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Emotional Bureaucracies: Emotions, Civil Servants, and Immigrants in the Swedish Welfare State Author(s): Mark Graham Source: Ethos, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 199-226 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3651871 . Accessed: 26/03/2014 14:17 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] . Wiley and American Anthropological Association are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Ethos. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from on Wed, 26 Mar 2014 14:17:41 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies: Emotions, Civil Servants, and Immigrants in the Swedish WelfareStateAuthor(s): Mark GrahamSource: Ethos, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 199-226Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3651871 .Accessed: 26/03/2014 14:17

    Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp


    JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]


    Wiley and American Anthropological Association are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve andextend access to Ethos.


    This content downloaded from on Wed, 26 Mar 2014 14:17:41 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • Emotional Bureaucracies: Emotions, Civil Servants, and Immigrants in the Swedish Welfare State MARK GRAHAM

    ABSTRACT This article examines how Swedish emotional ex- pression is both reflected in and helps to reproduce the ideology of the welfare state. A Swedish ideal of emotional compatibility and continuity between welfare bureaucracies and their clients has been challenged in the wake of refugee immigration. The re- sulting multicultural society is understood by civil servants to translate into an emotional complexity that has consequences for the levels of emotion in meetings with refugee clients, emo- tional barriers between staff and clients, emotional reciprocity, and the gendering and mobilization of emotion in bureaucratic encounters. The presence of refigee immigrants is shown to have consequencesfor the welfare state's ability to ensure emo- tional reproduction in society. How Swedish civil servants re- spond to refugee clients provides insights into the emotional dimension of bureaucracies in multicultural welfare states and bureaucratic work more generally.

    he subject of bureaucracy often inspires strong negative emo- tions among people outside them, who assume that those who work within them often suffer from an emotional deficit. Real and perceived bureaucratic incompetence and rigidity, the opacity of decisions and the indifference and sometimes men-

    ace of bureaucracies that wield the power of the state contribute to this com- mon perception. Not all bureaucracies suffer from a poor reputation, however. The Scandinavian welfare states are known for their size, effi- ciency, and the support they enjoy among their citizens. Rather than an

    Ethos 30(3):199-226. Copyright ? 2003, American Anthropological Association.

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  • 200 ? ETHOS

    emotional divide separating the institutions of the welfare state from the populations they serve, in Scandinavian welfare states, and especially the Swedish, there ought ideally to be an emotional continuity between bu- reaucracies and citizens that facilitates effective service and ensures popu- lar support.

    In this article, I examine how Swedish emotional expression is both reflected in and helps to reproduce the ideology of the welfare state. In- deed one aspect of the welfare state's own role is to reproduce appropriate forms and levels of emotion among society's members. The ideal of emo- tional compatibility between the welfare bureaucracies and the clients of the welfare state is predicated upon the assumption of relative cultural homogeneity. Until the 1970s this was true of Sweden, but since then refu- gee immigrants from outside Europe have introduced greater social and cultural heterogeneity. What are the emotional consequences of this for the work of civil servants in welfare and public service bureaucracies? What are some of the emotional misunderstandings that result? In en- counters with refugee clients, civil servants are obliged to reflect on what they regard as the appropriate forms and levels of emotional expression in their work, thus revealing some of the implicit emotional praxis of the public sector services. Attention to the emotional dimensions of public sector bureaucracies whose job it is to turn refugees into members of Swedish society provides an insight into the emotional dimension of bu- reaucracies more generally.

    Until quite recently, scholarly attention to the emotional aspects of organizations was infrequent. This may in part be due to the Weberian ideal-(stereo)type of formal bureaucratic rationality (Weber 1978:975). Weber's writings on bureaucracy were part of a larger exploration of social order and the rational-legal administration of the modern state; it is doubt- ful whether they were intended to serve as a general theory of organiza- tions (Albrow 1997:97). Yet their adoption as such has until quite recently contributed to the marginalization of the affective dimensions of organiza- tions, apart from some attention to the negative emotion of bureaucratic work (Crozier 1964; Flam 1993; Lipsky 1980). When emotion in formal organizations has been examined, it has often been as part of the profes- sional work cultures (see Fineman 1993) of, for example, nurses (James 1993), the police (Stenross and Kleinman 1989), and flight attendants (Hochschild 1983) rather than public sector bureaucracies. More gener- ally, Goffman, who was one of the first to address emotion as an integral part of organizational functioning, considered the role of embarrassment in maintaining organizational structure (1956). Bailey's (1983) work on the "tactical uses of passion" addresses meetings and the manipulation of emotion (and rhetorics) in the pursuit of aims. However, the stress of both these authors on the manipulative and calculative deployment of emotions

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies * 201

    distances them, as we shall see, from central features of Sweden's public bureaucracies. A specifically anthropological contribution to the study of bureaucracies has been to see them as systems of taxonomies and catego- rization (Handelman 1981; Herzfeld 1992). Attention has recently been paid to the links between policy and bureaucracy (Shore and Wright 1997) and to the workings of the welfare state (Edgar and Russell 1998). Yet despite the fact that few if any people in today's world are beyond the reach of some kind of bureaucratic intervention and control, anthropological research has paid little attention to the emotional aspects of public sector bureaucracies.

    Bureaucracies exist at all levels of society; they implement national and local policy, and they reflect national traditions. My focus therefore includes national welfare ideology, public services, social service policy, and individual civil servants who meet clients. Emotions are present at all these levels. Bureaucracies and the bureaucrats who staff them are part of society; indeed, continuity between bureaucracies and society has been an explicit goal of the postwar Swedish tradition. To understand the place of emotions in Swedish public service bureaucracies, we need, therefore, to situate them within the wider framework of Sweden's welfare ideology and Swedish emotional display.

    SWEDISH WELFARE The existence of an extensive and effective welfare state is an impor-

    tant part of Swedish society and Sweden's self-image (Lane 1991; Milner 1989). Unlike so-called residual welfare states that only provide a mini- mum safety net for citizens, the Swedish welfare state is meant to serve all of society's members-including noncitizens-from the cradle to the grave. Public services have both assumed and actively sought to create cultural standardization and equality. The following definition of Sweden's emerging welfare state, dubbed "The People's Home" (Folkhemmet) by one of its founders, social-democratic Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson, was presented to the Swedish parliament in 1982. It makes clear some of the emotional underpinnings of the nascent welfare idyll:

    The basis of the home is togetherness and common feeling. The good home does not consider anyone as privileged or unappreciated; it knows no special favorites and no stepchildren. There no one looks down upon anyone else, there no one tries to gain advantage at someone else's expense, and the strong do not suppress and plunder the weak. In the good home equality, consideration, co-operation and helpfulness prevail. Applied to the great people's and citizen's home this means the breaking down of all social and economic barriers that now divide citizens into the privileged and the un- fortunate, into rulers and subjects, into rich and poor, the glutted and the destitute, the plunderers and the plundered. [Hansson 1982, my translation]

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  • 202 ? ETHOS

    Hansson speaks of the welfare state as a home, an egalitarian place of "togetherness and common feeling." The reference to "common feeling" alerts us to assumptions about emotional homogeneity. Hansson's remon- stration against "looking down" on others, by which he means class con- tempt, is suggestive of "feeling rules" that specify what emotions are appropriate in a given setting, their type, duration, intensity, and espe- cially their direction (Hochschild 1979). The affect-laden familial meta- phors of home and the absence of unfortunate, and presumably unhappy, "stepchildren" are conspicuous.

