Skip to main content

The long shadow of lobbying: ideational power of lobbying as illustrated by welfare profits in Sweden

Abstract

The weak correlation between lobbying and policy outcomes is puzzling. The main argument developed here is that the puzzle is partly caused by a lack of attention to the long-term effects of lobbying on the ideas espoused by policymakers. An analysis of ideational power goes beyond the usual empirical focus on the immediate effects of lobbying. Thus, it provides a more complete understanding of how lobbying pays off. To illustrate this, the paper analyzes the battle over profits in the Swedish welfare sector. Despite a strong public opinion in favor of a cap on profits, the industry got its way. To justify this, policymakers relied on the argument that a cap on profits would drive out private welfare providers and, thereby, undermine choice for service users. In other words, the idea that private entrepreneurship, choice, and individual liberty are inextricably linked is a key factor in explaining the outcome. This idea had taken root among policymakers in Sweden following a massive and costly lobbying campaign, organized by the business community, several decades earlier. The main takeaway is a focus on the here and now risks underestimating the efficacy of efforts to influence policy.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. The four newspapers are Aftonbladet, Expressen, Dagens Nyheter, and Svenska Dagbladet. By accessing the online database Mediearkivet and searching for the combination of the terms private (which returns both “private” and “privatization”) and välfärd (welfare), op-eds and editorials referring to private welfare were downloaded. If the main subject of the text was not private welfare, it was subsequently dropped. Even if privatization of welfare services encompasses a wide range of activities and aspects, op-eds and editorials tend to focus on just one of them. The classification of an opinion piece as negative or positive is done in relation to the expressed sentiments about that specific aspect. It was very rare that the author of a text expressed a mix of negative and positive tones. In the few cases that came up, the stance was based on the sentiments expressed in the lead and closing paragraphs. Not in one single case did the author express a mix of sentiments in the lead and closing arguments.

  2. If the lead and closing paragraphs refer to one and the same argument(s), it is considered the main argument(s). The only exception to this rule is when an additional argument is used in more than one paragraph. However, this never occurred.

  3. Of the six largest welfare providers (Praktikertjänst, Ambea/Carema, Attendo, Acamedia, Capio, Aleris), three of them attended the Almedalen Week in 2011. In 2012, only one did not. In previous years, their attendance was even lower.

  4. For example, the Social Democratic senior advisor and chief of staff, Stefan Stern, was recruited by Magnora in February 2012.

  5. All the press releases published by the Association of Private Care Providers between the third quarter of 2010 (one year before the debate broke out) and the first quarter of 2014 were analyzed. On average, 7.9 press releases were published every month. No press release between the third quarter of 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2011 highlighted freedom of choice.

References

  • Allern, S., and E. Pollack. 2020. The role of think tanks in the Swedish political landscape. Scandinavian Political Studies 43 (3): 145–169.

    Google Scholar 

  • Andersson, J. 2009. The Library and the Workshop: Social Democracy and Capitalism in the Knowledge Age. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aplin, J.C., and W.H. Hegarty. 1980. Political influence: Strategies employed by organizations to impact legislation in business and economic matters. Academy of Management Journal 23 (3): 438–450. https://doi.org/10.5465/255510.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Austen-Smith, D. 1996. Interest groups: Money, information and influence. In Perspectives on Public Choice, ed. D.C. Mueller. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baumgartner, F.R., et al. 2009. Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baumgartner, F.R., and B.L. Leech. 1998. Basic Interests: The Importance of Groups in Politics and in Political Science. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Béland, D. 2010. The idea of power and the role of ideas. Political Studies Review 8 (2): 145–154. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1478-9302.2009.00199.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Béland, D., and R.H. Cox. 2011. Introduction: Ideas and politics. In Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research, ed. D. Béland and R.H. Cox, 3–20. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bernhagen, P. 2013. When do politicians listen to lobbyists (and who benefits when they do)? European Journal of Political Research 52 (1): 20–43.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beyers, J., et al. 2008. Researching interest group politics in Europe and elsewhere: Much we study, little we know? West European Politics 31 (6): 1103–1128.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beyers, J., et al. 2014. Policy-centred sampling in interest group research: Lessons from the INTEREURO project. Interest Groups & Advocacy 3 (2): 160–173.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bildt, C. 1991. Regeringsforklaringen 1991. http://www.svenskatal.se/19911004-carl-bildt-regeringsforklaringen-1991/. Accessed 7 January 2019.

