Tag Archives: Norway

Geir Hønneland, Russia and the Arctic: Environment, Identity and Foreign Policy & Leif Christian Jensen, International Relations in the Arctic: Norway and the Struggle for Power in the New North (London/New York: IB Tauris, 2016)

Geir Hønneland and Leif Christian Jensen, both friends and colleagues at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway, wrote one book each that were published in the early part of 2016 by indie publisher, I.B. Tauris. Although each book discusses a subject of its own, for many reasons, the two books seem to nicely complement each other especially for scholars seeking a more holistic approach to Norwegian-Russian Arctic relations. As the present author started reading Hønneland’s book first and then went on to read Jensen’s, this review unfolds in exactly the same manner.

In “Russia and the Arctic: Environment, Identity and Foreign Policy,” Geir Hønneland goes back to one of his most prolific research subjects, namely Russia, and more specifically how Russia defines its own Arctic identity. Indeed, the aim of Hønneland’s book is to shift the discourse from the more media-friendly notions of the “Arctic buzz” and the “Scramble for the Arctic” to discuss what Russia actually wants in the Arctic, and how Russia actually defines itself, through its own Arctic and political discourses, as an Arctic nation. At the heart of the book lies an essential conceptualization of narrative and identity theory in which narratives are not construed as being a mere reflection of the world, but rather constitutive of the self, and as Hønneland puts it, narratives are rarely of one’s own making. In having Russia as the main protagonist of his book, Hønneland is able to further explore the role of the Arctic in shaping Russia’s projection of its own identity at the national level as well as onto both the international and the inter-regional (i.e. Arctic) stages. To do so, Hønneland divided his book into six chapters of relatively equal size touching upon subjects such as the so-called “Rush for the Arctic”, the delimitation of the Barents Sea, management of marine resources, continental shelf issues and Region building processes through identity formation. As a Norwegian researcher, Hønneland also strongly focuses on the relation between Norway and Russia, especially at the Barents-region level but also onto the broader stage.

Ambivalent relations could be said to be one of the major premises on which this book is built. Internally, Russia is perceived as the epitome of the epic absurdist genre, the “anti-Disneyland” where everything that could go wrong actually goes wrong, but Russia also likes to be seen as “the territory without limits”, the boundless, borderless land with no edges. And, to this respect, Hønneland shows the readers that the characteristics, which are generally associated with “Northern-ness” or with the Arctic, are the ones Russia associates with itself in a process that aims at constructing its own Arctic identity in blurring the boundaries between the Arctic as such and Russia. On this subject, Geir Hønneland even concludes that the Arctic is more Russian than Russia itself.

In the collective unconsciousness, the Russian struggle for identity is often perceived as being linked to its unconventional relation with the West and, in this view, the only choice there is to make for Russia is between being willing to create relations with the West – to get closer to Europe – or to create a sense of national identity more focused on Russia itself.  In either case, Russian identity is construed as being a narrative in which Russia needs to other the West in order to have a more stable identity. In modern days, as Hønneland points out, the Arctic is the modern incarnation of Russia’s willingness to work with the West, especially when Vladimir Putin talks of the Arctic as “our common Arctic home.” In this mind-set, Russia is both depicted as being warry of the West – especially Norway in the Barents Region and Canada in the broader Arctic – but also as being willing to sit at the table with other Arctic nations.

On top of discussing four key Arctic issues from a Norwegian perspective (i.e. security, Russia, the environment, and the exploitation of natural resources in the Barents Sea), with “International Relations in the Arctic: Norway and the Struggle for Power in the New North,” Leif Christian Jensen aims at offering a new methodological and analytical framework to the field of discourse analysis and to social sciences (more so than Hønneland), thus the first two chapters of the book are heavily theoretical. These methodological chapters focus on how dominant discourses enable and disable actions both at the domestic and the international levels and “how socially oriented discourse analysis can be relevant to analyses of actual political issues.”  Indeed, Jensen himself states that one of his sub-aims is to demystify discourse analysis and make it more accessible (to make it “less frightening and more tempting”) to both scholars and students who are active in political science and other fields within social sciences. Therefore, Jensen’s book, which is an extended version of his doctoral thesis, could well be read with a non-Arctic approach if one was to focus on the broader theoretical framework. Nevertheless, the case study being the Norwegian ‘struggle’ to construct itself as an Arctic nation, being knowledgeable in Arctic matters helps to understand how Jensen’s analysis is to be applied.

