Handbook of Alternative Theories of Economic Development
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Handbook of Alternative Theories of Economic Development

Edited by Erik S. Reinert, Jayati Ghosh and Rainer Kattel

The Handbook of Alternative Theories of Economic Development explores the theories and approaches which, over a prolonged period of time, have existed as viable alternatives to today’s mainstream and neo-classical tenets. With a total of more than 40 specially commissioned chapters, written by the foremost authorities in their respective fields, this volume represents a landmark in the field of economic development. It elucidates the richness of the alternative and sometimes misunderstood ideas which, in different historical contexts, have proved to be vital to the improvement of the human condition.
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Chapter 29: The Nordic route to development

Lars Mjøset


The label ‘Nordic model’ is applied in increasingly diverse ways, but the following account concentrates on one of the classic uses: the suggestion that the development of the Nordic countries can serve as a role model for the development of developing countries aiming to catch up with the leading economies. The label ‘Norden’ here refers to the five larger Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, the main members of the regional organization, the Nordic Council. While many actors – such as the Nordic agencies of development assistance – claim that there are Nordic policy ideas that may be transferred, my point of departure is a detailed historical and comparative investigation of Nordic development patterns since the industrial revolution and on to the 1970s. For experience to be transferred, I provide a lot of historical experiences, but the crux of the matter is that there can only be learning if there is symmetric contextualization at the receiving end. I return to this topic in the conclusion. This chapter has two major points of departure. First, my use of the term ‘model’ as a social science concept applies to large units, such as nation-states, phases of the world economy, regions (in the world economy or within countries), or international regimes. In the following, I deal with nation-states and regional clusters of such states. I rely on social science research leading to case-based macro-comparisons between countries, but of course not disregarding their integration into a broader world-economic setting.

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