Series: Politics Today

This book analyses the contemporary politics of the nation states of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and the Home Rule territories of Greenland, Faeroes and Åland that together make up the Nordic region. It covers Scandinavia past and present, parties in developmental perspective, the Scandinavian party system model, the Nordic model of government, the Nordic welfare model, legislative-executive relations in the region, and the changing security environment. The Nordic states have a shared history, common linguistic bonds and a common state Lutheran religion. Of the six Scandinavian languages, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are mutually intelligible, whilst Swedish is an official national language in Finland. Turning to a brief overview of nation-building and state-building in the Nordic region, an obvious distinction can be drawn between those 'stateless nations' which went on to achieve statehood and the territories that have not achieved independence. The book presents a brief chronology of events in Norden up to 1922, when Åland achieved autonomy. In Sweden the historic phase of party-building produced a basic two-plus-three configuration and a party system based on five 'isms': communism, social democracy, agrarianism, liberalism and conservatism. By 1930 there was a bifurcated parliamentary left and a fragmented nonsocialist bloc consisting of essentially town-based Liberal and Conservative parties and a farmer-based Agrarian Party. Whilst acknowledging the limitations inherent in the periodisation of party system change, the book focuses on the extent of party system change since the 'earthquake elections' of 1970-73.

This chapter focuses on the eight-quilled swan of Nordic co-operation depicted in the logo of the Nordic Council, representing the five nation states of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and the three Home Rule territories of the Faeroes, Greenland and Åland. It offers a broad introduction to the changing geo-politics of the Nordic region and views co-operation and, more frequently in an historical light, conflict between the member states in a longitudinal perspective. Iceland is the only Nordic state never to have applied for membership of the European Community (EC)/European Union (EU) and, distinctively in the region, has a special relationship with the United States through its 1951 Defence Agreement. Of the three languages in the Nordic region that are not Indo-European, Finnish and Sámi belong to the same language family. The Scandinavian languages are most clearly related to the other Germanic languages, including English, German, Dutch and Frisian.

in Scandinavian politics today

This chapter provides a thematic background to the present five nation states and three Home Rule territories, in the Nordic region, using the concepts of nation-building, and state-building. Nation-building in nineteenth-century Finland concentrated on the promotion of the Finnish language, a task facilitated by the non-obstructive stance of the Russian imperial power for the bulk of the second half of the century. The Swedish-speaking Åland islands have long-standing links with Sweden. The officials in Norway were often educated in Copenhagen and were in the employ of the Swedish crown. Similarly, the civil servants in Helsinki were Swedish-not Finnish-speaking and worked for the Russian czar. Iceland was geographically distant from the European cultural mainstream and also, unlike Finland and Norway, physically removed from the imperial power, Denmark. In that respect it had much in common with the Faeroes and Greenland, along with Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.

in Scandinavian politics today

Seymour Lipset and Stein Rokkan analyse in a developmental perspective the nature and evolution of the cleavage structure underpinning the emergence by about 1930 of the basic West European party systems. Lipset and Rokkan viewed the main conflict lines, molding the party systems of Western Europe as the increment of four historic revolutions: religious revolution, national revolution, industrial revolution, and proletarian revolution. This chapter opens with a brief presentation of the Lipset and Rokkan framework. It explores how relevant their model of the building of party systems in Europe is to the Scandinavian experience. The chapter examines how useful it is to understand the structuring of the modern party families and the configuration of the party systems that had evolved in the Nordic region by the end of the 1920s. It presents the basic features of the Scandinavian party system model with Sweden as the prototype.

in Scandinavian politics today

This chapter seeks to identify and explains the varying strengths of the main party types at the polls. It emphasises four prominent features. The first two are the electoral supremacy of social democracy in Denmark, Norway and most notably Sweden, and the strength and resilience of agrarianism in Finland. The next two are the strength of the radical left in Finland and Iceland, and the merger of liberalism and conservatism as a catch-all centre-right in Iceland. Viewed from a voter's perspective, during their 'frozen' period before 1970 the Scandinavian party systems exhibited three striking features: a high level of electoral stability; generally low levels of inter-bloc mobility; and, above all, the predominance of class-based voting. The Nordic party systems have traditionally been characterised by a number of non-socialist parties seeking to protect and promote their separate identities in a crowded electoral marketplace.

