Systems of Value: Knowledge, Imperialism, and Scientific Authority in the Context of 18th Century Sweden

  • Author / Creator
    Neyer, Rita
  • The focus of this work is 18th century Sweden, circling around the lives and works of people – some more and some lesser known, some even forgotten – who dedicated their careers to the acquisition, dissemination, and application of diverse forms of knowledge. The sources and case studies are thus presented through the lens of History of Knowledge, a methodology that lends itself very well to a time marked by constant fights for academic predominance and intellectual fluidity. Taking into account that History of Knowledge is still a relatively young field, the introductory part of this dissertation is concerned with establishing a working methodology and laying out the innovative research potential of the field. In general, the contribution of this project should be seen less as the presentation of new evidence, and more as a re-assessment and re-interpretation of already established evidence, with a focus on the coexistence of diverse knowledge systems beside the one predominant in Western academia, i.e. empiricism. The approaches used here include, among others, historical, political, economic, scientific, gender-theoretical, religious studies, anthropological, and northern studies methodologies.
    In the second part, the dissertation features a comprehensive account of Sweden’s political and academic landscape at the beginning of the 18th century. It analyzes the role of knowledge in early modern Sweden and parts of Europe, as well as its steadily increasing significance for economic and social processes. The dissertation further explores the role of information and knowledge as contributing factors in the formation of Sweden into the nation state it is today. The focus lies on early modern Sweden’s international trade and political relations as well as its internal economic and political developments. Specifically, this dissertation analyzes how in the wake of the losses of the Great Northern War, Sweden successfully established itself as a hub for research and industrial expertise, leaving behind its former military prowess. As a result, the country succeeded in creating an economic and political niche in the shadow of Europe’s big political players such as e.g. Britain, the Netherlands, or Spain. The example of Sweden deserves special attention because political, economic, and social processes were highly pronounced and revealing due to the specific geographical and political circumstances under which its strategies and policies developed. When put in a bigger European and global context, the case offers many parallels and points of comparison as well.
    In the third part, two case studies – the first one on Emanuel Swedenborg and the second one on Carl Linnaeus – exemplify the processes and policies that Sweden implemented to enforce its strategic push towards knowledge and information becoming the driving factors to ensure its long-term international competitiveness. In comparison, the cases unveil the underlying mechanisms at work in the creation of a coherent empirical knowledge system that would soon dominate Western academia.
    The fourth and final part discusses the findings of the thesis and their ramifications for modern academia and the empirical knowledge system.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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