There Are 32 Kinds of People: The Early Modern State and Its Social Categorizations

Martin Andersson, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

The formation of fiscal-military states in Europe during the Early Modern era meant new types of formalized relations between rulers, nascent state bureaucracies and the individual subjects. From the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Swedish state shifted its focus of regulation and control from regional collectives to the individual, regarding conscriptions, clerical examinations, and fiscal demands. In this paper I explore the processes of social classification of individuals that this development entailed, exemplified by the social categorization processes taking place when individual taxation was first implemented. First, I analyze the debates about and the logics behind the categorization processes, which resulted in the state bureaucracy having to label individuals using a large (and unstable) number of social groups. Second, I present the immediate responses of individuals and collectives to this new type of social thinking, as the early modern subject now had to negotiate their identity in respect to state-prescribed social categories. Third, I argue that this new social classification also had more far-reaching consequences for individual–state relations, not only being important for the success of the short-lived Early Modern Swedish empire, but also a necessary step towards later forms of state governance, such as population statistics and other state-sanctioned written population registration.

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 Presented in Session 184. Social Actors inside, outside, and in between Early Modern States