Pluralism, Polarisation and Social Cohesion

The Pluralism, Polarisation and Social Cohesion (PluPol) research platform addresses the current situation in Sweden and its neighbouring countries, where societal change, migration and globalisation have led to them being characterised by pluralism; this can result in challenges such as polarisation between groups or individuals, but also to social cohesion.

The research platform focuses on the multifaceted relationships between the state, welfare actors, civil society and individuals, and how these are affected by contemporary demographics. From this starting point, research examines local, regional and national challenges and opportunities in the health, education, defence, and police and security sectors, public and municipal administration, and explore how these can be constructively addressed.

The platform’s aim is to produce empirically based knowledge that is directly relevant to society, partly by analysing the situation outlined above in Sweden, but also using comparable cases in the Nordic countries, the Baltic Sea region and other parts of the world, implementing the different theoretical and methodological perspectives offered by the humanities and social sciences.

Steering group


David Thurfjell


Historical and Contemporary Studies +46 8 608 46 33

Gustav Lundberg

Doctoral Student

Social Sciences +46 8 608 51 86


PluPol has four main profiles.

Welfare actors are essential to the Swedish welfare model. They are regarded as representatives of the Swedish authorities, but are also intended to provide support and help, which makes them influential in the people’s daily lives.

The main purpose of this profile is to provide a platform for collegial collaboration on research into change processes in Swedish society in relation to welfare actors. Sectors such as education, healthcare, social services and the police require up-to-date research to address the challenges they encounter; this consideration is central to the welfare research conducted at Södertörn University, especially for the professional education and training programmes.

This profile addresses the issues found in an increasingly pluralistic society through the lens of state-civil society relations and Sweden’s traditionally strong civil society organisations (CSOs). How and to what extent are different diversities (such as ethnic, religious and other identity-based pluralism) translated into the organisations, networks and activities that we would characterise as part of civil society? To what extent are different CSOs interested (or not) in cooperation and dialogue with the state, and what are the state’s policies and objectives regarding CSOs?

The profile also welcomes studies on changes in civil society policy, such as those related to integration goals, security threats, etc., or how policies and regulations on civil society are implemented and the role of different actors (state, civil society, others) in governance. Research could also focus on state-civil society relations at national, regional and municipal levels.

Sweden and several neighbouring countries underwent processes of secularisation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Multiples surveys have described these and other countries in the region as among the world’s most secularised countries, with some of them also becoming increasingly multicultural and multi-religious societies over the span of just a few decades, largely as a result of post-war migration. Sweden, for example, is often described as being both the most secularised and the most multi-religious country in Europe.

In this focus area, PluPol encourages multidisciplinary and empirical research that explores different aspects of secularity and multi-religiosity, and the challenges and opportunities that secular states face in relation to increasingly multi-religious societies.

Through this profile, the PluPol research platform acknowledges the importance of the individual in social and cultural processes, as well as how changes and developments at a structural level have direct consequences for everyday interactions and relationships. People’s everyday lives are affected by the challenges that can arise in a pluralistic society, and the efforts to deal with them, in various ways – through changes in laws and regulations, the conditions for education and healthcare, urban planning, and so on.

Moreover, the state, civil society and the various sectors of society – health, education, public administration, etc. – are all comprised of individuals who, in their practice, are central to how these challenges are addressed and the measures taken to deal with them. This profile thus recognises both these aspects in relation to societal and cultural processes and challenges.


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