Valtakunnallisen humanistisen verkko-opetuksen tarjoamat verkkokurssit

The key texts on nordic welfare state

The virtual course Key Texts on Nordic Welfare State is arranged by the Renvall Institute for Area and Cultural Studies. The course is held in spring 2004, and it is meant for the students of the University of Helsinki. Students of other universities can also participate in the course, provided their home universities have made proper agreements with the Renvall Institute. The course is worth four ECTS credits (two credits of the University of Helsinki), and its language is English. The course uses WebCT 3.5 as its virtual platform.

To register for the course, please contact the university lecturer in Nordic studies, Doc. Lars-Folke Landgren,, tel. +358-(0)9-19122985.

Introduction of the Theme

Social heaven or totalitarian hell - the Nordic welfare states have been object of characterizations and projections as controversial as can be. While questions as ideological as the one posed above might not turn out to be fruitful, there are many other questions and controversies related to the Nordic welfare states which are highly interesting and important. This becomes most obvious when the concept is broken down into its components. Modern Nordic identity has to a high degree been related to the notion of the welfare state. This is just as true for inner-Nordic debates as for perceptions from outside. At the same time, in Nordic and international discourse the Nordic countries are usually considered as particularly good examples for the welfare state. In other words, if we want to get acquainted with Norden, we have to study the welfare state, and if we want to know what the welfare state is - or what it might be -, we have to take a look at the Nordic countries.

The course Key Texts on the Nordic Welfare States undertakes such a double exploration of Norden and the welfare state on the basis of major scholarly contributions to the subject. Double exploration will be the line of thought followed by this course in a number of other respects as well. It is designed for both students of social sciences and for students of history. There will be a political and structural view asking questions on identity, distinctive features, and agency related to the Nordic welfare state as well as a historical view focussing on key periods for its development, namely the turn from the 19th to the 20th century, the 1930s, the 1960s and the 1990s. These periods stand for particular issues, namely social insurances, population and family policies, general economic and labour market policies and finally what has been called the crisis of the welfare state.

Each of the single sections of the course will be represented by two key texts looking at the subject from different angles. This means mainly a difference in approach and interpretation, but generally the texts even involve a confrontation of a Nordic insider-view with a view from outside. The texts are exploring both the general traits of the Nordic model and the typical features of individual cases. The latter refers especially to Denmark, the model in the phases of take-off and crisis, and to Sweden, the model during the heydays of the welfare state. As justified by the literature on the subject, Norway and Finland will be treated somewhat more cursory. Nevertheless, the main interest of the course is the common Nordic experience. Finally, double exploration means that although the concept of reading and discussing key scholarly texts obviously sets a focus on scientific discourse and different interpretations, the course even aims at providing a basic knowledge of facts about the Nordic welfare states.

So, join the course, explorer!