Throughout the book, Jensen wants to demonstrate that discourse is constructive, and that, through discourse, it is possible to construct truth, meaning, and knowledge. To do so, he divided his book into eight chapters in which he covers subjects such as discourse analysis of Arctic policy debates and official Norwegian and Russian foreign policy discourses on the New North. Relying on a well-constructed database research analysis of four of the main Norwegian newspapers (i.e. Aftenposten, Dagens Næringsliv, Klassekampen, and Nordlys), Jensen researched how national identities are constructed in newspapers and texts written by those holding power. Furthermore, Jensen uses the example of Norwegian mineral resources exploitation to show to what extent discourses and narratives can be co-opted and how Norway’s main official discourse in the Barents Sea shifted from being environmentally-friendly to “drilling for sake of the environment.” Indeed, the argument of Norwegian environmentalists was co-opted and reversed by the pro-oil side whose argument has been to focus on others, such as Russia, and say that if Norway left it to other states or private businesses, they would do a worse job at being environmentally friendly. To link this with Hønneland’s theory, this can be seen as a Norwegian attempt to other Russia to justify its own Arctic identity. Jensen even goes further in his analysis in stating that this kind of shift in discourses is accentuated by the press and by official publications, through which the main discourse reinforces itself.

One of the most positive aspects of Jensen’s book – and something rare in academia – is Jensen’s strong commitment to connect with his readers and to involve them through the text itself. Far from the generally dry and anonymous academic approach, which, more often than not, tries to suppress any trace of temporality and of self in order to make a lasting contribution to the researched field, Jensen’s inclusion of himself and of his readers into the structure of his research manages to make it easier for the readers to relate and to understand the theoretical framework.

Both Hønneland and Jensen managed to avoid talking of the Arctic as the new hotspot in international affairs, and, to some extent, their down-to-earth approach to Arctic relations can be seen as an attempt to normalise Arctic issues and to hush the “rush for the Arctic” discourse and to finally put it to bed. Both books can also be seen as a successful attempt to show how important it is, in terms of international affairs, to understand how countries perceived themselves and how they would like to be seen on the international stage. Far from gathering dust on libraries’ shelves, these books will be interesting for students, academics, and anyone interested in Arctic relations, especially in Norwegian-Russian Arctic relations and how this relation is construed on both sides of the border. However, these books should not only be read by Arctic scholars, as they also have much to offer to those seeking to read more about identity and discourse analysis and how it can be used in nation building and in international affairs.

Steinar Imsen (ed.), The Norwegian Dominion and the Norse World c. 1100-c1400 & Taxes, Tributes and Tributary Lands in the Making of the Scandinavian Kingdoms in the Middle Ages (Trondheim: Tapir Academic Press, 2010 & 2011)

These two edited books constitute a set; they complement one another. Together they provide an excellent scholarly overview of much of the literature on the Vikings and Scandinavia. These will no doubt be standard sources for anyone interested in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Icelandic history. Fins will also benefit from this book, as will those in the United Kingdom interested in the early history of “the Danes” in Northumbria, Wessex, Essex and other Anglo-Saxon and Celtic lands. Irish, Welsh and Scottish historians will certainly want to be aware of this excellent body of work by pre-eminent scholars. A great body of literature is summarized and it would require someone extremely well versed in Scandinavian history to be able to discern if the proper emphasis is placed on contributions by leading academics of the past. I would definitely recommend that academic librarians order these books as key historical reference texts. Some of the twenty-six chapters involve some degree of cross-referencing, but by and large each chapter is relatively independent. Yet the books do “hang together.”

At the same time, the two books to some extent lack a coherent theoretical outlook. There is not much Comparative Historical Sociology (CHS) as opposed to idiographic history and “thick description.” Like many highly specialized works the editor and the authors assume quite a bit of previous knowledge so this is not likely to be a good set of books for an introductory course, except of course in Scandinavia itself (where students are more likely to have the background knowledge). The use of older letters for older words is appropriate but also presents a small obstacle to those who may not immediately want to have a detailed understanding. Nevertheless, separate chapters could be assigned in undergraduate and graduate history courses. For example, in a course in United Kingdom history the sections on Wales, Scotland and Ireland could benefit from several of the chapters in Steinar (2011).

