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Nordic Paths to Modernity

Nordic Paths to Modernity

Jóhann Páll Árnason
Björn Wittrock
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 296
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    Nordic Paths to Modernity
    Book Description:

    Within the growing attention to the diverse forms and trajectories of modern societies, the Nordic countries are now widely seen as a distinctive and instructive case. While discussions have centred on the 'Nordic model' of the welfare state and its record of adaptation to the changing global environment of the late twentieth century, this volume's focus goes beyond these themes. The guiding principle here is that a long-term historical-sociological perspective is needed to make sense of the Nordic paths to modernity; of their significant but not complete convergence in patterns, which for some time were perceived as aspects of a model to be emulated in other settings; and of the specific features that still set the five countries in question (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland) apart from one another. The contributors explore transformative processes, above all the change from an absolutistmilitary state to a democratic one with its welfarist phase, as well as the crucial experiences that will have significant implications on future developments.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-270-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)
    Jóhann Páll Árnason and Björn Wittrock

    This is a book about five independent states which are commonly included in definitions of the Nordic region (and now formally associated through membership in various organizations): Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. These countries are characterized by a high, and in a European context arguably unique, degree of commonality in terms of traditions, cultural habits, institutional structures, languages and closeness of cooperation.

    At various points in time from the late medieval era to the period after the Second World War, there have been advanced plans for the creation of a common political entity. In the course of the fourteenth...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Nordic Modernity: Origins, Trajectories, Perspectives
    (pp. 25-48)
    Bo Stråth

    Nordic modernity is often understood in terms of enlightened and progressive welfare politics and social equality. There is a more or less implicit association with images of a Social Democratic model. The aim of this article is twofold: to discuss the historical preconditions and construction of that model of progressive politics, and to discuss its relevance today and its future prospects.

    Concerning the first aim, there is nothing historically predetermined about a progressive development path. Nordic modernity should not be understood as teleology or as given by a natural state of egalitarian peasant communities. On the contrary, until the Napoleonic...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Danish Path to Modernity
    (pp. 49-68)
    Uffe Østergård

    In a comparative context, Danish national identity and political culture combine features of what is often referred to as East European ‘integral nationalism’, typical of smaller, recently independent nation-states and the ‘patriotic concept of citizenship’ in the older West European state nations (Brubaker 1992). The explanation of this apparent paradox is that Denmark belongs to both families. A former multinational, composite state was cut down to a size that enabled a class of about sixty thousand peasant-farmers to establish an ideological hegemony in the diminished and nationalized, yet still fully legitimate, state.¹

    Until the loss of the Norwegian part of...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Denmark 1740–1940: A Centralized Cultural Community
    (pp. 69-88)
    Niels Kayser Nielsen

    Every evening at about 6.20 P.M. – when the advertisements are over – TV 2, Denmark’s second national and, in principle, public service-oriented television channel, broadcasts a weather report. The scenography is peculiar: placed out in the North Sea, the speaker hides the western part of Jutland most of the time, so that the viewers in this area are kept from seeing what the weather will be like the following day. The speaker’s gaze is directed towards Zealand and the capital, Copenhagen. The situation is further complicated when the speaker is a woman: because of her position out in the North Sea,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Making of Sweden
    (pp. 89-110)
    Björn Wittrock

    In 2003 two events in Sweden, beside the tragic murder of the young foreign minister, stood out in the stream of events. First, it was the year commemorating the seven hundredth anniversary of the birth of St Birgitta, the only saint of Scandinavia properly canonized by the Pope, and one of three patron saints of Europe and the European Union. Second, in a referendum a clear majority of the Swedish people rejected the third step of European Monetary Union and the acceptance of the Euro as the new currency.

    The first event underscored the fact that in the course of...

