Can Large Welfare States & Strong Civil Societies Coexist? Lessons from Scandinavia


Monday, November 19, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:15pm


Ash Center Foyer, 124 Mount Auburn St., Floor 2, Suite 200N

Often civil society is seen as one component in a zero-sum game that also includes the state and market. It is assumed that a large welfare state with comprehensive public services, like those in Scandinavia, will lead to a smaller voluntary sector and diminishing civic engagement. However, the volunteer levels (traditional as well as digital forms), informal help, and monetary donations are high in Scandinavian countries. Civic Engagement in Scandinavia. Volunteering, Informal Help and Giving in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, published by Springer this fall, tries to explain how the combination of strong welfare states, market economies and civic engagement work together in the Scandinavian case.

Join us for a book talk with editors Kristin Strømsnes, Professor at Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, Norway, Democracy Visiting Fellow at the Ash Center; Lars Skov Henriksen, Professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aalborg University, Denmark; and Lars Svedberg, Senior Professor at Institute for Civil Society Studies, Ersta Sköndal Bräcke University College, Stockholm, Sweden. Muriel Rouyer, Adjunct Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, will moderate. This event is cosponsored by the Center for European Studies. 

Lunch will be served.

Book Cover KristinCivic Engagement in Scandinavia. Volunteering, Informal Help and Giving in Denmark, Norway and Sweden

Since the 1990’s, a number of studies have documented a remarkable high and stable amount of popular engagement in civic organizations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Often these countries have been considered deviant cases against the proliferating decline of social capital studies.

However, despite great international interest in the Scandinavian region, the volume argues that the civil societies and the civic engagement of these countries remain poorly understood. Most interest in the Scandinavian welfare models addresses the balance between state and market, but under communicates the role played by civil society and popular engagement in associations and voluntary organizations.

The contributions offer a coherent portrait of stability and change in formal and informal forms of civic engagement over the past 25 years as well as offering contextualized knowledge of the history and institutional design in which Scandinavian civil societies are embedded.