If a CHS framework had been applied more rigorously then the distinction between “tribute” in ‘tributary lands” and “taxes” in taxation lands would have to be discussed in more detail. The definitions assumed by various authors are neither consistent nor entirely rigorous. For example Barbara Crawford writes about the skatts in the Orkneys and Caithness. In some parts of Norse Britain like the Hebrides and the Orkneys  (bordlands) a tribute was paid by the “earls” to the “kings” of Norway. But it is not entirely clear that the skatt system can be considered a “tax system” per se. Fifteenth century tribute systems were not necessarily tax systems in the narrow sense What Crawford discusses as “rentals” could equally be considered a kind of appanage system. In terms of sociological theory it might have been better to stick with the notion of a “tribute system” (Latin tributa). Of course there was a kind of evolution from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries, but the subtle shifts are not investigated as systematically as some might wish. Nevertheless, Crawford does deal with some of the changes that took place over several hundred years. It may be that the geographically compact nature of the Orkneys and Caithness made it possible to introduce a tribute system which was somewhat more “advanced” toward a taxation system. There were 3,670 “pennylands” in Orkney and 18 pennylands were one “ounceland” (urislands). The idea of a monetary assessment based on ploughlands comes closer to a true taxation system, but it is not clear that was something which took place on a regular basis, or only for the construction of a cathedral (Saint Magnus).

The lack of Indices makes is somewhat difficult to cross-reference ideas. One would not necessarily expect one index for the two books, of course, but each book individually could benefit from a detailed Index. So many technical terms are used that a word list would have been helpful for those readers who do not fluently read Norwegian, Danish, Swedish or Icelandic!

The editor, Steinar Imsen, has certainly done an excellent job in compiling first class, relevant essays by top ranking scholars. It is not easy to get this degree of focus on detailed subject matter. Overall there is much agreement, although there are not any papers devoted to a discussion of theoretical or methodological problems per se. (Methodological comments are incidental and mostly contained in footnotes.) The 2010 volume is the result of a workshop on the Norse world held in Røros, Norway, in 2008. The 2011 volume is the product of a workshop held in Visby, Sweden. Colleagues were enthusiastic in discussing a common Scandinavian-Norse-Swedish-Danish-Scottish-Irish-Welsh-British world that spanned several hundreds of years (approximately 8th – 16th centuries). Anyone who is not already deeply immersed in pre-Medieval and Medieval Northern European history is bound to learn a great deal. For example, while I had some general knowledge of Sweden as a nation the short chapter by Thomas Lindkvist (Imsen 2010, pp. 251-262) made me much more aware of the differences between Svealand and Götaland. The Svear and the Göta of Västergötland and Östergötland were not always united. Indeed, the Götland provinces were “Christianized” earlier and were seemingly more connected to events in continental Europe, including the emergence of full blown “patrimonial” feudalism (Weber 1968). The link between the Roman Catholic Church and the Europeanized kingdoms of Sweden and Norway is not fully understood. But the existence of a traditional bureaucracy (Bakker 2010) in the form of bishoprics and nunneries, etc., seems to have been a key to the emergence of the type of “feudalism” usually discussed in textbooks. It is interesting to note that the Geatas discussed in Beowulf may or may not have been the Götar and Beowulf may not be a reliable historical source for the sixth century.

Some parts of these books are also directly relevant to German, Estonian and Russian historians. For example, the 12-13th century Danish “empire” in the Baltic is discussed in Chapter 12 by Jens Osesen. Apparently the Battle of Bjornhöved in Holstein in 1227 was a crucial watershed. The Danish expanded into Mecklenberg and Pomerania in what we now think of as Deutschland. (The Roman term Germania would have also included what we now consider the nation-state of Denmark.) Danish expansion also included a set of conquests to the East. The city of Reval was important to the sea route to Novgorod and was sold by King Valdemar IV Atterdag to the Teutonic order in 1346.

In a longer review I would want to go into detail concerning each chapter. Chapter 2 by Randi B. Woerdahl (in Imsen 2010: pp. 35-57) provides an excellent, detailed discussion of the historiography of the Norse world and the discussion about “Medieval history and the legitimization of nations and nation states” goes some distance toward starting to address sociological questions. He also briefly discusses alternative perspectives. There is a certain degree of conflict involved in studying nations retrospectively and once can easily fall victim to a kind of Whig History Fallacy, where what exists today is presumed to have been what would most likely evolve. Norman Davies (2014) has done a good job studying those “invisible” political realms in mainland Europe and Britain that we have now forgotten (e.g. the seventeen varieties of Burgundy/Burgundia). To some extent the Davies’ thesis about invisible kingdoms holds for many of the state systems discussed in these two volumes. They are “invisible” to the orindary educated person, who is usually better acquainted with the histories of “countries” that exist today as nation-states (e.g. Deutschland, Italia) but may not know much about pre-Medieval sub-regions (e.g. Angle-land, Saxonia, Batavia). The national history approach has little to offer for those interested in an objective reading of the evolution of societies from pre-modern capitalist to modern capitalist relations, much less from truly traditional to postmodern conditions.

