The Swedish Experiment in FamilynPolitics: The Myrdals and thenInterwar Population Crisisnhy Allan CarlsonnNew Brunswick, New Jersey:nTransaction Publishers; 235 pp.,n$39.95nIf there were an award for the mostnsuccessful revolutionaries of the 20thncentury, two relatively unsung yet worthyncandidates would be Gunnar andnAlva Myrdal, The Swedish husbandand-wifenteam has exerted an alarminglynpervasive influence upon modernnsociety, in part because their bloodless,nbureaucratic revolution was too low-keynto inspire the violent opposition that hasnundermined the revolutionary legacy ofnso many other candidates.nIn The Swedish Experiment in FamilynPolitics: The Myrdals and the InterwarnPopulation Crisis, Allan Cadson,nauthor of a recent study on the contemporarynAmerican family, returns tonthe subject of his doctoral dissertation:nthe pivotal role the Myrdals played innJohn Wauck is a contributing editor tonthe Human Life Review.n30/CHRONICLESnOPINIONSnInventing Historynby John Wauckn”History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.”n— Thomas Jeffersonnshaping modern Swedish society. Thenbook, which Carlson calls an “intellectualnpolitical biography,” reveals how,nin the course of four years (1934-n1938), one man and one woman decisivelynredirected the course of an entirensociety. Cadson highlights the ways innwhich ideologues can manipulate thenoften ambiguous data of sociologicalnresearch and the crucial importance ofnindividuals in perceiving and even inventingnhistorical “trends.” His exhaustivelynresearched and documentednanalysis yields lessons that many othernsocieties have yet to learn.nGunnar Myrdal was born in 1898 inna rural Swedish town. While studyingneconomics at the University of Stockholm,nhe met an extremely intelligentnliberal arts student, four years his junior,nnamed Alva Reimer, whose fathernwas involved in labor unions and thenSocial Democratic Party in Uppsala.nHaving studied literature, religion, andnpsychology, and possessing strong socialistnand feminist sympathies, Alvanseems to have been the prototypicaln20th-century radical female intellectual.nShe married Gunnar Myrdal inn1924, and after a research trip to thenUnited States in 1929, financed bynnnfellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation,nthe couple became convincednthat Swedish society was in need ofnradical reforms. While Gunnar focusednon demographic and economicnquestions, Alva was preoccupied withnchildren’s issues and the obsolescencenof the traditional family. It is ironicnthat, to a significant extent, Sweden’snradical social policy was inspired andnfunded by American sources.nWithout question, Swedish societynwas in trouble. In 1933, Sweden recordednthe lowest peacetime birthratenof any modern nation. The net reproductionnrate was below replacementnlevel. According to data from 1927,nonly 5.6 percent of the populahonnattended Sunday communion. As thenstructure of agrarian society unravelednin the 19th century, the traditionalnpractice oi frieri — a courtship customnthat allowed premarital sex — becamenless an anticipation of marriage thannsimple fornication and a source ofnillegitimacy.nIn the obvious need for “pro-natalist”npolicies to counteract the decliningnbirthrate, the Myrdals saw a justificationnfor their radical reforms, andntheir 1934 book. The Crisis in then