The method is focused on processes rather than problem-solving – a critical evaluation of your own and your colleagues work. Research has made clear, that individual capacity building is far less effective than collegial learning. To discuss and co-operate is definitely already common at schools and other workplaces today; but new studies highlight the importance of focus, systematics, and long-sightedness in the collegial discussion. The future’s working life is characterized by continues learning processes, which has to be implemented in the organizations and supported by the leaders. To establish this, a social environment of trust, openness, and curiosity is needed.

Formative assessment is a development focused strategy. It puts the light on the teachers’ and the students’ ability to interpret and use information in order to take the next step in the learning process.

Goal. A clearly defined goal is usually preferable. But within professional capacity building, it is not always possible to articulate clear and unambiguous goals in advance; it is usually more adequate to recognize the goal as a horizon, to which the students can travel on several different roads. The role of the teacher is to make the horizon understandable. The horizon has to be challenging, to keep the motivation up.

Feedback. Feedback can be constructed in several ways. The process-related and the meta-cognitive strategies are highly recommended. Process-related feedback is aimed at the processes used to solve a problem, for example methods for information search or analysis. Meta-cognitive feedback is focused on the student’s ability to force herself, by for example self-evaluation or self-discipline, and to take the responsibility for the feedback. It is really important to get professional feedback – the role of the teacher is to create effective discussions and activities, making the process visible. The feedback should lead the students forward, not judge them.

Self-evaluation. Meta-cognition is related to self-evaluation. The aim is to activate the students as owners of their own learning process. Self-evaluation is the student’s reflection on the quality of her own work, while self‐regulated learning is connected to the student’s command over her own learning. Students who have developed self-regulation and self-evaluation is more effective than students who have not. Teachers should probably spend more time on preparing these processes.

Peer learning. Peer learning is a way to activate students as resources for each other. The strategy has good effects on learning in several ways; the student discovers alternative ways of dealing with an exercise and is transformed from passive receiver to active transmitter.

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To sum up: Cooperativeness has been one of the most important features in modern working life, but it is a complicated issue, connected to the core character of the individual. The importance of social skills will probably increase in the future, and they are definitely already needed in the capacity building of organizations preparing for tomorrow. It is impossible to succeed in collegial learning and formative assessment without a certain level of cooperativeness.

The Right to have Rights

Karolinska Institutet, a Swedish University, is moving abroad; yesterday they announced they are setting up a kind of research base in Hong Kong. It should not have been possible without a huge donation, 50 million USD, made by a Hong Kong-based businessman: Ming Wai Lau. This is one of the substantial ways globalization works – a blend of money transferring, research on high-level, international settings and a mix of government and business.

The concept globalization refers to the phenomenon when national borders loses significance, and closer collaboration leads to a global civil society. The phenomenon has weakened the nation-state all over the world since the 90s.

It used to be common to claim that nations, like Sweden and Denmark, had existed for all times. Most nations had certainly been oppressed or shattered during history, but that did not affect the fundamental fact that Swedes always had been Swedes, and Danes always had been Danes. Today the opposite opinion is politically correct. No nation-states have existed before the 19th century. This opinion opens up for new versions of global collaboration, since the national legacy is undermined.

The words nation and state have their backgrounds in two different traditions. Nation is related to emotions, state is related to the monopoly of administration and political power within a certain territory. One nation, one language, one culture, one history is the purest version. Today it’s obvious that the juridical citizenship and the cultural identity quite often don’t match.

Globalization has definitely given power to post-national movements, one of them is cosmopolitism, made up with the Greek words cosmos (world) and polites (citizen). Cosmopolitism is an ideology defending and strengthening the bounds between the single individual and the whole humanity. The three basics traits are:

Individualism. Cosmopolitism is an ideology for individuals more than the collective.

Generality. All people are equal, and everyone is a moral subject, not only for example a white person, a man or a Muslim.

Universality. The fundament has a global scope and comprises everyone.

Many contemporary cosmopolites base their theories on empirical analysis – a strong interpretation of globalization. The globalization of economy, politics, culture and information is linking people, and making societies depend on each other. The sovereignty of the state is under these circumstances broken, since it has lost much of its power.

You can find cosmopolites on both the right and the left political wing. On the right wing the neoliberal patterns of thought dominate: The world is nothing but a global market, you are free to choose, buy and sell whatever you want whenever you want – education, insurances, retirement benefits and so on. The citizenship is equivalent with a consumer. On the left wing individual freedom isn’t the driving force, but justice. There is no moral motif for the more or less closed and autonomous state, since it sanctions unfair distributions of assets and possibilities.

There are definitively some attractive features in the cosmopolitan critic of the exclusivity of the state. To draw a too clear line between members/citizens and foreigners is just unfair under the present, global circumstances. But at the same time it’s quite easy to find arguments against hard-core cosmopolitism, and several post-national theorists are occupied with models made up of levels of international collaboration and justice, rather than a completely globalized, cosmopolitan world.

The UN declaration of human rights was written in 1948, and it has become some kind of sacred text for the secular society. In reality a lot of people miss these rights, although they are citizens in states who have signed the declaration. States of dictatorship are well-known for violating human rights, but the problem also occurs in ‘democratic’ countries.

Individuals without citizenship in the country they live in, are risking exclusion from human rights. It could be a person who has fled from her homecountry, and has been denied protection in the new country, but decides to stay there anyway, hiding from the police and the authorities. It could be a person who for some other reasons, for example labour, has left a country, and now live in a new country without permission. Nationless individuals is another category. These individuals, who in the eyes of the state are considered as illegal, are denied several of the most fundamental human rights – the rights for health care, education, safety, freedom.