Overall, I recommend these two volumes as solid intellectual contributions, with the minor caveats that: (1.) some more overview material would have been beneficial for class room use (including more and better quality maps) and (2.) a Comparative Historical Sociological (CHS) based on Weberian and Neo-Weberian sociological theories would have been useful. (Imsen 2010: Chapter 4 by Ian Beuermann has excellent maps, but in some chapters the quality is not 100% clear.) Perhaps there will be additional volumes and perhaps such new work might integrate the historical material a bit more directly with social science theories of the state, including political sociology, political studies, political science, comparative international relations studies, agrarian history, rural sociology and political economy (including Marxian political economy). These are not books that will be read by very many non-academic readers and yet some of the chapters would usefully be summarized in popular publications in various languages, not just English.

Perhaps Steinar Imsen sand some colleagues will write an introductory book which utilizes the abundant historical resources on which the twenty four other authors base their arguments. The volumes taught me a great deal but it took a certain amount of effort to get past the sometimes overly technical discussions of Scandinavian terms. (There is no glossary in either book.) The whole idea of Skattlands is not well known to those who are not specialized in “North Sea” and “Baltic” history, yet the concept of military tribute and corvee labour is directly relevant to many theories of pre-modern state systems. The main focus historically is the 12-15th centuries and it would most certainly be valuable to have another volume in the series that covers the earliest archaeological discovered (before the 9th century) and a fourth volume on the period that starts with the 16th century. I remember as a young boy wondering how it was possible for three tiny countries (the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark) to continue to exist. In the Cold War Era it seemed that only superpowers mattered. But now I more fully grasp the fact that the current nation-states which are small relative to other significant players on the world stage were at one time themselves small scale world super powers. The Netherlands had its Golden Age in the early seventeenth century. To some extent these volumes celebrate a kind of Scandinavian Golden Age  in the 12-15th centuries. Most of this history, unfortunately, is not widely taught. Perhaps the television series on the Vikings will help to promote more interest. We are inundated with books on the histories of England, Scotland, Ireland, and English-speaking parts of the world. But the importance of Norway, Denmark and Sweden is under-appreciated outside of Scandinavia.


Bakker, J. I. (Hans). 2010. “Deference and Democracy: Traditional and Modern Bureaucracy.” In Bryant (eds.) Festschrift for Irving Zeitlin. Lanham, Maryland (MD): Lexington Books (Roman and Littlefield).

Davies, Norman. 2014. Invisible Kingdoms. New York: Peguin?

Weber, Max. 1968 [1920]. Economy and Society. Tr. and ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Berkeley, California (CA): University of California Press.

Gina Dahl, Libraries and Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Norway and the Outer World (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2014)

In “Libraries and Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Norway and the Outer World,” Gina Dahl offers a marvelous insight into the intellectual life of Eighteenth-Century Norway by looking at library collections in Norway. This is a clever and engaging way to understand and analyze intellectual aspects of the Enlightenment.

Continue reading Gina Dahl, Libraries and Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Norway and the Outer World (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2014)

Nation-building in the Scandinavian Welfare State: The Immigration Challenge


Scandinavia is the area where trust in political institutions and the role of the state is greatest in the world. Political actors in all three Scandinavian countries now compete for the honour of having created and developed the welfare state. It is such a central part of their self-understanding that this political framework can be said to have become a part of the Scandinavian national concept.

Continue reading Nation-building in the Scandinavian Welfare State: The Immigration Challenge

Sven-Olof Olsson (ed.), Managing Crises and De-globalization. Nordic foreign trade and exchange 1919-39 (New York: Routledge, 2014 pbk.)


Historical memory is unwelcome by people who have too much at stake in the short term to realise that they may have much more to lose in the medium and/or long term. Historical memory is also unwelcome by people who wish that economic history could fit neatly within the theoretical constructs that they favour because of ideological, political, moral or pecuniary commitments of theirs (cf. Francesco Boldizzoni, The Poverty of Clio: Resurrecting Economic History, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011).

  Continue reading Sven-Olof Olsson (ed.), Managing Crises and De-globalization. Nordic foreign trade and exchange 1919-39 (New York: Routledge, 2014 pbk.)

