Nordic Models in the Age of Populism

In 2013, The Economist proclaimed the Nordics to be “The Next Supermodel,” citing their unique blend of competitiveness and innovation, equality and wellbeing. In Asia and other parts of the world, Nordic models have also attracted interest, not only for welfare and education, but also other aspects of the “Nordic way.” Yet, the glowing idealization of the region has been tempered by the electoral success of populist parties and the treatment of asylum-seekers and migrants. The Nordic countries represent utopia to some but dystopia to others.

Whether as an object of admiration or criticism, the Nordic model remains a common reference point in comparative and global politics.


Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University in cooperation with UiO:Norden, ReNEW and Harvard University (WFCIA/SANCOR) invites to a two day workshop on the paradoxes and challenges represented by the Nordic models. The Nordic council of ministers and individual Nordic countries are keen to present themselves as models for others but how exceptional are the Nordics really? How relevant is knowledge of Nordic successes and failures for other parts of the world? What kind of impact do the Nordics have and what kind of impact do they want to have?

Program - Nordic Models in the Age of Populism
  Thursday, September 27

Introduction and Welcome

Cathie Jo Martin, Boston University, and Haldor Byrkjeflot, University of Oslo (UiO:Nordic)


Opening Panel: The Nordic Model from a Global Perspective: Populism, Equality and Democracy

Chair: Malcolm Langford, University of Oslo

“Norden” in Global Context | Bo Stråth, University of Helsinki

Nordic Populism | Johan Strang, University of Helsinki

Nordic Knowledge Regimes | Åse Gornitzka, University of Oslo

Nordic Civil Society | Fredrik Engelstad, University of Oslo

11:30-12:30 Lunch
12:30- 2:30

The Making and Circulation of Models: Preconditions for Defining Success and Failure

Chair: Haldor Byrkjeflot, University of Oslo

Cultural Backlash: The Nordic cases in Comparative Perspective | Pippa Norris, Harvard University

Recognition and Collective Well-Being | Michele Lamont, Harvard University

Indexes and Nordic models | Tori Loven Kirkebø, University of Oslo

“The Happiest Nations on Earth” | Carl Marklund, University of Sødertørn, Sweden

Making and Circulation of Nordic Social Policy Models | Klaus Petersen, University of South-

West Denmark

2:30-3:00 Coffee Break

Guided Discussion

Chairs: Cathie Jo Martin, Boston University, and Haldor Byrkjeflot, University of Oslo (UiO:Nordic)

How do the Nordics Look from an American Viewpoint?

How Exceptional Are the Nordics Really?

Circulation of Models; What Kind of Impact do the Nordics Have?

How Relevant is Knowledge of the Reasons behind Nordic Successes and Failures for the Nordics Themselves vs. Others?  

  Friday, September 28

Nordic Models in Comparison

Chair: Fredrik Engelstad, University of Oslo (UiO:Nordic)

Comparative Individualism and Solidarity | Cathie Jo Martin, Boston University

Equality, Redistribution, and Rightwing Populism: A Danish Love Story | Torben Iversen, Harvard University

Posted Workers in Nordic Construction – The Case of Denmark | Jens Arnholtz, University of Copenhagen. 

Nordic Welfare and Wellbeing in Comparison | Hanne Petersen, University of Copenhagen

Discussant: Andrew Martin

10:45-11:00 Coffee Break

Other Nordic Paradoxes

Chair: Johan Strang, University of Helsinki and UiO:Norden

Making of Nordic Exceptionalism | Malcolm Langford, University of Oslo and Bergen

Equality Paradox | Øystein Skorge, ISF Oslo

Multinational Firms | Jette Steen Knudsen, Tufts University

Nordic Energy Paradoxes | Elin Lerum Boasson, University of Oslo

1:00-2:00 Lunch

Closing of Seminar: Follow-up and Future Cooperation?

Chairs: Cathie Jo Martin, Boston University, and Haldor Byrkjeflot, University of Oslo (UiO:Nordic)


What kind of burning research questions and possibilities for further cooperation follow from our workshop? In the application for ReNEW funding it is the plan to organize the annual ReNEW conference in Boston in 2020 and this may be one way to follow up on this workshop. Any further suggestions are also welcome.

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Published Sep. 27, 2018 4:19 PM - Last modified Sep. 27, 2018 7:24 PM