Demarcating Popular Education with Government Subsidies: Sweden 1911–1991

Samuel Edquist


By analysing the regulating mechanisms of state subsidies to Swedish institutions generally considered mediating “popular education” during the twentieth century, it is argued that a tension has been developed between two parallel notions of popular education. A narrower ideal popular education—emphasising non-formality and independence—has been discursively nurtured along with a broader organisational popular education, denoting the de facto institutions that have received government funding, primarily the folk high schools and study associations. It is argued that the organisational popular education is a reality in itself, spanning over border zones between, for example, non-formal and formal education. Furthermore, an argument against using “popular education” as an analytical concept is put forth, since it is overly contested. Rather, it is promoted as a discursive construct that has formed real organisational structures with their own logic, which cannot be denoted by words such as non-formal adult education.

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