  • Blomqvist, P. 2004. The choice revolution: Privatization of Swedish welfare services in the 1990s. Social Policy & Administration 38 (2): 139–155.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blyth, M. 2001. The transformation of the Swedish model: Economic ideas, distributional conflict, and institutional change. World Politics 54 (1): 1–26.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bouwen, P. 2002. A comparative study of business lobbying in the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. http://www.econstor.eu/handle/10419/43177. Accessed 7 March 2012.

  • Braun, B. 2020. Central banking and the infrastructural power of finance: The case of ECB support for repo and securitization markets. Socio-Economic Review 18 (2): 395–418. https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwy008.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brennan, D., et al. 2012. The marketisation of care: Rationales and consequences in Nordic and liberal care regimes. Journal of European Social Policy 22 (4): 377–391.

    Google Scholar 

  • Burström, B. 2015. Sweden—Recent changes in welfare state arrangements. International Journal of Health Services 45 (1): 87–104.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carstensen, M. 2011. Paradigm man vs. the bricoleur: Bricolage as an alternative vision of agency in ideational change. European Political Science Review 3: 147–167. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1755773910000342.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carstensen, M.B., and V.A. Schmidt. 2016. Power through, over and in ideas: Conceptualizing ideational power in discursive institutionalism. Journal of European Public Policy 23 (3): 318–337. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2015.1115534.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chalmers, A.W. 2011. Interests, influence and information: Comparing the influence of interest groups in the European Union. Journal of European Integration 33 (4): 471–486.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crouch, C. 2014. Putting neoliberalism in its place. The Political Quarterly 85 (2): 114–121. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-923X.12077.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Culpepper, P.D. 2008. The politics of common knowledge: Ideas and institutional change in wage bargaining. International Organization 62 (1): 1–33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Culpepper, P.D. 2015. Structural power and political science in the post-crisis era. Business and Politics 17 (3): 391–409.

    Google Scholar 

  • Culpepper, P.D., and R. Reinke. 2014. Structural power and bank bailouts in the United Kingdom and the United States. Politics & Society 42 (4): 427–454.

    Google Scholar 

  • Culpepper, P.D., and K. Thelen. 2020. Are we all amazon primed? Consumers and the politics of platform power. Comparative Political Studies 53 (2): 288–318. https://doi.org/10.1177/0010414019852687.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Damberg, M. and L. Hallengren. 2014. S: Vi vill ha fortsatt valfrihet i välfärden. https://www.aftonbladet.se/debatt/a/9m6owW/s-vi-vill-ha-fortsatt-valfrihet-i-valfarden. Accessed 12 April 2019.

  • De Mooij, M. 2010. Consumer Behavior and Culture: Consequences for Global Marketing and Advertising, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dür, A. 2008. Interest groups in the European Union: How powerful are they? West European Politics 31 (6): 1212–1230.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dür, A., et al. 2015. Interest group success in the European Union: When (and why) does business lose? Comparative Political Studies 48 (8): 951–983.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dür, A., and D. De Bièvre. 2007. The question of interest group influence. Journal of Public Policy 27: 1–12.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eckstein, H. 1975. Case study and theory in political science. In Strategies of Inquiry, ed. N.W. Polsby and F.I. Greenstein, 119–164. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fairbrother, M. 2007. Making neoliberalism possible: The state’s organization of business support for NAFTA in Mexico. Politics & Society 35 (2): 265–300. https://doi.org/10.1177/0032329207300393.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fernandez, R., and D. Rodrik. 1991. Resistance to reform: Status quo bias in the presence of individual—Specific Uncertainty. American Economic Review 81 (5): 1146–1155.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fones-Wolf, E.A. 1994. Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945–60. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fotaki, M. 2011. Consumer (freedom of) choice. In Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, ed. D. Southerton, 240–241. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foucault, M. 2020. Power: The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954–1984. London: Penguin Classics.

