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11 November: The Northern Utopia: What is Distinctive About the Nordic Countries

11 July 2007

Dr Mary Hilson – UCL Scandinavian Studies
For much of the twentieth century, the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) have been widely cited as examples of success, famed for their economic prosperity, social solidarity and quality of life. Much of this is attributed to the so-called Nordic or Scandinavian model: extensive welfare states, consensual democracy, an egalitarian tax system and strict job regulation. This lecture explores what makes the Nordic countries distinctive, and why this small, sparsely populated region on the periphery of Europe has attracted – and continues to attract – so much international attention. Is the Nordic success the result of specific policies during the twentieth century, or are there deeper historical and cultural explanations? How have recent events – in particular the 2006 Mohammed cartoons crisis in Denmark – challenged our idea of the Nordic countries as model societies? (The lecture draws on Dr Mary Hilson’s recent book, ‘The Nordic Model: Scandinavia since 1945’ (London: Reaktion Books, June 2008)

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