The National Welfare State: Citizenship and Democracy
Since the 18th Century, the Nordic nation states have demonstrated a strong will and ability for social and national integration. There are, of course, periods in which social and political conflicts have threatened the stability and challenged the idea of one nation. But since the inter-war period, the national cohesion has been a dominant orientation, especially promoted by welfare policies and, in the second half of the 20th Century, the very understanding of the Nordic countries as highly developed welfare states has become an integrated element in the national identities. Whether they have been extreme, like the Finnish civil war, or kept within the parliamentary framework, the political confrontations have often in a paradoxical way tended to confirm the idea of “one people”.
Important research questions in this respect are, which kinds of citizenship have developed as a result of the establishment of national welfare states? This can be studied from both a class and a gender (and ethnic) perspective. Or as to how the relationship between democracy and welfare states has been articulated and institutionalized (issues such as social and political rights, men vis-à-vis women in welfare legislation etc.). Studying the historical dimensions of the welfare state in this respect will enable us to nuance the often very theoretical understanding of “social rights” and “citizenship” in comparative welfare state research and to form the basis for a better understanding of the challenges posed by recent tendencies such as globalization, Europeanization, individualization and immigration.