    An important justification for an extension of the welfare state in Sweden was the creation of the "strong society." Its aim has been to pro- vide citizens with enough financial and other support to remove the fears associated in the past with unemployment, divorce, and sickness. The aim has been to create "security." The Swedish word for this is trygghet. Trygghet often refers to material security and is ubiquitous in discussions of virtually every aspect of the welfare state, the rights and conditions of workers, and the state of society in general. But it also refers to individual self-assurance and confidence. More like a feeling tone or long-lived senti- ment than a specific emotion, trygghet is a property of society as a whole. It is generated by and dependent on the material conditions for which the welfare state has responsibility, and it is the emotional foundation for in- dividual independence and well-being. But Swedish individualism, in the sense of independence, does not automatically translate into individuality. Rather, conformity-often understood as equality-is expected and valued. There is also a strong collective dimension in Swedish society that exists parallel to the stress on individual independence. The great majority of workers are union members, and a plethora of associations, clubs, federa- tions, study groups, and committees structure society and provide collec- tive support for individual opinions (Daun 1991). These organizations have also contributed to society's relative emotional as well as cultural and social homogenization.

    The strong stress on egalitarianism among Swedes (its decline during the 1980s and 1990s notwithstanding) translates into expectations of a high degree of emotional uniformity. The "common feeling" of which Hansson spoke ought to encompass relations between public services and the people they serve. This continuity reflects the positioning of emotions in Swedish social-democratic society: namely, the desire to lay a common ground among equals. The emphasis on egalitarianism in Swedish culture is the legacy of half a century of social-democratic hegemony, both politi- cal and ideological, which has only been seriously challenged during the last decade or so. The welfare state has been an important instrument of this hegemony. For the most part, state intervention in Sweden has not been seen as a threat, in strong contrast to many other countries where

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies * 203

    relations between the general population and public sector bureaucracies are permeated by suspicion.

    Up until the 1990s, public attitudes in Sweden toward the welfare state were generally positive and stable, and the state still enjoys consid- erable support. In a study entitled "The Irritated Citizen" (Ahrne 1985), the attitudes of Swedes to public services were examined. While there was mild irritation with bureaucratic mistakes, by and large most people were pleased with the help they received. Without the risk of too much exag- geration, the Swedish welfare state can be characterized as a machine for the suppression of negative emotions. It has attempted to create an envi- ronment in which emotions are kept at a reasonable level in the interests of bureaucratic efficiency and social peace. Since the 1990s, however, relatively high levels of unemployment, large public sector cutbacks, greater inequality, and increased ethnic segregation have increased the negative emotional tone in society. Refugee immigrants have been particu- larly hard hit. Without the basic security the welfare state has sought to ensure, and with the increase in cultural diversity, the question of whether the state can reproduce emotional continuity becomes relevant. There are indications that the government has abandoned, at least in part, attempts to solve these problems and has placed its trust in market solutions, such as immigrant businesses (see Graham and Soininen 2000).


    Generalizing about the emotional character of almost nine million people is a hazardous enterprise, and it is as well to begin with a caveat. The emotional characteristics of Swedes have been and are the object of debate and self-criticism in Sweden (Daun 1996:139), especially in the light of a number of recent developments. Mass immigration from outside Europe, the effective end of Sweden's neutrality, high unemployment, fi- nancial scandals, the murder of a Prime Minister in 1986, economic sav- ings, cuts in public services, membership of the European Union, and a greater openness to international mass media, have left their mark on the country's cultural, social, and to some extent emotional landscape espe- cially during the last two decades. Nevertheless, public sector bureaucra- cies are products of 50 years of social-democratic hegemony and do not change overnight. Their ideology and praxis still reflect emotional ideals even as these are weakening in society at large.

    When Swedes discuss their emotional qualities, words such as re- served, taciturn, withdrawn, inward, and serious are common. Displays of strong negative emotions are still relatively unusual and ideally confined to private contexts (Daun 1996:123). Displays of anger are suspect. They disturb smooth social intercourse and enable the angry party to dominate

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  • 204 ? ETHOS

    interaction, something that conflicts with the ideal of mutual and equal exchange of views. Strong criticisms are also unusual as they are often taken personally and regarded as hurtful. Conflicts in general are avoided whenever possible. But the strong positive emotions, especially pride and overconfidence, are also troublesome. The cultural prescription against them is called the "Jante Law" (Jantelagen). It warns people not to think that they are special or better than others. There is also a widespread opinion in Sweden that Swedes are unusually envious, a quality dignified with the phrase "The Royal Swedish Envy." Both strong negative and posi- tive emotions therefore pose a threat to egalitarian ideals if deployed in an overbearing manner.

    The careful control and setting of boundaries around emotional dis- play also extends to relationships. It is common to meet Swedes at a party and then to be ignored the following day if one happens to pass them in a corridor or on the street. Outside a clearly defined circle of family and friends, there is no compunction to be sociable or even acknowledge the presence of another person unless it has been agreed on in advance. This accords well with the stress on independence that is central to the welfare state ideology of the "strong society." In this context, individualism trans- lates into independence, the avoidance, and even dread, of relationships of debt with other people, and wanting to have strong control over the frequency and intensity of social contacts.

    These aspects of emotional display are also reflected in the strong tradition of social planning. A "humanist rationalism" (Zetterberg 1984) permeates the Swedish welfare state. One important aspect of this is a general problem-solving focus in Swedish culture. This expresses itself in a cultural seriousness that many foreigners find somewhat oppressive and that is ridiculed in caricatures of the dour, humorless Swede and Ingemar Bergman films. According to Swedish traditions, decision-making proc- esses ought to be factual and based on consensus. An argument presented in a factual manner without strong emotional display is more likely to be taken seriously than a fiery display of rhetoric. The latter is likely to arouse suspicion regardless of the argument's merits. The control of emotion ex- tends to the Swedish policy-making process. Political debates in Sweden, compared with those in, for example, the British House of Commons, are noticeably flat. In Sweden's political culture, legislation that is likely to stir up strong and emotive reactions has often tended to be avoided. Thus, one of the reasons why Swedish governments until recently have had difficulty legislating against ethnic discrimination in working life has been the fear of provoking the majority ethnic population. Only after international pres- sure from, among other sources, the International Labour Organisation, did the Swedish government pass tough legislation against ethnic discrimi- nation. It drew considerable criticism, especially from employers (see

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies * 205

    Graham and Soininen 1998, 2000). The ability of immigrant issues to in- crease the emotional temperature in society is a topic to which I shall return shortly.


