This theme examines the neoliberalisation of the Nordic countries through a study of political language in the tradition of conceptual history (Begrifssgeschichte). While previous studies of Nordic political culture have emphasized a number of concepts (welfare/security, education, work, people, and democracy) as carrying key legacies of Nordic modernity we will explore how these concepts were redefined and made compatible with ideas of consumerism, choice, and individual rationality.
The theme is divided in three interrelated parts.
1) Niklas Olsen will direct a study of the construction of the actor-subjects that people the political economies of the Nordic welfare states in the neoliberal age. How were the pervasive discourses of the consumer, the entrepreneur, the manager, the debtor, the bureaucrat, and the employee construed? And how were these agents used as sources of economic models and celebrated as role models of societal behavior?
2) Johan Strang will lead a study of the neoliberalisation of Nordic democracy. The study will pay particular attention to diffusion of such ideas of rules-based democracy from the domain of macro-economic arguments to notions of human rights and the need for constitutional protection of the individual and her property.
3) Carl Marklund will explore the critique of bureaucracy that informed Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian conceptions of power in the 1990s and 2000s, and the origins of a critique of state in transnational diffusion and circulation from US, France, and Germany. Thinktank activity, translation and publication, and the Nordic power investigations will be central here.