Erlander was unexpectedly elected prime minister in October 1946 and also became chairman of the Social Democratic Party. Having been responsible for Sweden's security police during World War II, he took a decidedly tough anticommunist stance in domestic affairs. He adhered to the idea of Swedish armed neutrality and coined the concept of a "strong society," referring both to a robust welfare state and strong national security.
In the 1960s Erlander left Foreign Minister Torsten Nilsson and intellectual sparring partner and protégé Olof Palme responsible for developing more activist foreign and domestic policies. Erlander's years in office constituted the heyday of the Swedish welfare state. At the same time, Sweden retained its neutrality policy while Erlander's government maintained a cautious and informal entente with the West. After having served in office longer than any other democratically elected prime minister in the twentieth century, in 1969 Erlander left office, handing over the post to Palme. In 1970, Erlander won election to the new single-chamber legislature, which he had supported. He resigned from the Swedish parliament in December 1973. Erlander died in Huddinge, Sweden, on 21 June 1985.
Erlander, Tage. Dagböcker, Vol. 1. Hedemora: Gidlund, 2001.; Erlander, Tage. Memoarer, Vols. 1–6. Stockholm: Tiden, 1972–1979.; Ruin, Olof, and Michael F. Metcalf. Tage Erlander: Serving the Welfare State, 1946–1969. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.