Thus, human rights have been reduced to citizen rights, since they are connected to states and territories. States sign the international declarations, but is usually only responsible for individuals with citizenship or legal rights to stay in the country. It’s a deep conflict between this practice and the universality of the human rights.

In the nation-state the citizenship is a basic condition for the relation between the individual and the state. This idea has been essential in political philosophy; Thomas Hobbes talked about the civil contract as a contract where individuals give up parts of their right of determination in exchange for protection of their lives and properties. While Hobbes saw the civic contract as a presumption for certain ethical rules and as a tool for controlling egoism, John Locke meant that justice is inherent in the human being. His description of equality for humans is actually still central for many political systems.


One of the first to observe the vulnerable situation of the non-citizens was Hannah Arendt. Her research on migration in Europe during the World Wars, demonstrated the crack in the intersection between civic rights and human rights. Individuals who leave their countries lose their right to family, education, nationality and freedom from discrimination and persecution. One of her classic quotes is: “The right to have rights”.

The increasing international migration of today, is one of the consequences of globalization, and is probably the biggest challenges for the nation-state. An equal society, where no one is excluded or discriminated, where the human rights are a reality instead of a vision, is desirable, and probably some kind of post-nationalism is required.

Only one Earth

Usually I pay some extra attention to four concepts, which I consider as fundamental for the development in the coming decades: citizenship, xenophobia, sustainability and cooperativeness. This short essay is a summary of the debate about sustainable development.

The concept sustainable development was defined in the Brundtland commission in 1987, and today it’s hard to find someone questioning the importance of the balance between social and economic development and respect for nature.

But for a long time, an anthropocentric world view was dominating. We could use nature without limits to create economic growth. After the industrialization and the rise of the filthy, big cities, the awareness of the environmental problems arose. During the 60’s and 70’s the debate became lively; some of the classical books from that time are Silent Spring (Carson, 1965) and Limits of Growth (Meadows et al, 1972). Sustainability became an international issue, and the first global conference was held in Stockholm in 1972. One of the outcomes was the motto “Only One Earth”, another was the establishment of United Nation’s Environmental Programme. During the international conferences the differences between the rich and poor countries became obvious – who is responsible? What is fair? Who should act? In 1992 the next summit was held, the conference in Rio de Janeiro established the Agenda 21.

During the last years the concept of sustainability has been criticized from many directions. What does it mean, in reality? How should it be implemented? While some claim the power of the concept should be found in its openness and flexibility, others state it has become too vague and therefore could be misused.

The most wide-spread and quoted definition of sustainable development is found in the Brundtland commission: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The concept has been elaborated during the last 30 years, and today you’ll find at least the following four models:

THE EQUAL. A common model is the venn diagram. The three dimensions of sustainability are illustrated in three circles overlapping in the middle. The dimensions are on the same level and not competing.

THE STRATIFIED. Another model is hierarchic. The ecological dimension is the base, on which the social and economic dimensions rely. This model rates the dimensions – it’s impossible to establish social sustainability without ecological sustainability, and economic sustainability needs social sustainability.

THE RUSSIAN DOLL. Sustainability has also been described as a Russian doll, containing three layers. The economy is in the center. Economy is the driving force, but it’s interfered by the social and ecological layers on the outside.

THE STRUGGLE. The last model is a bit related to the equal-model above, but it’s basically competitive. It’s illustrated by a triangle, in which every angle represents contrarious goals. The development is a kind of fight, the only balanced spot is in the middle. The city planners have to deal with three different interests, and the priorities depends on the orientation of the individual city planner (or department.)

My own starting point is the equal model. But it could definitely be challenged. If we use the concepts of social capital and natural capital, some kind of clearance in the model occurs: Natural capital is connected to consuming, while social capital is connected to investing; trust and understanding (social capital) could be increased when individuals meet, while the quarry is nothing but a hole in the ground.

The next problem is obvious: How do you implement a concept that is so unclear? Is it even possible? A common outcome is actually to prioritize one dimension on the expense of the others, and the selected dimension is usually the ecological. We put the social and economic dimension away.

Another debate deals with the tension between the rural and urban. For a long time the urbanization and growing cities were considered as threatful sources to the increasing environmental problems. From that perspective, urban development and sustainability was understood as dichotomies. However, during the last decades, the discourse has made a twist. Urban development is now thought of as a solution: The dense population decreases the energy consumption and makes the condition for public transport better, which support the adaption to a sustainable society. And what happens to the countryside then?

Sustainability is today used as a tool for marketing. The world is a huge global market, which means that every country, every region and every city has to compete to attract investments and resources. A strong brand with positive connotations is needed, and one of the options to produce the brand is to use the concept of sustainability. The danger is obvious: The ad, which always in one way or another is fictive, is perhaps more attractive than reality…

The concept of sustainability has even been accused for contributing to a hegemonic society. According to Erik Swyngedouw, professor of geography at the University of Manchester, there is no room left for contradictory opinions or debate; the discussion is occupied with questions about technology and organization.

The vision of sustainability has developed to a belief that we can continue in the same direction, if we just find the right technical solutions or models of organization. If we use these ‘fixes’, there is no need to question the neoliberal ideology of today – a lack of ideological discussion. The capitalism is the framework for the development: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism”.

Well. Sustainable development is one of the most important issues of the contemporary world. It’s obviously a necessary concept, full of beauty and tensions.