    Google Scholar 

  • George, A.L. 1979. Case studies and theory development: The method of structured focused comparisons. In Diplomacy: New Approaches in History, Theory and Policy, ed. P.G. Lauren, 43–68. New York, NY: The Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilens, M., and B.I. Page. 2014. Testing theories of American politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens. Perspectives on Politics 12 (3): 564–581.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gramsci, A. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hacker, J.S., and P. Pierson. 2002. Business power and social policy: Employers and the formation of the American welfare state. Politics & Society 30 (2): 277–325.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall, P.A. 1986. Governing the Economy: The Politics of State Intervention in Britain and France. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall, R.L., and A.V. Deardorff. 2006. Lobbying as legislative subsidy. American Political Science Review 100 (1): 69–84.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hansen, J.M. 1991. Gaining Access: Congress and the Farm Lobby, 1919–1981. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hartman, L., ed. 2011. Konkurrensens Konsekvenser: Vad Händer Med Svensk Välfärd? Stockholm: SNS Förlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hayek, F.A. 1944. The Road to Serfdom. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klüver, H. 2013. Lobbying in the European Union: Interest Groups, Lobbying Coalitions, and Policy Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kollman, K. 1998. Outside Lobbying: Public Opinion and Interest Group Strategies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kotler, P., et al. 1999. Marketing Management: An Asian Perspective. Singapore: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lande, R.H. 2001. Consumer choice as the ultimate goal of antitrust. University of Pittsburgh Law Review 62 (3): 503–526.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levy, J.S. 2008. Case studies: Types, designs, and logics of inference. Conflict Management and Peace Science 25 (1): 1–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lindblom, C.E. 1977. Politics and Markets: The World’s Political Economic Systems. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lowery, D. 2007. Why do organized interests lobby? A multi-goal, multi-context theory of lobbying. Polity 39 (1): 29–54. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.polity.2300077.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lowery, D. 2013. Lobbying influence: Meaning, measurement and missing. Interest Groups & Advocacy 2 (1): 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1057/iga.2012.20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lukes, S. 1974. Power: A Radical View. London: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mahoney, C. 2008. Brussels Versus the Beltway: Advocacy in the United States and the European Union. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Markus, H.R., and B. Schwartz. 2010. Does choice mean freedom and well-being? Journal of Consumer Research 37 (2): 344–355.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meagher, G., and M. Szebehely. 2019. The politics of profit in Swedish welfare services: Four decades of social democratic ambivalence. Critical Social Policy 39 (3): 455–476. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261018318801721.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mick, D.G., et al. 2004. Choose, choose, choose, choose, choose, choose, choose: Emerging and prospective research on the deleterious effects of living in consumer hyperchoice. Journal of Business Ethics 52 (2): 207–211.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nilsson, L. 2015. Välfärdspolitik och välfärds-opinion Sverige 2014. http://blogg.vardforetagarna.se/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2015/07/Nilsson-V%C3%A4lf%C3%A4rdspolitik-och-v%C3%A4lf%C3%A4rdsopinion-Sverige-2014.pdf.

  • Nilsson, L. 2017. Väljare och valda om vinster i välfärden. In Larmar och gör sig till, ed. U. Andersson, et al., 489–503. Gothenburg: Göteborgs Universitet, SOM-institutet.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pestoff, V.A. 1991. The Politics of Private Business, Cooperative and Public Enterprise in a Corporate Democracy: The Case of Sweden. Stockholm: University of Stockholm Department of Business Administration.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peter, F. 2004. Choice, consent, and the legitimacy of market transactions. Economics & Philosophy 20 (1): 1–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Przeworski, A., and M. Wallerstein. 1988. Structural dependence of the state on capital. American Political Science Review 82 (1): 11–29.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sveriges Radio. 2011a. Fredrik Reinfeldt - tid för ansvar. http://sverigesradio.se/sida/avsnitt/33703?programid=3071.

  • Sveriges Radio. 2011b. Ministrarna om problemen med Carema. https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=83&artikel=4800005. Accessed 21 February 2019.