    The fieldwork on which the present article is based was carried out in Haninge, a suburb of Stockholm, between 1991 and 1993, with additional periods of work in 1993 and 1994. The bureaus with which this article is concerned include employment services, job-training services, housing services, adult education, cultural and recreational services, the immi- grant bureau, and social insurance offices. In all, 73 interviews were car- ried out with bureaucracy personnel. I was present at meetings between teachers and students enrolled in the course in Swedish-language instruc- tion for immigrants (SFI), as well as meetings between staff and clients at the Culture and Recreation Department, the Employability Institute (which has responsibility for job training), and the employment services. I also visited the adult education center for immigrants and attended meet- ings between representatives of immigrant associations and the munici- pality's liaison officer who was responsible for providing the associations with financial support. The collection of material also involved repeated visits to the Iranian, Chilean, Finnish, and Yugoslav immigrant associa- tions; socializing with people at their homes and elsewhere; and visits to local schools, the outdoor market and the shopping center, and the library, which was a place where many people met. The ethnography gathered in this way was supplemented by extensive documentation from the local authority archives, as well as national policy documents and statements, and with newspaper cuttings from local, regional, and national newspa- pers. Finally, when the fieldwork was begun in 1991, I had already lived in Sweden for three years. As an immigrant, although not a refugee, from the UK, I have personal experience of the country's welfare state similar to that of most other immigrants. At the time of writing I can draw on a total of 11 years of living and working in Sweden, during which time I have had my fair share of contact with the bureaucracies, and although I have not drawn directly on my own experience, it nonetheless informs what I write here about Swedish emotional display and the Swedish welfare state.


    The first major wave of immigrants to Sweden were labor migrants from Finland, Greece, Italy, and the former Yugoslavia who arrived during the 1950s and 1960s. Many were recruited directly in their home countries

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  • 206 ? ETHOS

    by Swedish companies. Jobs and housing awaited them in Sweden, as well as access to schools, health care, and all the services of the welfare state. Many immigrants from this time tell of how they arrived in Sweden on a Friday and started work the following Monday. While there were instances of ethnic discrimination and local animosity toward the new arrivals, for the majority the process of immigration was relatively smooth and without emotional trauma. Responsibility for these labor migrants lay with the Na- tional Labor Market Board. Welfare bureaucracies were not faced with a huge task as the immigrants had jobs, were able to support themselves, and found much of the initial help they needed from fellow countrymen.

    Sweden's Immigrant Policy was formulated in 1974 and promised "cultural freedom of choice." This vague formulation allowed the retention of culture that did not conflict with Swedish norms and seemed to reject cultural, and by implication emotional, assimilation. In fact, most immi- grants, a large majority of whom were from neighboring Finland, were ex- pected to return home. Things changed in the 1980s when European labor immigrants were almost completely replaced by refugees from South America, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

    The arrival of large numbers of refugees raised questions about the de- sirability of their being the responsibility of the Labor Market Board. In 1981, an inquiry recommended that the Immigration Board take over responsibility for the Refugee Reception Program (RRP). It argued that the labor market authorities neglected the cultural backgrounds and special experiences as- sociated with being a refugee. There was the assumption, however poorly articulated, that there was a modal type of refugee suffering from trauma and emotional turmoil and in need of therapeutic care (cf. Malkki 1995, 1996).

    By the time the reform of the RRP was introduced in 1985, the number of refugees arriving annually had increased from 5,000 to 14,000, and many were sent to municipalities that had no experience in receiving refugees. As a result, the RRP was adapted to the requirements of local social services rather than to those of refugees (Soininen 1992). In fact, the reliance on a universal welfare state with standard services for all has never created much space for an ethnically differentiated service in Swe- den. The dominant ethos of Swedish refugee policy has been that of thera- peutic intervention in order to help refugees adapt to the Swedish setting. The following description of refugee children and their families is taken from a letter written by a member of the Recreation Department to Han- inge's budget committee. In it she argues why her work with refugee chil- dren ought to escape budget cuts.

    Many refugees are alone and isolated in this foreign country. Feelings of isolation, al- ienation and loneliness are common among refugees. Children, in particular, have a very difficult time. They do not have secure, well functioning parents who give them security and are an asset for them .... Many of the parents are insecure and feel unwell. These mothers and fathers do not have the energy to help their children.

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies * 207

    The fact that these opinions surface in the area of recreation, not an area of service provision normally associated with severe emotional problems, illustrates the pervasiveness of the "people in chaos" model and how it can be mobilized to protect the resources of a municipal service. Notice also the emphasis throughout the letter on the word security.

    EMOTIVE IMMIGRANTS One Swedish word all immigrants will at some time have explained

    for them is the meaning of the adjective lagom. It is common for Swedes to claim that the word is untranslatable although in the English language alone there are several similes and phrases that capture its various mean- ings, among them reasonable, just right, appropriate, moderate, not too much, and not too little. The Swedish fondness for a lagom approach re- sembles Aristotle's liking for the "median" that lies somewhere between what in any specific context is considered to be excessive and deficient (1962 [Nicomachean Ethics 1106a-1113]). The word can be applied to emotional display with ease.

    The subject of refugee immigration and the presence of refugees in Swedish society have often proved recalcitrant to any lagom debate and emotional response. On the contrary, feelings have at times run very high indeed. Issues such as illegal immigration, worries about the overrepresen- tation of immigrants in crime statistics, resentment at immigrants "steal- ing" jobs from Swedes, and fears about the "threat" to Swedish culture posed by an immigrant population have not proved conducive to sober debate. A low point was reached in September 1993 when the evening newspaper Expressen published a "survey" that purported to show that Swedes wanted immigrants to be driven out of the country. The banner headline literally read, "Drive them out!" The newspaper's action was de- nounced in many quarters as inflammatory and racist in indignant, and emotionally charged, language.

    The tone of political debate also became more strident in 1991 when the populist party New Democracy won ten percent of the votes in the national election. Its antiestablishment platform expressed a general xeno- phobia and included demands for a halt to immigration. The leaders of the main political parties walked off the television set on the night of the elec- tion when the two jubilant New Democracy leaders arrived. It was a display of their contempt, but it was also a way for them to avoid an acrimonious debate.

    The emotive nature of immigrant questions has extended to the ac- tions of individual local governments. As larger numbers of refugees ar- rived in Sweden during the late 1970s and early 1980s, it became clear that the cities and larger towns were bearing the brunt of the economic

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  • 208 ? ETHOS

    costs of caring for them. It was therefore decided to spread responsibility for their reception and care more equitably throughout the country. The National Immigration Board encouraged municipal governments to sign contracts committing them to accepting an agreed annual quota of refu- gees. Press releases directed at the municipalities spoke of the need to "spread refugees to a large majority of the country's municipalities in the interests of solidarity" (Soininen 1992:41). The word solidarity (solidaritet) in Swedish carries a much stronger emotional charge than the English word. It draws on the social-democratic tradition of class struggle for equality and social justice, and suggests the common good of society and the undesirability of self-interest. The Board also organized conferences at national, regional, and municipal levels at which municipal councils were encouraged to act together and to monitor each other. Local council rep- resentatives responsible for the RRP compared the scale of their own com- mitments with those of other councils. The wish not to appear lacking in solidarity resulted in councils outbidding each other to accept the largest number of refugees (Soininen 1992:43).