in Scandinavian politics today

The so-called 'earthquake elections', first in Finland and then in Denmark and Norway between 1970 and 1973, constituted a root-and-branch challenge to the unidimensional Scandinavian party system model and the old mould appeared irrevocably broken. This chapter presents essential background material and asks whether the ground-breaking elections of 1970-1973 created lasting fissures in the Scandinavian party systems and, if so, what new party types have emerged. The increase in legislative parties was not confined to the seismic early 1970s. The chapter concentrates on profiling four new 'party families' that since then have both institutionalised their position and lent the party political spectrum added 'dimensionality'. The eco-socialist parties and new radical rightist parties have been relatively easy to locate on a left-right continuum, whereas the placement of the Greens and new Christian parties, embodying post-materialist and anti-secularist values, respectively, has been more problematical.

in Scandinavian politics today

This chapter focuses on the extent of party system change since the 'earthquake elections' of 1970-1973. In considering the extent of change, it seems useful to separate out three analytically distinct elements of party systems, their size, structure and dynamics. Social structural change has undercut the relative size of the Social Democrats' 'natural' electoral constituency. If changes in the size of the Scandinavian party systems are assessed in relation to the vote share of the three 'pole parties', the Social Democrats, the Agrarians/Centre and the Conservatives, there has been a mixture of 'core persistence' and change. Whilst from an electoral standpoint the Scandinavian party systems have exhibited heightened dimensionality, the structure of the legislative party systems has been predominantly unidimensional. The changing dynamics of the legislative party system involves focusing on three things, the interaction of the parliamentary parties, the nature of legislative majority-building and the structure of party competition.

in Scandinavian politics today

This chapter explores the building of Sweden's reputation as a successful small democracy. Sweden's international reputation as a 'harmonious democracy' in Herbert Tingsten's phrase has been indebted in no small measure to the commentaries of foreign journalists and academics. The chapter seeks to identify the main characteristics of the 'Swedish model' in its heyday in the 1960s. In the 1960s, Finland deviated in several essentials from the 'Scandinavian model'. In the heyday of the Scandinavian model of government, in the 1960s, politics and economics were essentially national in orientation. Neo-corporatism was an essential element in the Scandinavian model, especially in relation to macro-economic policy management. The chapter considers the extent of the deviation from the model elsewhere in the Nordic region. It scrutinizes whether the model has become little more than a receding memory.

in Scandinavian politics today

The origins of the Nordic welfare state were traced to the recessionary 1930s and 'historic compromises' between organisations representing the conflicting interests of capital and labour. This chapter examines the origins of the Nordic model and the process of welfare state-building in the region. It presents an ideal-type Nordic welfare model, which incorporates three analytically distinct components. First was the core welfare principles constituting the normative foundations of the model; second was the main features of the practical operation of the welfare state and third was the identification of desired policy outcomes. The chapter concentrates on the performance of the Nordic welfare model and the extent to which desired policy outcomes have been realised. It considers the challenges facing the Nordic welfare model in the years ahead, with particular reference to the exogenous forces of Europeanisation and globalisation and the internal pressures generated by demographic change.

in Scandinavian politics today
An alternative model?

The two main components in the organisational infrastructure of the Nordic parliaments have comprised the system of specialist and permanent standing committees, and the network of parliamentary party groups (PPGs). PPGs are central parliamentary actors: they participate in the formation and policy-making of governments, whilst for the opposition PPGs are policy sub-systems in their own right, generating policy alternatives, not least in the form of a 'shadow budget'. The chapter sets the scene by mapping a series of common denominators, that is, properties and practices that are shared by the parliaments across the region. Anders Sannerstedt has referred to a distinctively Scandinavian form of parliamentarism, precisely because in Denmark, Norway and Sweden minority cabinets have been obliged to engage in dialogue with parties in opposition. In his words, 'negotiations between the political parties in the parliament are more common in the "Nordic model" than in other types of democratic systems'.

in Scandinavian politics today