New project on the circulation of financial knowledge receives funding

David Larsson Heidenblad has received two years of funding for his new project A Nation of Everyman Investors: Stock Saving and the Circulation of Financial Knowledge in Sweden 19782018 from Jan Wallanders och Tom Hedelius stiftelse samt Tore Browaldhs stiftelse (1 000 000 SEK).

The purpose of the project is to study the profound transformation of the Swedish savings and investment culture, from the late 1970s up to the present. During this period, financial markets and practices have come to play an ever-greater role in the lives of the many. Social scientists discuss this process in terms of the “financialisation of everyday life” and scholars have pointed out that the transformation of Swedish society has been especially thorough. However, despite this, we know surprisingly little about the actors and organizations who have sought to promote and strengthen popular engagement with financial markets. Consequently, scholarly understanding of this process is conspicuously void of historical agency.

The project aims to redress the situation by analysing how the national organization Aktiespararnas riksförbund have circulated financial knowledge about stock saving, by means of education and popularisation. The project will put a special emphasis on the interconnectedness of financialisation and the new digital media landscape, in particular through a study of personal finance blogs written by anonymous lay investors. The organizations archive renders possible a detailed study of their activities over a 40-year period.

To historians of knowledge, financial knowledge is of topical interest as it represents a socially significant form of knowledge, which has had a rather weak connection to learned spheres and formal education. Most investors have not acquired financial knowledge in school or at universities, but rather from a plethora of other actors and organizations, such as Aktiespararna. However, scholarly understanding of how people have learned to manage money, save, and invest is much underdeveloped. The history of knowledge can serve to address it.

The overarching aim of the project is to provide novel insights into how a society, marked by a widespread scepticism among the populace towards financial markets (Sweden in the 1970s), was radically transformed into a nation of everyman investors (Sweden in the 21st century). In doing so, the project will make an important contribution to the historiography of late modern Sweden and the history of knowledge, while also shedding new light on international trends, by exploring one of the most striking examples of societal financialisation.

 

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