Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Torben Fridberg, Mikael Hjerm and Kristen Ringdal

Providing highly rigorous and up-to-date data, with a wide coverage of topics, this book will be of great interest to academics and students in sociology, social policy and political science. It will also appeal to anyone interested in the Nordic countries in general.

Chapter 11: Economic Morality

Kristen Ringdal

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Kristen Ringdal INTRODUCTION Recently, the assumption that corruption and low economic morality were mainly a problem in the third world has been challenged by a number of publicly exposed corruption and financial scandals in rich countries. The Nordic countries have been no exception. In Sweden, the biggest corporate scandal for 70 years was revealed in 2003. The chairman of the insurance company Skandia had to resign and three chief executives were charged with financial misconduct and tax fraud. In Norway, the media have exposed dubious practices in both the private and public sectors. In 2003, three top Statoil executives resigned because of their alleged participation in the arrangement of a $15 million ‘consulting contract’ that may have been used to bribe Iranian officials. Do these examples reduce the assumption that the Nordic countries have higher moral standards and ethical economic behaviours than other countries to the status of myth? Often the Nordic countries or Scandinavia are described as an entity with common norms. Is this also a myth, or do we find a common standard of economic morality in the Nordic countries? These two research questions are the point of departure for this chapter. Economic morality is ethics applied to the economic sphere and comprises values, attitudes and behaviour. Corruption is a narrower concept and can be defined as the abuse of (public) power for private gain. Although a great deal of research has focused on corruption in relation to public officials, the definition applies equally...

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