    Refusal to sign a contract was presented as a lack of solidarity and something over which the municipality ought to feel "shame," while the more "honorable" municipalities played their part. In September 1988, the inhabitants of Sjobo in southern Sweden voted against entering into an agreement with the Board. The municipality was denounced in the press as xenophobic. For the Centre Party, which governed in Sj6bo, the entire affair was described in the vocabulary of emotion as a "shameful stain" on the party image. Well over a decade later, the municipality has still not received a single refugee through contracting with the National Immigration Board. Sjobo aside, the highly successful, and also unortho- dox, strategy of the Board was to mobilize emotions in order to use moral pressure to drive through a policy in the absence of any coercive powers to do so.


    Post-1945 immigration to Sweden, and especially refugee immigra- tion since the 1970s, put an end to Sweden's relative cultural homogene- ity. By 1994, when the main period of fieldwork was completed, almost four percent of Sweden's population was people born in countries outside of Europe and North America. The cultural variety a heterogeneous immi- grant population represents is understood to translate into a comparable emotional complexity, or what I shall term an "emotional cartography," by civil servants in Haninge. The following emotional catalog was provided quite spontaneously without any prompting from me in the course of a conversation with a psychologist employed by the social services.

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies ? 209

    Rumanians are the most paranoid. They have great difficulty adapting. Bangladeshis are obedient and polite, but you never know what they are thinking inside. The Viet- namese laugh when they are talking about terrible things. The Lebanese cry and show their feelings. Different groups have different ways of showing their feelings. Different municipalities have their own shopping lists, depending, in part, on the kind of emo- tional goods they want.

    How this psychologist ascribed emotions to different categories of refugee immigrants is fairly representative of how other personnel described cli- ents from different national and ethnic groups. It is significant that she did not mention the Swedes as a group with its own specific emotional char- acteristics. Unlike the ideal of emotional transparency among Swedes, emotions among Bangladeshis and Vietnamese conceal rather than ex- press inner states, something that was also often said about Iranians by other personnel. Her final comment strongly suggests a desire within the welfare bureaucracies to be able to manage "emotional" clients.

    The arrival of significant numbers of refugees from an unfamiliar na- tional or ethnic group provided the occasion for discussions of emotion among the staff of different bureaus. Such discussions included the kinds of emotions "typical" of the new group and the practico-emotional conse- quences for the civil servant. For example, the arrival of large numbers of Bosnian Muslims in Sweden was high on the agenda during fieldwork. Dis- cussions centered on the kinds of emotional problems this new group of refugees could be expected to have, given the very traumatic experiences through which many had lived. A new piece was added to the emotional cartography of the municipality.

    Individual refugees who did not conform to emotional expectations were sometimes viewed as suspect. Their status as true refugees was called into question if, for example, they were too cheerful or appeared to be enjoying themselves too much. Refugees were often expected to "perform" emotionally in accordance with stereotypes of "appropriate" refugee be- havior. A lack of agency and initiative, depression, an undemanding rela- tionship with the authorities, and displays of gratitude were among the expected characteristics.


    The meaning of the word bureaucrat (one who rules from a desk) immediately conjures up a vision of a barrier between the office holder and the member of the public. In Swedish bureaucracies today the desk is still present, but the client and civil servant are likely to be facing each other without any physical barrier intervening between them. However, the ab- sence of a physical barrier does not signify the absence of a social barrier between bureaucracies and the general population. Meetings are still

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    between the relatively powerful bureaucrat and the relatively powerless client. The greater informality of Swedish bureaucracies, compared with those in many other countries, is the result of a process of "informaliza- tion" in which the stern, unyielding, and totally unsympathetic approach has gradually been replaced by a degree of flexibility, openness, and em- pathy (Lofgren 1988) to create a bureaucracy with a more human face and one in keeping with the Swedish bureaucratic ethos. But informalization still requires emotional management from civil servants and clients. It also demands that actors recognize a new set of boundaries and that they do not overstep them. For immigrant clients used to bureaucracies that have not undergone this informalization process, the welcoming Swedish bu- reaucracy is sometimes seen as an invitation to divulge themselves to an extent that some civil servants feel is excessive. A staff member at the Recreation Department recalled how during a discussion about the size of the grant to the Muslim association, one of the representatives, an Iraqi man, suddenly began to tell her about his 13-year-old nephew who had been blown up in the Iran-Iraq war. His obvious sadness and the strong sense of grief that had not been addressed hung like a cloud over the dis- cussion and stayed with her for the rest of the day.

    Contacts with bureaucracy personnel involve the exchange of infor- mation like any other social encounter. Personnel need to be informed in order to make decisions, evaluate client claims, formulate a problem defi- nition, and decide on a course of action. There is an unavoidable emo- tional component in such exchanges. A frequent complaint among bureaucracy personnel is that of emotional strain, which can lead to an "inability to cope" and to feelings of being "overburdened," "burnt out," "overwhelmed," and even "eaten up." These terms suggest beliefs about optimal levels of emotion or "amounts" of emotion present among person- nel. Some personnel feel that they ought to be able to cope with more, but do not feel that they can. A staff member of the employment services, who had worked a great deal with immigrant clients and who had an immigrant background herself, made an explicit link between immigrant clients and strain at work: "Working with immigrants they way we do is not something you can do for more than a couple of years. After that time someone else has to take over." Her viewpoint illustrates the belief found among many civil servants that too much contact and exposure to cultural differences on a daily basis is debilitating especially when this involves the revelation of traumatic and emotional personal stories. This can result in what is understood to be an emotional overload for the civil servant. At the same time, civil servants also refer to themselves as a "tough breed" capable of putting up with just about anything.

    An unwillingness to respond to the emotions of clients has been de- scribed as bureaucratic "indifference" by Michael Herzfeld (1992). Herzfeld

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies * 211

    traces indifference among bureaucrats to its roots in violations of a con- ceptual order organized around dominant idioms of kinship and national community on which the bureaucracy draws when dealing with people. Clients who cannot be accommodated within this system, such as foreign- ers, may find themselves confronted by a wall of bureaucratic indifference. However, this explanation does not leave much space for emotional fac- tors. In many circumstances bureaucratic indifference may be more likely to be the result of emotional exhaustion-or even the anticipation of emo- tional exhaustion-rather than the result of category violation.

    The idea that emotions are "exchanged" or "passed on" from client to civil servant, thereby leading to an emotional excess within the latter, also implies that there was a prior state of emotional balance or equilibrium that the transaction has disturbed. This disturbance is not specific to re- lations between civil servants and their immigrant or refugees clients; it can also be true of meetings with Swedish clients. However, given that many refugee clients do have harrowing stories to tell, they are often said to be potentially more emotionally difficult to deal with.

    Knowledge among staff that a client from a particular immigrant group is coming for an appointment also has emotional implications that both precede and extend beyond the temporal span of the meeting itself. Some personnel in the Immigrant Bureau, for example, were looking forward to the time when all the Iranians had passed through their particular bureau. Iranians are a category of refugees who were almost universally viewed as difficult because of the demands they made on staff. As one member of the immigrant bureau put it: "I'd like a boatload of Vietnamese [after the Ira- nians]. They're so undemanding and grateful. After them I can take an- other difficult group." Emotional coping in this view is cyclical: a "difficult" group must be succeeded by an undemanding group so that emotional recharging can take place, thus preparing personnel for their next emotional challenge.