Mathias L. Pedersen & Jakob Christoffersen (eds.), Nordic Countries. Economic, Political and Social Issues (New York: Nova Science, 2012)


The book is somewhat tilted towards the presentation and analysis of economic issues within specific countries, rather than across the Nordic region. The reader is presented with a number of stimulating and topical country case studies that contributes useful background, insights and analysis on different aspects of Nordic economies and the Nordic welfare model. The chapters range from the very descriptive and general to papers with a high level of analytical and empirical sophistication.  Some of the chapters require good knowledge of specific disciplines and their methodological approaches to be of real value, whereas others could be read and easily understood by any reader; e.g. a subset of chapters on Sweden and its international trade sector would likely appeal primarily to a targeted audience familiar with the tools of econometric analysis. Still, the book takes the reader through an interesting and stimulating journey through a variety of topical landscapes.  For some readers the diversity in style and methodological approaches may be an unwanted distraction, whereas for others it does quite the contrary.


A connecting denominator across the chapters is the region: the Nordic region and the broad array of current issues, ranging from quality of childcare, occupational safety to highly theoretical issues surrounding the J-curve effect in commodity trade between Sweden and Germany, and the S-curve dynamics of commodity trade between Sweden and the United States, to mention a few.


The book is stimulating because of the variety of themes, and perhaps somewhat unique set of issues, and certainly from any standpoint an unlikely combination of topics. On the one hand, the book provides a good dose of stimulation, precisely because it is a somewhat unlikely combination of papers; yet at the same time is provides a certain degree of frustration – the theoretical and econometric papers take up a lot of space – and they are written by some of the same authors on similar topics, with a heavy focus on Sweden. There are three highly theoretical papers on Sweden´s international trade, with some similarity among author teams; although impressive pieces of analytical works, this makes the structure and discussion unavoidably somewhat predictable, and some readers might feel tempted to skip ahead to the discussion and conclusion in those cases.


Chapter 1, on “Denmark: Lessons from the Global Leader in Straw-to-Energy”, presents a discussion of the straw-to-energy technology in Denmark, and sets out to identify and analyze factors of Danish success in this field. The chapter and its case studies are highly descriptive and would probably have been more interesting and useful with more emphasis dedicated to analysis. The chapter is based on reports and publications on straw-to-energy, and a set of interviews. The chapter is unfortunately flooded with countless small details that tend to provide more confusion than clarification.  This may be interesting for some readers who are specifically interested in this industry and in information on straw heating, while for others it makes it a challenge to get a sense of the main ideas the author wants to present or convey. A concise and not so surprising list of the major factors of Danish success in straw-to-energy is presented as part of the conclusion, including: political and financial support, nationally supported energy research, developed straw-to-energy technology.  It might have been useful with a discussion of case studies structured more around highlighting these points. It clearly represents a powerful example of a Danish success story, but lacks concrete detail on how it can be duplicated in other places and across the Nordic region.


Chapter 2, on “Exchange-Rate Volatility and Sweden´s Trade with Germany: Evidence from Industry Data”, provides an impressive, well-focused and highly theoretical and empirical analysis of trade between Sweden and Germany using a large data set from 1997-2010. While interesting, on the down side, a large part of the chapter is dedicated purely to the presentation of econometric results. This structure may fail to capture the full attention of a broader audience.  Also, the results are not that surprising, namely that small industries are more likely to be affected by exchange rate volatility, and that larger exporters in Germany are able to insulate themselves and hence experience less volatility – this through imperfect competition and various methods of hedging.  The chapter might have benefited from a detailed elaboration of this not so surprising finding – e.g. a description of what types of imperfect competition are referred to. This would probably have made it a more interesting read. 


Chapter 3, on “The Norwegian Quota Reform and the Fear of Incompetent Women”, is an interesting, well-researched and important piece of research on the gender representation on company boards in Norway. It employs a solid method and makes use of a sizeable sample size for the interviews, but the empirical work could have been elaborated on. The conclusion is not all that surprising: the results show that new women board members appear to be and are perceived to be as competent as other directors, and hence, the research rejects the human capital theory as an explanation for the low number of women directors prior to the reform of 2003 in Norway – when legislation was passed to specify gender representation on company boards. But one cannot help but want more detail and to ask: How does this compare to other places? Is this a general trend, or to what extent is it specific to the case of Norway and its changed legislation?


