Title

The Tao of Lagom: a Middle Way for the Middle Kingdom

Document Type

Presentation

Publication Date

4-18-2008

Abstract

China must address its growing income and wealth inequalities, its aging population, its rapidly deteriorating health and social safety supports and the other related consequences of its rapid development and of its thirty years of the one-child policy. Research into issues of ethical accountability, environmental sustainability, and corporate social responsibility (and its evolution into International Corporate Responsibility) clearly distinguish rival systems of organizing the relationships between the state, market and civil society spheres. The corporatist social welfare model of Sweden holds great promise for adoption by and adaptation to China's evolving socio-economic system.

At this week's Friday Forum, Prof. John Hasselberg (Management) discusses these issues. He takes a particularly close look at Sweden. The Swedish "Middle Way" arrangement emerged out of a situation similar to what is happening economically, socially and in the workplaces and families of China today. In its most common denotation, "The Middle Way" was conceived as being in between the chaotic capitalist systems that were mired in unemployment, violence and economic depression-and with emerging fascist movements in many of them-in the 1930's, and the rigid, planned communist systems that were in ascendency in Russia at the same time. The system adopted in Sweden reflected an understanding of the need for all stakeholder to both give and take-but not to give or take too much. "Lagom" is the Swedish word for this phenomenon of finding a just and harmonious middle ground. Such a system is necessary for a morally healthy and sustainable civil society, responsible government and a market system that is vibrant, accountable and respectful of human dignity and vulnerability. With occasional modifications, the "Middle Way" continues to serve the Swedish society well to this day. As Sweden was itself arguably the first highly successful export-driven developing economy in the 20th century, it provides a model of economic, social, environmental and cultural sustainability that ought to be most attractive to China as it addresses the challenges embedded in its long term growth and development strategies.

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