The Relational Nordic Welfare State
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The Relational Nordic Welfare State

Between Utopia and Ideology

Edited by Sakari Hänninen, Kirsi-Marja Lehtelä and Paula Saikkonen

The success of the Nordic welfare state is well known, but the key drivers of its remarkable expansion are not. This book explores the relationships between citizens that constitute the normative groundwork of Nordic societies, arguing that the quality of relations steers welfare development.
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Chapter 2: The Nordic welfare state and the challenge of difference

Sakari Hänninen


Sakari Hänninen penetrates the fundamental normative order of the Nordic welfare state. The overarching meta-principle of this order is equality. The relational nature of equality is conceptualised in terms of interests, conventions and institutions. As a relation, equality is multi-dimensional, and we can speak of equality in terms of what, why, how and whom. Politics matters in the Nordic welfare state, since the promotion of equality requires that opposite interests are mediated, and unavoidable conflicts are balanced. This has been the strength of the Nordic political democracy of social citizenship. It is an outcome of a democratic form of politics which is able to creatively cope with new challenges. The biggest present challenge facing the Nordic welfare state is to determine how to promote the equality of difference at a time when the neoliberal offensive has forcefully landed in the Nordic countries.

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