Chapter 4, entitled “Development of Quality in the Child Care in Denmark – Legislation, Culture and Daily Practices”, discusses the factors that constitute quality in childcare in Denmark.  The study presents a longer list of results rather than focusing on a smaller handful of results that could have been discussed in more detail.  One of the many findings is the increased focus on centralized political goals, specific learning objectives, testing of children etc. since the new 2007 law in Denmark – and how this has negatively affected care in a number of areas. The findings are as important as the debate itself and they certainly raise a number of critical issues. Yet, it would have been more useful with some reference made to the rest of the Nordic region.


Chapter 5, on “The Ambivalent Mentality of a Lilliput Nation: Ethnic Relations and Intercultural Learning Among Danish International Workers”, sets out to analyse what the authors refer to as a “paradox” of the difficulties of maintaining a small-scale welfare society despite the overwhelming forces of globalization. They go on to analyse how this “paradox” affects Danish international workers´ abilities to manage internationally and learn from their foreign surroundings.  One might question this “paradox”.  Is there really such a “paradox”? Also, the chapter makes a series of strong statements that seem poorly formulated, appear weakly substantiated and that need further support to be more convincing.


Chapter 6, entitled “Is There a J-Curve Effect in Commodity Trade between Sweden and Germany?”, investigates the bilateral trade between Sweden and Germany by looking at 124 industries – a time series analysis for the period 1963-2009.  The analysis finds little support for the J-curve effect, i.e. that a slow adjustment process after a currency depreciation leads to a deterioration of the trade balance.  However, the study does find some evidence of a J-curve effect for a larger number of heavily traded commodities, which the authors suggest may be explained by larger industries being more sensitive to fluctuations in the Swedish krona. The chapter comes across as very methodologically sound, and the econometric approach and tests are appropriate.  Since this is not a chapter in the journal Econometrica, what may be missing to make this of interest to a broader audience would be a more poignant explanation of the results in simple and plain words.  What does this mean? What is the significance? What are the implications for the future of Swedish international trade? Without these more grounded considerations this chapter risks being of interest to a more narrow and specialized audience.


Chapter 7, on “Occupational Safety in Finland”, provides a useful and important review of research carried out in Finland related to occupational safety. One of the critical findings of the review is that bullying is a common phenomenon in Finnish workplaces, and that women and healthcare workers in particular are subjected to workplace violence.  As an outsider one is likely to want to know more, i.e. how does this compare to other Nordic countries?  Since the book is about Nordic countries, it would have been useful if some comparison had been drawn to other Nordic countries or cases.  The lack of comparison makes the review slightly less interesting.  Also, why has violence been increasing at the workplace? And how does this trend compare to other Nordic countries?  If it is only a trend in Finland, what explains it?  The literature list is comprehensive and useful for anyone who wishes to conduct research on issues of workplace safety and bullying.


Chapter 8, on “Co-operation between Finnish Authorities in the event of Animal Disease: A Rhetorical Comparison of Three Laws from Finnish Legislation”, analyses the hierarchy of authorities in animal health.  Unfortunately, the chapter is not an easy read and the examples presented are not all that well explained. It is also somewhat unclear what the exact objective of the paper is and what the main conclusions are.  Still, the issues raised are important, and the research seems to contribute to filling certain gaps in knowledge, and from this perspective it qualifies as a unique and welcome addition, albeit incomplete. 


Chapter 9, on “The S-Curve Dynamics of Commodity Trade between Sweden and the United States”, discusses the S-curve effect. One cannot help but get a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of results, with up toward 12 pages of lists of trade figures and graphics.  One cannot but wonder how useful those are to the average reader. They may be more confusing and only serve to distract from the real message of the research.  This is the third chapter on Sweden and its trade sector. First there is a general analysis on exchange rate volatility, and then two chapters on the J-curve and the S-curve respectively.  Could these chapters have been linked somehow, which might have made more sense – with a general introduction on Sweden and its international trade sector?  The topic is interesting and stimulating, and as in the case of the two other chapters by this first author, it also appears very methodologically sound.  Based on a large sample size and employing and using econometric techniques, the paper finds that there is evidence of an S-curve effect in half of the 92 industries surveyed.  An interesting result is that for the largest industries in the empirical test (accounting for 50 percent of the trade between Sweden and the U.S.), evidence suggests that a real depreciation of the Swedish krona will increase international competitiveness in trade with the U.S.. Some discussion on what exactly this means might have been useful.


