Well-Being and the Nordic Countries - a Historical Approach

Kristian Keto, The Nordic Sociological Association

The Nordic countries are seen as models for the welfare state. Continuous wars in Europe, urbanization, and industrialization questioned existing societal systems in the second half of the 19th century. Even among the most conservative groups people were convinced that changes in society inevitably made political reforms necessary. These reforms invoked new approach to society and political goals. The aspect in this paper are culturally based needs in changing society and improved well-being through societal conditions. The background to this approach consists of the ideas of the leading philosophers implemented through political reforms. In Sweden C.J. Boström, in Norway M.J. Monrad and in Finland J.W. Snellman all shared German philosophical tradition. That tradition led to a Nordic welfare state. Industrialization and urbanization amounted to educational reforms. That happened first in Sweden, then in Norway and Finland respectively. Classical secondary education, including Latin and Greece languages, had been the only route to universities. Since 1870s, after educational reforms curriculum with natural sciences and modern languages qualified for universities. Technical education as applied science emerged. Philosophy, Scientia Sciantiarum, notably ideas of Immanuel Kant and G.W.F. Hegel, philosophically now including natural sciences which thus contributed to societal reforms. Especially chemistry in these agrarian societies increased social integration. New groups were added to estates peasantry and bourgeoisie and political suffrage widened. Reforms began in the 1860s in Sweden, in the following decades in Norway and Finland. People could have a duty to choose another society, if the society they had grown up didn’t allow the use of one’s talents. The essence of Scientia Sciantiarum was universality and autonomy. Some main arguments from the parliamentary debates in Sweden, Norway and Finland, based on Kant’s idea of the capacity to act on principles, and the Hegelian idea of individual wills and the general will.

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 Presented in Session 189. Learning Well: Pedagogy, Curriculum, and Contestation