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The Relational Nordic Welfare State: Between Utopia and Ideology – Book Review

The Relational Nordic Welfare State: Between Utopia and Ideology

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing
Year: 2019
Language: English

Edited by

Sakari Hänninen, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland
Kirsi-Marja Lehtelä, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland
Paula Saikkonen, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland

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.


M. Berg, S. Blomgren, P. Borioni, S. Hänninen, M. Jokela, P. Kettunen, M. Kivipelto, T. Kotkas, P.H. Kristensen, K.-M. Lehtelä, K. Lilja, E. Moen, M. Perlinski, P. Saikkonen, S.F. Schram, K. Tuori, N. Witoszek

Book Review

Nordics welfare states are often held by observers as best practice models to be learnt about and followed. However, applying a purely economic framework fails to understand the social and cultural underpinnings. Its original founding principles are based on equality, solidarity, public responsibility, universalism, and autonomy. Analysis from a relational perspective illuminates understanding that is not possible from the economic lens and provides a big-picture synopsis of the historical, current, and future reality of the Nordic welfare state. This book delves deep into the structures of these societies and their constitute relations. It explores the challenges that beset the welfare state on all sides including the pervasive forces of globalisation and neoliberalism. The Relational Nordic Welfare State is an excellent read for anyone interested in the welfare state and the role and importance of social and relational factors.

Other Notable Editorial Reviews

‘Theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich, this is an excellent – diverse yet coherent – collection on the changing Nordic welfare state, which I highly recommend.’
– Ray Kiely, Queen Mary University of London, UK

‘Most studies of the Nordic welfare states concentrate on specific policies. The contributors to this book probe far deeper than this, examining the deeper cultural and social roots of these distinctive systems, as well as of the changes now taking place in them.’
– Colin Crouch, University of Warwick, UK and Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Germany

‘Excellent and novel, the chapters in this book offer an incisive analysis of the historical paths and contemporary challenges for Nordic welfare states. The relational perspective gives a theoretically fresh and insightful understanding of these states as states of civilization. A must-read for anyone interested in the past, present and future of the welfare state.’
– Åsa Lundqvist, Lund University, Sweden

Purchase online

The eBook version is priced from £25/$32 from Google Play and other eBook vendors, while in print the book can be ordered from the Edward Elgar Publishing website.


Introduction: the Nordic welfare state as a state of civilisation
Sakari Hänninen, Kirsi-Marja Lehtelä and Paula Saikkonen

1 Neoliberal relations of poverty and the welfare state
Sanford F. Schram

2 The Nordic welfare state and the challenge of difference
Sakari Hänninen

3 The profits and pitfalls of prosociality: cultural-evolutionary perspectives on Scandinavia
Nina Witoszek

4 The Nordic model in ordo-liberal Europe: from welfare parity to social hierarchy?
Paolo Borioni

5 The rise and fall of the Nordic utopia of an egalitarian wage work society
Pauli Kettunen

6 Nordic welfare states, trust and the rights discourse: the history of the children’s day care system in Finland
Toomas Kotkas

7 A social constitution of Europe?
Kaarlo Tuori

8 The eco-social Nordic welfare state – a distant dream or a possible future?
Monika Berg and Paula Saikkonen

9 Social sustainability and the organization of social work from the perspective of Finnish adult social work practitioners
Minna Kivipelto, Merita Jokela, Sanna Blomgren and Marek Perlinski

10 Civilizing business enterprises: the search for a new Nordic growth and development model
Peer Hull Kristensen, Eli Moen and Kari Lilja

Epilogue: the Nordic welfare state beyond ideology and utopia
Sakari Hänninen, Kirsi-Marja Lehtelä and Paula Saikkonen

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