    Although some emotions expressed by clients are felt to be inappro- priate and excessive, insufficient emotional display is also problematic. Civil servants often complained that because some "Yugoslavs" were so placid, undemanding, and fairly undemonstrative, they give little back emotionally. Without a sufficient emotional response, civil servants found it difficult to interpret how people were thinking. Emotional cues thus helped personnel to understand clients. A certain level of emotional dis- play and exchange was considered necessary to enable civil servants to perform their duties.

    Recourse to interpreters with clients who were unable to communicate in a language everyone understood also had emotional consequences. A common complaint from civil servants was that the mediation of the in- terpreter lessened the sense of contact and that the "gap" was an emotional

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    one. What we can call the feeling tone of the meeting was missing. There was another emotional dimension to the use of interpreters. Suspicions existed among some personnel that interpreters from some groups, such as Somalis, added too many of their own opinions when translating what was being said. According to one staff member of the Immigrant Bureau, "Somali interpreters spread gossip to other people which makes some clients nervous and they tell clients what they think about us and make people uncertain." An interpreter who is a complete stranger may not be fully trusted by a client and may frighten people away from the Immigrant Bureau and other public services. For these reasons, the use of an inter- preter can be an emotional trial for some clients and staff members.


    A topic on which there are some strong opinions and emotions among staff is the use of emotions by clients in order to influence decision mak- ing. If personnel are of the opinion that "too much" emotion is displayed by a client, they may view it as a device to coerce the civil servant. How- ever, the extent to which emotional displays, such as showing anger when being refused a welfare payment, are actually deliberate attempts to ma- nipulate a staff member is not easy for many civil servants to determine. The meaning of emotion is not always self-evident.

    One female member of the Social Services with a Latin American background who worked with refugees with psychological problems claimed that:

    There are Iranians in Iran who send their children to Sweden, or some other European country unaccompanied. It costs Sweden a fortune to look after them. The parents are exploiting the system and their children. There are organizations that arrange the whole thing. The children want to go home to their parents, but as soon as the child gets a residence permit the family comes to Sweden straightaway. The kids have special stories they've been taught to tell to the authorities. They ought to be sent back at once. But Swedes actually like to be exploited.

    In her opinion, Iranians were using their own children to manipulate the emotions of Swedes. There was an element of truth in what she said. In the early 1990s, some parents active in the Mujahedin movement in Iran did send their children to Sweden unaccompanied. But, according to the staff member, instead of hardening their hearts, the Swedish authori- ties allowed compassion to persuade them of the veracity of the children's stories. This staff member, however, had her own explanation for why this was the case: Swedish guilt. "Sweden helped the Nazis during the Second World War and is now atoning by advertising to the world how incredibly generous their refugee policy is." She did not consider her own reaction to be informed by feelings of guilt like Swedes but, rather, by moral indignation

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    over the exploitation of children. The emotional contrast between herself and that of Swedes coincided with a contrast between her own perspicac- ity and what she understood to be Swedish gullibility attributable to judg- ment clouded by guilt. Emotions, in this instance, serve as signals that reveal something about one's own qualities and the acceptability of one's behavior and beliefs, as well as the qualities and behavior of others (Denzin 1984:245).

    The question of guilt was also in evidence when the emotional re- sponses of personnel to the wishes of clients obviously deviated from what they deemed to be appropriate. For example, personnel disliked being made to feel guilty by suspicious and disgruntled clients, rather than feel satisfaction from having attempted to help them, as in the following case from the employment services:

    Sometimes they [Iranians] even make me feel guilty, as though I'm not doing my best to help them and not using all the resources at my disposal. I get the impression that they suspect I have the perfect job for them hidden in my desk drawer ... I have to admit that I do get fed up with them sometimes; they never leave you in peace!

    The Iranian clients' lack of understanding about how the service actually works leads to the wrong expectations and the wrong demands. This leads in turn to resentment, suspicion, and frustration among the clients, and misplaced guilt among civil servants.

    Feelings of guilt are conventionally understood in Euro-American countries as arising from inside the individual. Indeed, the development of guilt may signal the successful creation of a person with an internal moral gyroscope that prevents the transgression of rule. One feels guilty because one has infringed a moral prescription, even if the moral lapse is never discovered. By contrast, shame is often seen as externally imposed by a group when the individual has failed to live up to a positive ideal and this has become public knowledge. The creation of guilt feelings generated within personnel suggests that the agency of Iranians is capable of acting "inside" the civil servant. By generating such a negative emotion through their own negative emotional displays, Iranians violated Swedish emo- tional rules. They introduced moral inequality into a relationship that, if anything, ought to have had the civil servant in the superior position. This may be seen as another instance of a breached emotional boundary be- tween civil servant self and client other. A client's ability to elicit feelings of guilt rather than satisfaction in return for what the individual civil ser- vant perceives as help also conflicts with the feeling rules that cover emo- tional reciprocity in the bureaucratic context. Statements by personnel revealed the existence of expectations about an optimal emotional ex- change or reciprocity involving appropriate emotional responses to the help received from civil servants. Small signs of gratitude were appreci- ated, but they should not be too effusive, in keeping with the avoidance of

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    excessive positive emotional display. Civil servants did not normally state that they expected or were entitled to them (although some did), but it could be inferred from their complaints when nothing approximating gratitude was expressed. Their complaints about guilt and gratitude were indirect statements about correct relations between themselves and cli- ents (cf. Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990:11).

    GENDERED EMOTIONS In general, female personnel in Haninge were of the opinion that male

    clients took their word less seriously than the word of male colleagues. The worst incidences of this involved certain categories of immigrant men, especially "Arabs." Occasionally, male colleagues were called in to con- firm what a female civil servant had already said. Mild annoyance or firm- ness on the part of male personnel had a greater impact on an unsatisfied client than the reasonable and more accommodating attempts to explain and placate by women, especially when the client was a man. And many, though not all, female personnel were of the opinion that they were emo- tionally "softer" in their approach or more "accommodating" than their male colleagues. Resentment arose on both sides of the encounter: among Arab men who resented the authority of women and among female civil servants who resented not being taken seriously by male clients. The Arab men's attitude conflicts strongly with the stress on gender equality in Swe- den. Most Swedish men know better than to express dissatisfaction with public services in terms that might indicate a lack of respect for female civil servants. The bureaucracies where women predominate in Haninge are often those in which there is direct contact with the public. They do not have the same status as "heavy weight" matters such as town planning, and finance. Much of the kind of work women perform involves "street- level" encounters where there is more emotional friction than faced by senior personnel (cf. Lipsky 1980). Female civil servants can be seen as emotional buffers between the public they meet on a regular basis and the upper echelons of the welfare bureaucracies, where men are better repre- sented and where policy decisions are made. The women themselves were well aware of this. A lack of emotional rapport might be best seen as a "luxury" of the upper and male-dominated echelons of the welfare state, whereas emotional skill is not a specifically female virtue or skill but a feature of the street-level bureaucrat's job.

