Transnational Historical Perspectives on Social Policy
Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Pauli Kettunen and Klaus Petersen
Chapter 2: The transnational construction of national challenges: the ambiguous Nordic model of welfare and competitiveness
Pauli Kettunen THE CRITIQUE OF NATIONAL GAZE In debates on globalization, the concern for ‘our’ competitiveness plays a crucial role, and it is still mostly the national entities that ‘we’ refers to. The same is true of the vivid reflections on different ‘models’; the concept is associated with nationally organized forms of social life even in the cases when ‘model’ is provided with a transnational attribute like ‘Nordic’. Indeed, defining globalization as a national challenge has been a widely taken-for-granted way of dealing with this transformation. In the current use of the concept of a ‘model’ an interesting ambiguity appears. ‘Models’ such as ‘the Nordic model’ may mean a structure that has become threatened by new challenges associated with economic globalization, European integration, immigration or an ageing society. However, the concept of a model may also refer to different modes of responding to these challenges, especially the challenges of global economic competition. In both cases, globalization is dealt with as a national challenge, yet the ambiguity of the concept of a model implies an important question concerning the changing role of the nation-state. In this chapter I discuss this change by focusing mainly on ‘the Nordic model’. How is the making of a globally competitive national ‘us’ in the Nordic countries related to the older notions of a ‘Nordic society’ and a ‘Nordic welfare state’? Answering this question is possible only if at the same time one examines the preconditions, consequences and limits of the nation-state-centred approach to globalization. This...
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