Social Organization. Strong patriarchalism was characteristic of the preindustrial family unit. In northern Sweden the master often kept his role until his death, but in the rest of the country it was normal for him to hand over the leadership to the younger generation during his later years. The older couple was then "retired" ( på undantag, sytning ), and were supported for the rest of their lives. Even though the family was the basic production unit, there was also a great need for cooperation in larger units. In preindustrial Sweden there existed a large number of corporations, which were constructed through cooperation and/or joint ownership. The structure of these corporations was often nonhierarchical. If there was a leader, he was primus inter pares (first among equals).
Political Organization. In preindustrial Sweden owning land was a condition for taking part in local policy. The communal villages were led by a council of the landed gentry. An alderman could be chosen, but it was more common that the job was shared by rotation. Contemporary Sweden has been famous for its "middle way"—a Socialist but non-Communist policy. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy. The hereditary monarch is head of state but has very limited formal prerogatives. Executive power rests with the cabinet ( regeringen ), which is responsible to the parliament (Riksdag). In 1971 the unicameral Riksdag was introduced. Its 349 members are elected for three years by universal suffrage. The country is divided into 24 counties and 279 municipalities; local governments are responsible for important parts of public administration.
Social Control. Since the 1930s, the relationship between Swedish employees and employers has been characterized by the "Swedish model." This model implies negotiations Between the government, employers, and the trade unions, and as a result cooperation is typical in Swedish working life. Since the general strike in 1909, strikes have been rare.
Conflict. Sweden is not a member of any political or military alliance and pursues a policy of neutrality. The Swedes have lived in peace for over 170 years.