    "ENVY" AND AMBITION The topic of envious bureaucrats is a sensitive one. Admitting to feelings

    of envy or jealousy that immigrant clients might one day attain a higher standing than the individual civil servant who is currently in a socially

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies * 215

    superior position to them is not something that most people would be willing to discuss openly. When the topic did arise, it was almost always brought up by immigrants who accused Swedes of being afraid of compe- tition: "Highly educated immigrants are considered a threat. It's better with passive clients. It also makes it easier [for Swedes] to make a career if there isn't any competition." This quote is from someone who works with job retraining and placement who is herself an immigrant with an East European background. What she meant was that immigrants-by definition experts on immigrant matters, it seems-would represent strong competition for the kinds of jobs Swedish civil servants currently monopolize. Those immigrants who do not know their place in the class and career hierarchy and are judged to be "too ambitious" by personnel are regarded with a degree of suspicion, an opinion that is shared by many immigrants. There were complaints made by immigrant clients and civil servants that emotions were used to block the ambition of immigrants, through, for example, displays of irritation or a patronizing attitude toward those who want to study at university. Some informants even mentioned angry reactions, although I personally never witnessed this, and it would be very out of keeping with usual bureaucratic behavior. However, I have heard personnel respond with incredulity or in a patronizing tone to what they consider to be "unrealistic" or "excessive" ambition among immi- grant clients. On one occasion a young Iraqi woman had been sent from the Adult Education College, where she had studied Swedish for Immi- grants (SFI), to the Employment Services. She had with her a certificate stating that she had successfully completed the course in basic Swedish and was thus eligible for help finding work. She was made to wait outside the door of the staff member who was to help her. The staff member was doubtful as the woman had completed the course in only four months in- stead of the usual six; she phoned another colleague to ask for advice and questioned whether this could be serious and if it were really possible for anyone to learn enough Swedish in such a short time. The tone of her voice left no doubt that she personally did not think it was possible. "No, I don't think this can be right. We'll send her back to SFI and they'll have to take another look," was the conclusion she very audibly reached on the phone. The woman was called in and told in a friendly manner that there were doubts about whether she "really" had the language skills SFI claimed. The Iraqi woman was referred back to SFI and told that the employment serv- ices would look into the matter. Although the face-to-face interaction with the woman had not involved any negative emotional display, the fact that she had overheard the telephone conversation between the personnel had meant her exposure to negative judgment of her own abilities, and also a negative and even patronizing assessment of SFI's own assessment skills.

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  • 216 ? ETHOS

    From the perspective of immigrants themselves, the negative emo- tional responses of personnel were felt to be a barrier in the way of immi- grants exercising agency and realizing their potential. Emotion was understood by clients and some personnel to have been deployed in a calculated manner intended to control clients and keep them in their "cor- rect" social place. Such emotional displays are in conflict with correct bureaucratic practice, but they signal to clients what the expectations are regarding the appropriate social status of immigrants. If such emotional displays discourage and dissuade immigrants from applying for a course at a university or college, or block certain job ambitions, then clearly emo- tions do actively contribute to determining the class position of immi- grants.

    CREATING EOTIONAL CNSENSUS Civil servants are supposed to keep their emotions firmly under con-

    trol in meetings with the general public. There are official manuals con- taining guidelines that cover the praxis of different bureaus. Showing strong emotions can be interpreted as threatening a client through an il- legitimate exercise of power. In other settings, however, emotions can be freely displayed. One such setting was the "Joint Workgroup for Immigrant Questions," or SAGI (Samarbetsgrupp for invandrarfragor) as it was called by those who participated in it. This informal group met once every two or three months. Participants included the staff of the local Immigrant Bureau and Refugee Section, personnel from the Recreation and Culture Department and the local Adult Education College, and administrative staff from the Education Department. On occasion, representatives from voluntary organizations also took part. SAGI provided a forum in which the participants shared experiences, expressed their opinions, and kept each other informed about various matters of relevance for immigrant pol- icy. The meetings were an occasion on which people could vent their feel- ings about politicians and express their frustration with policy makers who were remote from the emotionally charged events created by their eco- nomic savings and reorganizations. SAGI allowed the reenactment of emo- tions experienced during work, which were then discussed among participants and often confirmed as the "correct" emotional responses by them. Given that there was often a considerable degree of agreement and shared experience among the participants, the meetings usually served to confirm what everyone "already" knew. There was a retroactive construction and justification of the emotional response of individual civil servants.

    Because immigrant questions in the municipality were the responsi- bility of several different bureaus, SAGI was seen as a context for creating a degree of group identity among those who worked with immigrant clients

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    on a regular basis. However, participants did not always see the meetings in a uniformly positive light. One former participant who had stopped at- tending felt that they were cosmetic. The problems associated with a dis- persed organizational structure were not solved by SAGI; rather, they might even be exacerbated if the meetings became the occasion for mutual criticisms. Thus, rather than acting in Durkheimian fashion to create soli- darity, the meetings were seen by some as reproducing differences of opin- ion, understanding, and emotional responses to the problems at hand.

    Civil servants in Haninge were not engaged in the kind of emotional management described by Hochschild (1983) in her study of flight atten- dants. Unlike flight attendants, these personnel did not strenuously at- tempt to transform their emotions in order to bring them into line with how the company pays them to feel. However, they were engaged in emo- tional work in the sense of managing the expression of their feelings so that they did not disrupt meetings with clients or conflict with good practice. If personnel were irritated by a client, they were likely to conceal the fact as best they could, and justified doing so because getting angry was not seen as worth the trouble. The payoff from the emotional response was not sufficient to outweigh the emotional costs of the civil servant's own display of anger. Thus, a civil servant who felt "impatience" did not try to trans- form it to "sympathy" for a client's own impatience with the bureaucracy.

    Emotional responses to one's own emotions were sometimes sub- jected to further emotional work, however. For example, worries about having felt too irritated with a client that might indicate a lapse of profes- sionalism were worked into justifiable feelings of irritation in contexts like the SAGI meeting. However, irritation over a lapse of professionalism also points to the presence of "passionate" bureaucrats who try to adhere to high professional standards. In a classic essay on bureaucracy and person- ality, Merton pointed out that the bureaucrat must be "buttressed by strong sentiments which entail devotion to one's duties, [and] a keen sense of the limitation of one's authority and competence" (1940:562). This cer- tainly applied to civil servants in Haninge.

    SAGI also provided a context for an emotional discussion of emotions. Irritation "caused" by Iranian clients, for example, became (a milder) ir- ritation displayed when talking about Iranians with other personnel. The emotion was "recreated" in a more manageable form, what Scheff, discuss- ing the management of emotion in ritual, refers to as the "distancing of emotions" (1977). In some instances, irritation was also magnified, result- ing in an emotional inflation. The emotions acknowledged, recreated, and dispersed informed subsequent meetings with Iranian clients by giving them an anticipatory emotional tenor.

    Much of the emotion talk in SAGI meetings was about troublesome feelings, such as frustration, annoyance, and impatience. Rather like news

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  • 218 ? ETHOS

    broadcasts, bad emotional news attracted attention. However, some talk was about good emotions: happiness when seeing how satisfied a job seeker was on hearing that she had been employed; sharing in someone's enthusiasm about getting a place on a training scheme; satisfaction when listening to a client who had successfully negotiated a section of the private sector bureaucracy, such as when opening a bank account; sharing a cli- ent's relief at passing an examination; or meeting the overjoyed members of a family who had just been notified that a relative had been granted a visa. Civil servants also spoke of there being never a dull moment and expressed pride in being flexible. There was therefore something of a dis- crepancy between the occurrence of feelings and emotions in bureaucratic work and talk about emotions in settings like SAGI, where they became the objects of analysis and where the troublesome emotions frequently received most attention.