Chapter 10, on “Assessing Evidence of Swedish Cartel´s Longevity: 1956-1993”, presents an empirically sophisticated paper on the legal formal cartel contracts in Sweden with an examination of the structure and factors that determine their longevity. A historical and econometric analysis is presented using data for the period 1956 to 1993. It is empirically solid work and also highly theoretical. The regression results are perhaps not that surprising, but nevertheless interesting to study: for example, the results suggest that cartels are longer lived under horizontal and vertical restrictions than those that are organized under horizontal restrictions only. Results also suggest that the presence of effective regulation does not increase the longevity of cartels relative to those cartels where regulation is absent.  It is found that cartels tend to break during downswings in foreign and domestic markets. The strength of this paper – as with the other papers in this book on foreign trade – is the empirical presentation. Unfortunately, common for all of them is that the discussion is limited.  Given the nature of the book (and it is not an econometric journal article), one would have expected more in terms of a basic explanation of the empirical and regression results in view of the presumably relatively broad audience – and perhaps more on what these results mean for the Nordic countries in general, now and in the future.


I think it would have greatly enriched the book if there had been an attempt to synthesize and find or explore overarching themes or trends, and also, if efforts had been made within individual chapters to connect the conclusions to literature on other Nordic countries, and possibly to compare across national borders where appropriate. Some readers might be left wondering whether the results of the case studies are unique to the specific country investigated, or to what extent they are “Nordic”, and if so, how and why.


I would recommend this book to those readers who are interested in a broad range of issues and in particular those who are looking for a snapshot of a range of different and important topics in the Nordic countries.  It is a stimulating and interesting book, and one comes away having learned something useful. Still, given the diversity of approaches and the thematic areas introduced, the book would have benefited from a concluding chapter highlighting some connecting points between the different thematic areas of the ten chapters, and maybe with a discussion of some overarching conclusions that can be drawn about Nordic society and welfare and its place in society.  What lessons can non-Nordic countries learn from these case studies? To what extent are they success stories? 

Per Eliasson, KG Hammarlund, Erik Lund & Carsten Tage Nielson (eds.), Historie didatik i Norden: del 1, historiemetvetanda – historiebruk (Malmö & Halmstad: Malmö högskola and Högskolan i Halmstad, 2012)

The challenge is tackled in two volumes; “historiemetvetanda – historiebruk” [history usage] rewieved here;  and “historisk kunskap” [historical knowledge], in a separate volume, not covered here.

The authors constitute a group who have a background in history teaching and research in history teaching. They cover all three levels of schooling, from compulsory school through upper-secondary and university level.

Continue reading Per Eliasson, KG Hammarlund, Erik Lund & Carsten Tage Nielson (eds.), Historie didatik i Norden: del 1, historiemetvetanda – historiebruk (Malmö & Halmstad: Malmö högskola and Högskolan i Halmstad, 2012)

Erik S. Reinert & Francesca Lidia Viano (eds.), Thorstein Veblen. Economics for an Age of Crises (London: Anthem, 2012)

Frequent yet allegedly unexpected crises, the sudden meltdowns of recently praised free-market ‘tigers’, and large-scale social unrest keep surfacing in the post-Thatcherite world of ‘free-trade agreements’, ‘globalisation’, ‘deregulation’, ‘privatisation’, monetary ‘great moderation’ and similar catchwords for the so-called age of ‘neo-liberalism’. Given such circumstances, a few mainstream economists have been willing to reconsider at least some of the premises upon which their discipline has operated and to rediscover the long-forgotten wisdom of a famous but largely uninfluential mind, whose contribution to the discipline’s textbooks has been reduced to a class of odd goods that moneyed people want all the more the costlier they get (i.e. so-called ‘Veblen goods’).

In this perspective, part four (of four) in Reinert’s and Viano’s book contains six exemplary chapters, penned by five seasoned academics and two outstanding young students, that focus upon the usefulness of Veblen’s diverse and different categories of thought for today’s economists, legislators and policy-makers.

Geoffrey M. Hodgson’s “Thorstein Veblen: The Father of Evolutionary and Institutional Economics” compares mainstream economics’ current usage of notions that were crucial for Veblen—such as “institutions” and “evolution” (283)—with Veblen’s original understanding of them. His conclusion is that the former, corrupted by rational choice theory and a simplistic interpretation of Darwinism, has reduced these notions to “apologetic” descriptors within a grossly distorted picture of “market competition” that pleases the adherents of “laissez faire” economics (292). On the contrary, Veblen’s understanding of them is much more nuanced, empirically perceptive, open to revision, and disciplinarily ecumenical. He therefore concludes: “We can still learn a great deal from his writings and build on them for the future.” (292)

Paul Burkander’s “Veblen’s Words Weighed” dissects the full complexity of meaning in a famously convoluted passage in Veblen’s essay “Why is Economics is Not an Evolutionary Science”, showing its author’s commitment to replace “neoclassical economics” (297) with a novel approach that may truly “scrutinise the economic actions of man” (300).

