Living Alone Together: Individualized Collectivism in Swedish Communal Housing
Sociology, first published online,doi.org/10.1177/0038038519834871
In this study, situated in urban Stockholm, communal housing stands out as highly individualized. The residents positively appraise their way of living, not primarily for values related to collective solidarity, but for enabling autonomy, privacy and easy exits. Rather than theorizing this as a contradiction, communal housing is framed as a case of individualized collectivism, a belonging structure that is evaluated for fostering interpersonal relations with a high degree of independency. The article discusses the notion of Swedish state individualism as an explanatory backdrop and argues that it is the existence of a collective frame – in the shape of a historically embedded welfare program and an everyday housing platform – that enables the residents to sustain their individualized lives. Through an analysis of the residents’ negotiations around self and solidarity, autonomy and dependency, communal housing unfolds as an everyday response to a widespread tension between individualized societies and people’s search for community.