    The emotional accounting in Haninge's bureaucracies was a selective process and tended to concentrate on problem emotions. The Swedish expression "health keeps silent" well describes the fact that when things are going as they should, they do not attract attention or occasion com- plaint. Some feelings and emotions, often the positive ones, were not part of the calculations, because they were "silent" and escaped initial detec- tion.


    Although emotions were sometimes regarded as problematic, there were occasions when the emotional competence among personnel needed for the successful execution of tasks became the object of attention. On occasion, this took the form of competitive claims about who was most competent to meet the emotional needs of clients.

    At one SAGI meeting, Lotta, a representative from a voluntary sector organization called "Verdandi," was invited to tell the participants about the organization's work with immigrants. The meeting with Lotta lasted for 95 minutes and was headed by Barbro, the head of the Immigrant Bu- reau. The topics discussed ranged over Verdandi's activities, their Swedish-language classes for immigrants, their support work, and how local services and Verdandi might cooperate more with each other. The question of whether Verdandi "took people away" from local welfare serv- ices and painted an unflattering picture of how the social services operate was also raised. The issue of competition between the public and voluntary sector permeated the entire meeting.

    Lotta began by presenting Verdandi and its work and then went on to describe how the organization helps immigrants and people who experience difficulties integrating into Swedish society. Verdandi befriends people,

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    she told the meeting participants, and provides them with the "long-term and intensive contact with people" needed to create the empathy that can act as a bridge between self and other. For Lotta, emotion was something passed between people, transacted in a contagionlike manner (cf. Lutz and White 1986:415). Lotta also claimed that Verdandi translated individual problems into propositions that the authorities could understand. This involved placing a gloss on the vague physiological states or feelings of the people Verdandi helped and labeling them as specific emotions. In fact, this went beyond providing the correct word; it also extended to the active creation of an appropriate and justified emotional response among those who turned to Verdandi for help. This usually happened after they felt they had been wronged by local services. As Lotta put it: "We hold them by the hand and go with them to the Social Security Office, or the Social Insur- ance Office."

    After hearing this, Barbro asked her: "What is your attitude to the authorities in my department, for example, and to social services?" Lotta answered "Fine!" Barbro continued:

    Before, when I used to work in Socialen [Social Security], it was like when you fright- ened children with the chimney sweep you frightened someone with Socialen. That is the impression we get from your side [about Verdandil. [But] we have a double func- tion. You have immigrants and refugees as your group; so do we and we are responsible for introducing them to society. But we have a double role. We are an authority, we have to take care of money .... And we also have the other part of our service-we are called "Mamma socialen" after all. We aren't only the chimney sweep, are we? So it's very double. But if I send someone to Verdandi I want to be sure that they get a correct picture of the authorities, a more neutral picture and not only the frightening one. People can actually get help from the authorities.

    Lotta nodded in agreement and said: "Exactly, exactly." She absorbed Barbro's barely disguised annoyance. She was good at this; I had seen her do it before. But it could cause irritation among people who were trying to provoke her or force her to admit that Verdandi had erred. She then went on to explain how Verdandi actually works to help people get over their fear of Socialen by telling of a young woman of Chilean background who was "climbing up the walls" at the thought of having to visit it. The Social Security Office, which is responsible for providing the poorest in society with welfare support, is one of the few that generates strong negative emo- tions. Going to the Socialen for help can be a stigmatized and emotionally fraught last resort for some people who have no other means of support. Lotta accompanied the woman to the Socialen where the meeting turned out to be very helpful.

    Barbro interrupted her with a question clearly intended to puncture the image of empathy and emotional support Lotta had painted: "So, you are a paid friend?" Lotta answered: "Unfortunately it's become that way. A lot of the time I have to provide the friendly support. But because I don't

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  • 220 ? ETHOS

    have enough time I try to deal with things at the pace I can manage." Barbro drove the point home: "It's quite strange, the role of paid friend. I can't ever be a friend with [my clients] because I'm employed by the local authority." Lotta replied, "Exactly, exactly. But we [the client and I] live in different circumstances, we are members of the same organization." For the third time, Barbro stressed the economic nature of the Verdandi rela- tionships: "But you are paid to be his friend, he isn't being paid to be yours. If people are happy with the social worker and everything is going fine, they don't do anything. When a person meets opposition from the social services and feels bad about it, then they turn to others and mobilize what resources they have." Barbro attempted to present Verdandi's companion- ate relationships as based on financial remuneration. Lotta gets paid, and a large amount of the money comes from grants awarded by the local coun- cil against which Verdandi is seen as competing. Barbro recalculated the nature of Lotta's empathy into monetary terms, thus robbing it of authen- ticity: genuine empathy and friendship cannot be bought with money.

    Both Lotta and Barbro were describing how emotions have conse- quences for agency. Emotions help to propel people into alternative courses of action. An unfavorable decision by the Socialen leads to clients experiencing negative emotions of anger and disappointment. They then turn to Verdandi for help, where, depending on one's point of view, the negative image of the social services is reinforced by "alarmist propa- ganda," or emotional support is provided and the rightness of the client's emotional response is confirmed. The client withdraws faith in social serv- ices and transfers it to Verdandi. Future contacts with the authorities are colored by the new emotional configuration.

    A few weeks later, I met Margareta, the representative at SAGI meet- ings for the College of Adult Education. She brought up the topic of Ver- dandi: "[Verdandi] specializes in Chileans and little else. That's what they think they are good at." The implication was clear enough: While the local public sector services and welfare agencies had to deal with a wide range of national and ethnic categories of people and the entire emotional regis- ter this is believed to entail, Verdandi only manages to deal with one, the Chileans. In short, Verdandi lacked the empathetic range and professional expertise possessed by the public sector personnel. Furthermore, in order to attract Chileans, Verdandi had to frighten people away from the "chim- ney sweep" authorities.

    Having attended several meetings and events organized by Verdandi where many Chilean refugees were present, I was able to see and hear some of the negative opinions expressed about Haninge's public services. While it is too strong to suggest that the organization deliberately used fear to recruit members, it did not attempt to instill much confidence in local services. At a meeting of one of the Latin American associations where a

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies * 221

    group of around 20 people were preparing for a party, Lotta explained that Verdandi's grant from the municipality had been cut "because they see us as left-wing trouble makers." And at a meeting with new members (an Iranian and two Chileans), a Verdandi representative commented: "As an organization the local authority is bad, even if individual staff in it can be OK," and "the local authority makes people passive."

    The SAGI meeting illustrates struggles between the public sector and a voluntary organization over claims about their respective ability to em- pathize. Against common expectations, the personnel of the welfare state bureaucracies were proud of their empathetic skills, which they consid- ered to be superior in terms of range and quality to those of the voluntary sector. But as the comments from Barbro indicate, there was also an awareness that the formal, hierarchical relations between the public serv- ices and clients militated against close ties of friendship. The very egali- tarian Verdandi, which has its roots in the 19th-century temperance movement and social democracy, made a point of establishing emotional ties with members but was able to do so precisely because it lacked the formal powers and resources of the welfare bureaucracies. Verdandi mem- bers understood their role in terms of an emotional division of labor. The secondary institutions of the public bureaucracies lacked empathy, whereas Verdandi's role was closer to that of a primary institution like the family, providing support for people who had often been emotionally in- jured in their contacts with welfare services. This division of labor was disputed by the public sector personnel.

