The Nordic model, also called Nordic social democracy, refers to the economic and social policies common to the three Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway and Sweden as well as the Nordic countries Finland and Iceland. Why is the Nordic model so successful? Researchers all over the world are curious.
The term is coined to capture the unique combination of free market capitalism and social benefits, creating a society that enjoys top quality services like free education, free healthcare and generous guaranteed pension payments for retirees.
Researchers all over the world are looking to the Nordic model to examine when and why it emerged, and why it evidently is so successful. However, recently there has been a greater interest for discovering the secrets of the model outside the Nordic region, while less research has been done inside the region itself.
In 2015 the University of Oslo launched a research program called “Global Challenges – Nordic Experiences”. In March 2017 they arranged the first cross-disciplinary Nordic Challenges conference, aiming to establish an international forum for researchers who work with issues related to Nordic experiences. Haldor Byrkjeflot, academic director of UiO: Nordic, the strategic inititative behind the “Nordic challenges research program” was the chief organizer behind the conference.
There are many questions and issues to be taken into consideration, for instance the role of the indexes where the Nordic countries commonly score the highest. What is measured and how? One example is the happiness index, where Norway score highest followed by Denmark , Switzerland and Iceland.
Gitte Meyer from Copenhagen Business School argues that the measurements used for the happiness index may be misleading. “There has been 2,500 years of disagreement on what is happiness,” she claims. “Fortuna has often been named the Goddess of Happiness, but is the Goddess of Luck a better depiction?” she asks.
The Happiness Industry is not a new one. 125 years ago the American neurologist George Miller Beard wrote a paper, “American Nervousness, Its Causes and Consequences”, in which he discusses several issues related to happiness, or rather the opposite, like domestic and financial trouble, politics and religion, gambling, new inventions and many more.
Happiness indicators have been as volatile as happiness itself. The first World Happiness Report was launched in 2012, and the Nordic countries have always been on top. But how does happiness research and happiness measuring affect what is considered valuable in a society?
The research program “Global Challenges – Nordic Experiences” at University of Oslo currently involves 140 researchers. The project has been granted NOK 80 million from the the University of Oslo and the participating units of the University must fund the same amount itself, totaling NOK 160 million. One of the projects, Nordic Branding, covers issues like social welfare, gender equality and rights and democracy. The group, led by professor Malcolm Langford, involves 35 researchers from the University of Oslo and beyond.
Professor Byrkjeflot explains that all countries today wish to brand themselves. However, there are several examples of negative national branding.
Mads Mordhorst, associate professor at Copenhagen Business School, has written a paper titled Public Diplomacy vs Nation Branding: The Case of Denmark after the Cartoon Crisis (2016) included in the book Histories of Public Diplomacy and Nation Branding in the Nordic and Baltic Countries. In this paper he discusses how Denmark moved from emphasizing the need for a positive and strategic to a more complex and negative branding strategy after the Danish government took out advertisements in Lebanon telling refugees not to go to Denmark. As a consequence the international media has become more critical in their reporting of current events in Denmark, such as for instance in their reporting of Danish kindergartens that were obliged to serve pork to protect “Danish food culture”.
Is the Nordic Model sustainable? How are ideas about Nordic identity and models constructed and disseminated? What drives the construction of the Nordic region as exceptional and successful and how are such perceptions of the Nordics challenged.
These and several other questions are discussed in this strategic initiative launched by the University of Oslo. Researchers across disciplines from all over the world continue to cultivate their findings, and Daily Scandinavian will follow the project and report on the developments.
Are Scandinavians the Happiest People in the World? Written by Tor Kjolberg