Images of Work and Love: The Dynamics of Economy and Emotions on the Big Screen in Sweden and Mexico, 1930-1955

Uppsala Studies in Economic History No. 106

By: Rosalia Cantarell
October 2016
Uppsala University
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789155491697
345 Pages, Illustrated
$69.50 Paper original


This thesis studies the intertwinement of economy and emotions within the context of modernity. By investigating how work and romantic love interact in fiction films from the period 1930 to 1955, I seek to shed light on how two cultural practices that might normally be assumed to belong to separate dimensions of life – the economic and the emotional – are actually closely connected to each other. The examination of these interactions allows a better understanding of the process of modernisation, as well as the ways in which cultural differences matter in two national contexts: Sweden and Mexico.

The thesis is structured into three overarching dimensions of analysis: space, gender and class. I seek to explain the relationship between work and romantic love within these dimensions using the concepts of emotional capital, respectability and worthiness. The results highlight the differences between the national cases.

For example, films depicting the Swedish countryside represent both modern and non-modern domestic spaces when judged in terms of their configuration and appearance; however, certain traits of rural characters such as solidarity, closeness to nature and equality transcend into modern society and guide work and romantic love practices. In Mexico, the countryside is depicted at the core of national identity; however, this space is characterised by its non-modern nature. The countryside, according to films, must be reformed by notions of science and rationality. Film narratives show that through romantic love, the man modernises the non-modern woman.

The gender analysis revealed that Swedish films endorse the Housewife Contract in Swedish society during this period. In Mexican films, a similar contract is found in the discourse of the modern nation but films endorse a broader interpretation. Mexican films show that whilst the patriarchal organisation of society is expected to loosen its grip in a modern society, a stable gender structure is desirable.

The class analysis reveals that upward mobility is a desirable outcome in Swedish film stories. Women attain it through love while men do so through work. However, upward mobility is unacceptable in Mexican films; they instead endorse class permanence.