    Personnel did not only compare themselves with the voluntary serv- ices, they also made comparisons between different public sector bureauc- racies and their emotional skills. For example, social secretaries, who have the power to grant or withhold welfare payments, were described by staff in recreation services, education, and the staff of the Immigrant Bureau as being less friendly and not possessing as much empathy as they did. There was, then, an emotional cartography even within the welfare bureaucra- cies themselves.

    CONCLUSION This article has shown how immigrant clients are understood in emo-

    tional terms by civil servants with the help of the bureaucratic mapping of an emotional cartography onto individual clients and through the emo- tional reactions of bureaucracy personnel themselves. There are clearly beliefs present about optimal levels of emotion "inside" civil servants, and complaints that these are exceeded when mainly refugee clients breach emotional barriers. Personnel also heeded their own emotional responses in order to be able to understand clients. They felt that certain emotional

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  • 222 ? ETHOS

    responses were due them and that their own emotional responses to those of immigrant clients ought to signal to themselves a job well done; they should not be made to feel guilty by clients. Emotions were also assigned different weights according to their "gender" by clients and civil servants. Meetings between the staff of different bureaus could confirm emotional responses to the behavior of clients and the appropriateness of the emo- tional reply delivered to clients, but they could also reproduce emotional differences principally around irritation with what were perceived as or- ganizational failings. Yet however problematic the emotional dimensions of the job might be, an ability to understand and respond to emotions was valued among staff and could on occasion give rise to rivalry between dif- ferent organizations.

    It can be argued that emotions and feelings are an integral component of all social practice, including the bureaucratic. It is the feeling tones that enable particular practices to be felt as "right" without reflecting on why this is so, thereby enabling practice to continue without interruption. The positive emotions and feeling tones that permeate work and give it purpose and focus tended to be missing from the emotion talk and emotional cal- culation of Haninge personnel. As we have seen, civil servants often seemed to miss some of their own more positive emotional responses when they were put into a position where they had to try to give a systematic account of their emotions and their significance.

    When the technical rational work was disturbed by emotions that ought not to be there-guilt, irritation, anger-they got noticed. These trouble- some emotions that are considered extrinsic to the job were often (but not exclusively) part of meetings with refugee clients. They conflicted with the ideal of emotional continuity between civil servant and client. The con- trast is between hypocognition of the routine background emotions that are continuous with the correct operations of institutions (Barbalet 2001:16) and the hypercognition of troublesome emotions that conflict with it (on hypo- and hypercognition see Levy 1973:324; 1984). Hypocog- nized emotions, according to Levy (1973:324,342) in his study of Tahitians, are interpreted as other than specific emotions. Instead, they are inter- preted as vague feelings or as aspects of a relationship. Levy focuses largely on the hypocognition of negative emotions of sadness, grief, and guilt. But in the case of civil servants in Haninge, it was the positive emotions that were hypocognized, while negative emotions received most attention. Public service bureaucracies are problem-solving and problem-focused or- ganizations. People without any problems do not normally use them. Their problem focus is amplified by the more general seriousness of Swedish culture. There may be an additional factor at work here. If civil servants were to dwell too much on the positive emotions, this would mean discuss- ing their successes. This could be interpreted as boasting, something that

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  • Emotional Bureaucracies ? 223

    conflicts with the Swedish Jante Law. The lack of negative emotional dis- play by civil servants did not mean that civil servants did not feel negative emotions. On the contrary, negative emotions experienced as part of work received a lot of attention in contexts such as SAGI. So much so that we may talk of their hypercognition (Levy 1984). Again, this is fully compat- ible with the problem focus of the public services and the culture more generally.

    The removal of negative emotions among society's members remains a major goal of Sweden's universal welfare state. Yet contacts between refugee immigrants and civil servants generate more negative emotion than is normally the case in the work of the public services. Refugee im- migrants from outside Euro-American countries have provoked unusually strong emotional reactions in Sweden's national policy debates and the mass media and in local bureaucratic praxis. The manipulation and tacti- cal use of emotion in the mostly academic contexts described by Bailey (1983) is foreign to the professional ideals of Swedish public service bu- reaucracies. But the use of shame by the National Immigration Board to compel compliance with its aims, and the perception among clients and civil servants alike that the "other side" manipulates emotions are not conventionally part of Swedish emotional ideology and its modern welfare ethos. When emotions are displayed, they ought to reflect what the person feels, not conceal it. Emotional manipulation by public service personnel or clients and the projection of an emotional facade prevents shared emo- tional understanding and continuity. The emotional cartography in Han- inge contained examples of this opacity.

    Officially, Sweden is a multicultural country in which immigrants are not obliged to assimilate and may retain cultural forms as long as they do not conflict with Swedish law. Acceptance of multiculturalism also entails the acceptance of multi-emotionalism in society and, it should not to be forgotten, within the Swedish bureaucracies themselves as they slowly but surely recruit staff from within immigrant populations. Earlier, I noted important changes in Sweden that have posed serious challenges for its universal welfare state, among them unemployment, ethnic and racial seg- regation, growing regional and class differences in wealth, and the in- creased influence of global capital and markets. In addition, there has been a reduction in the size and responsibilities of Sweden's welfare state and a greater reliance on the private sector and markets during the last decade. All of these developments make it difficult to guarantee the security (trygghet) of yesteryear. In the absence of this security, the reproduction of emotional continuity and homogeneity among society's members be- comes impossible. Civil servants in Haninge in the first half of the 1990s predicted that some of the problems that were overrepresented among immigrants would increasingly affect other sections of society. Although

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  • 224 * ETHOS

    they did not phrase it so, the consequences of these problems among refu- gee immigrants-greater emotional burdens, emotional opacity, less of a taken-for-granted emotional tone to work, and a greater range and com- plexity of emotional displays among staff and clients-were a taste of things to come.

    MARK GRAHAM teaches in the Department of Social Anthropology and is a research fellow in the Centre for Women's Studies at Stockholm University.

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    Article Contentsp. [199]p. 200p. 201p. 202p. 203p. 204p. 205p. 206p. 207p. 208p. 209p. 210p. 211p. 212p. 213p. 214p. 215p. 216p. 217p. 218p. 219p. 220p. 221p. 222p. 223p. 224p. 225p. 226

    Issue Table of ContentsEthos, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 177-304Front Matter [pp. 177-177]On Rocks, Walks, and Talks in West Africa: Cultural Categories and an Anthropology of the Senses [pp. 178-198]Emotional Bureaucracies: Emotions, Civil Servants, and Immigrants in the Swedish Welfare State [pp. 199-226]Special Section: Intercultural Relations in IsraelSeeking a Place to Rest: Representation of Bounded Movement among Russian-Jewish Homecomers [pp. 227-248]Between Conscious and Subconscious: Depth-to-Depth Communication in the Ethnographic Space [pp. 249-272]Talking about Identity: Arab Students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem [pp. 273-304]

    Back Matter