  9. CHAPTER 5 History and Ethics in Pre-revolutionary Sweden
    (pp. 111-142)
    Peter Hallberg

    The purpose of this chapter is to analyse how historians and other writers in eighteenth-century Sweden conceived of the social benefits of history writing within the context of what they considered a modern(izing) enlightened polity.¹ In the 1740s and 1750s the benefits of history were discussed in the context of an ongoing enlightenment discourse on society that stipulated a close relationship between knowledge about the past and values like civility, virtue and patriotism. Virtually all of the speeches that are analysed in this chapter refer to how historical reflection is a social practice that creates civic bonds between individuals and...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Metamorphoses of Norwegian Reformism
    (pp. 143-166)
    Rune Slagstad

    The Norwegian modernization project has a centre in the political. So have the historical accounts of the project. The most influential historian since 1945, Jens Arup Seip, describes the shifting political regimes – the ‘civil servants’ state’ (1814–1884), the ‘Liberal Party state’ (1884–1940), the ‘Labour Party state’ (1945 to ca. 1980) – in terms of which elite groups had control of resources of power and thus were able to operate from strategic positions in the central political machine (Seip 1974, 1981). The shifting regimes are determined by the political struggle for power, by gaining it and exercising it. This Machiavellian...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Alternative Processes of Modernization?
    (pp. 167-190)
    Gunnar Skirbekk

    What does it mean to be ‘modern’? To be Chinese and modern? Muslim and modern? Norwegian and modern? Is there, basically, just one way of being modern? Or are there ‘multiple modernities’ (cf. Eisenstadt 2000; Arnason et al. 2005) – different ways of becoming modern and of being modern? In short, is the process of modernization one and unilinear? Or, are there alternative processes of modernization?

    Before we proceed to address these questions, it is important to note the political urgency of the underlying context. Today we are confronted with challenges that could be cast in these terms: is there a...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Nordic and Finnish Modernity: A Comparison
    (pp. 191-206)
    Risto Alapuro

    Bo Stråth’s essay ‘Nordic Modernity: Origins, Trajectories and Prospects’ (2004) covers Finland, along with Sweden, Denmark and Norway. In his view a largely similar model of progressive politics ‘broke through [in these countries] in the 1930s as a response to the Great Depression. Everywhere in Norden red-green Social Democratic-Farmers’ Party reform coalitions emerged in attempts to cope with the economic crisis, and extreme political alternatives were marginalized’ (2004: 5; see also Stråth in this volume: 27). From this vantage point Stråth discusses the historical preconditions of the model, emphasizing above all two factors underpinning ‘a more progressive and egalitarian development...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Paradoxes of the Finnish Political Culture
    (pp. 207-228)
    Henrik Stenius

    Asking what type of Nordic political culture Finland lived in during the Grand Duchy period (1809–1917), I distinguish between two kinds of Finnish specificities. One type consists of specificities, or ‘determinants’, that help us to understand why actors in Finland ended up on tracks that differed from the roadmaps of their contemporaries in the other Nordic countries. What distinguishes the Finnish political culture from the other Nordic countries? To identify the most important differences one has to focus on the Grand Duchy period of Finnish history. In the first part of the article I deal with these specificities. In...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Icelandic Anomalies
    (pp. 229-250)
    Jóhann Páll Árnason

    According to one of the most widely read contemporary historians, ‘Iceland is anomalous in almost every way’ (Fernandez-Armesto 2000: 368); and although this particular author is so far out of touch with the record that he thinks there were cities in medieval Iceland and Greenland, hisaperçuis not a bad starting point for reflection on a very atypical offshoot of the European tradition. An inventory of anomalies might begin with Iceland’s ambiguous status within the region discussed by other contributors to this volume. On the one hand, the idea of a Nordic world would be incomplete without reference to...

  15. CHAPTER 11 Icelandic Modernity and the Role of Nationalism
    (pp. 251-274)
    Guðmundur Hálfdanarson

    At the turn of the twentieth century, the future looked bright to most Europeans. This was, in Stefan Zweig’s words, ‘the Golden Age of Security’ (die Zeitalter der Sicherheit), and the world appeared – at least to those who belonged to the privileged sectors of European society – stable and politically secure (Zweig 1944: 16–17). To them, the first years of the new century were also ‘the age of reason’ (das Zeitalter der Vernunft), as Europeans enjoyed more freedom of action and expression at this time than they had ever before; scientific discoveries had paved the way for technical and industrial...

  16. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 275-278)
  17. Index
    (pp. 279-288)