  • Rahman, K.S. 2018. The new utilities: Private power, social infrastructure, and the revival of the public utility concept. Cardozo Law Review 39 (5): 1621–1692.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rogowski, R. 1987. Political cleavages and changing exposure to trade. American Political Science Review 81 (4): 1121–1137.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rothstein, B., and J. Bergström. 1999. Korporatismens Fall och den Svenska Modellens Kris. Stockholm: SNS Förlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, B. 2004. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sen, A. 1985. The moral standing of the market. Social Philosophy & Policy 2 (2): 1–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sen, A. 1993. Markets and freedoms: Achievements and limitations of the market mechanism in promoting individual freedoms. Oxford Economic Papers 45 (4): 519–541.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shubber, K. 2018. US antitrust enforcement falls to slowest rate since 1970s. Financial Times 28 November.

  • SKL. 2016. Köp Av Verksamhet 2015. Kommuner, Landsting Och Regioner 2006–2015. Stockholm: Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, M.A. 2000. American Business and Political Power: Public Opinion, Elections, and Democracy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Socialdemokraterna. 2013. Ett program för förändring. https://www.socialdemokraterna.se/globalassets/var-politik/partiprogram-och-riktlinjer/ett-program-for-forandring_2013.pdf.

  • SOU 1990:44. 1990. Demokrati och makt i Sverige: Maktutredningens huvudrapport. Stockholm: SOU.

    Google Scholar 

  • Strimling, P., et al. 2019. The connection between moral positions and moral arguments drives opinion change. Nature Human Behaviour 3 (9): 922–930. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0647-x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Suhonen, D. 2014. Partiledaren som klev in i kylan: Berättelsen om Juholts fall och den nya politiken. Stockholm: Leopard.

    Google Scholar 

  • Svallfors, S., and A. Tyllström. 2019. Resilient privatization: The puzzling case of for-profit welfare providers in Sweden. Socio-Economic Review 17 (3): 745–765. https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwy005.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • SVT. 2012. Agenda. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HkBsskw48g&t=193s.

  • Tenelius, H. 2016. Vårdföretagarna ger moteld. In Välfärdslobbyisten: Om Caremadrevet, Vårdvinster och Demokratins Nya Utmaningar, ed. N. Selling and H. Tenelius, 151–167. Stockholm: Ekerlids.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tenelius, H. 2016. Hur allt började. In Välfärdslobbyisten: Om Caremadrevet, Vårdvinster och Demokratins Nya Utmaningar, 63–79. Stockholm: Ekerlids.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vårdföretagarna. 2014. Privat Vårdfakta. Stockholm: Almega Vårdföretagarna. https://www.vardforetagarna.se/fakta-och-debatt/rapporter-och-publikationer/privat-vardfakta-2014.

  • Vogel, D. 1989. Fluctuating Fortunes: The Political Power of Business in America. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vogel, D. 1990. When consumers oppose consumer protection: The politics of regulatory backlash. Journal of Public Policy 10 (4): 449–470. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0143814X00006085.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Waterhouse, B.C. 2013. Lobbying America: The politics of business from Nixon to NAFTA. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wingborg, M. 2016. Den Blåbruna Röran. Stockholm: Leopard.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woll, C. 2019. Corporate power beyond lobbying. American Affairs 3 (3): 38–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wrede, M. 2012. Löfven vill ha vinst i vården. https://www.dagenssamhalle.se/nyhet/loefven-vill-ha-vinst-i-varden-2356. Accessed 9 July 2019.

  • Yackee, J.W., and S.W. Yackee. 2006. A bias towards business? Assessing interest group influence on the US bureaucracy. Journal of Politics 68 (1): 128–139.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers whose comments helped to improve the final quality of the text. The research has been supported by the Swedish Research Council (Grant No. 421-2014-962). I would also like to thank Stefan Svallfors, Josef Hien, Adrienne Sörbom, Joanna Mellqvist, and Anna Tyllström for helpful comments.

Funding

This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council (Grant No. 421-2014-962).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Niels Selling.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Selling, N. The long shadow of lobbying: ideational power of lobbying as illustrated by welfare profits in Sweden. Int Groups Adv 10, 47–67 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41309-021-00111-6

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41309-021-00111-6

Keywords

  • Lobbying
  • Consumers
  • Ideational power
  • Business power
  • Sweden