L. Randall Wray’s “The Great Crash of 2007 Viewed through the Perspective of Veblen’s Theory of Business Enterprise, Keynes’s Monetary Theory of Production and Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis” brings three heterodox classics into dialogue, highlighting mutual similarities and differences, so as to provide insights in the structural economic conditions that do actually cause financial crashes like the 2007 one.

James K. Galbraith’s “Predation from Veblen until Now: Remarks to the Veblen Sesquicentennial Conference” makes use of a largely neglected concept in Veblen’s understanding of socio-economic phenomena, i.e. predation, in order to explain the historical origins and the well-tested beneficial functions of regulation within market economies. As he writes: “A functioning structure of regulation is the instrument… of that part of the business community that wishes, and chooses, to play by a common set of rules” that keep market economies from “predatory self-destruction.” (327)

Sophus A. Reinart’s and Francesca Lidia Viano’s “Capitalising Expectations: Veblen on Consumption, Crises and the Utility of Waste” addresses another economic notion, i.e. “expectations” and how Veblen was capable of explaining its centrality in “systemic financial collapses” as well as “patterns of individual consumption.” (329)

Robert H. Frank’s “Thorstein Veblen: Still Misunderstood, but More Important than Ever” takes its moves from Veblen’s enduring textbook relevance in the very specific field of positional goods. Then it proceeds to emphasising his relevance vis-à-vis the much more general claim that “evaluations of all types depend heavily on social context”, hence on the necessity for “economic models” to stop assuming “that consumption decisions take place in social isolation” and start differentiating amongst the ways in which social factors affect economic evaluations and actual choices. (358)

Elements of the fourth part of the book colour the third one, in which three more social scientists explore in as many chapters Veblen’s importance for the field of politics.

Sidney Plotkin’s “Thorstein Veblen and the Politics of Predatory Power” focuses upon Veblen’s understanding of predation in human affairs and its applicability to phenomena such as social coercion, alienation, instrumental rationality, warfare and institutional development.

Stephen Edgell’s “Veblen, War and Peace” tries to fill a gap in the scholarly literature about Veblen, since the economists interested in his work are said to have largely neglected Veblen’s studies on World War I and the ensuing peace agreements. By doing so, Edgell does not only offer an account of this lesser known component of Veblen’s legacy, but also an application of Veblen’s insights to the contemporary conflicts in the Middle East.

Eyüp Özveren’s “Veblen’s ‘Higher Learning’: The Scientist as Sisyphus in the Iron Cage of a University” approaches Veblen’s research from the perspective of Veblen’s assessment of the history of modern sciences, the development of academic institutions, and the failure of the latter to be truly beneficial to society at large. According to Özveren’s “account, Veblen was highly sceptical of the universities’ ability to produce skilled and constructive minds, because of enduring archaic habits of thought, ritual functions in costly displays of wealth and status, enslavement to short-term business goals, and the prevalence of institutional competition over institutional cooperation. Additionally, Özveren’s account offers a depiction of academics as Sisyphus-like figures, who engage in the production of knowledge and fame that are bound to be overcome by the future academics that they nurture and instruct.

Parts one and two of the book belong primarily to ‘Veblenite’ historiography, as they deal with Veblen’s personal biography, his family and cultural background, his education in the US, and his own controversial teaching experiences. Of the six chapters comprised in these two parts, the readers of Nordicum-Mediterraneum are going to find the first four (i.e. part one of the book) of particular interest, for they focus upon Veblen’s Norwegian and Scandinavian background, especially in the context of late-19th-century Nordic immigrant communities in North America. These four chapters being: Kåre Lunden’s “Explaining Veblen by his Norwegian Background: A Sketch”; Terje Mikael Hasle Joranger’s “Valdres of the Upper Midwest: The Norwegian Background of the Veblen Family and their Migration to the United States”; Knut Odner’s “New Perspectives on Thorstein Veblen, the Norwegian”; and Russell H. Bartley and Sylvia Erickson Bartley’s “The Physical World of Thorstein Veblen: Washington Island and Other Intimate Spaces”.

The book hereby reviewed is the result of the conference held in Valdres, Norway, upon the 150th anniversary of Veblen’s birth. It contains essays that differ considerably in length, topic, methodology, and reader-friendliness. Most of them presuppose a modicum of familiarity with Veblen’s work. Therefore, this volume cannot be recommended as an introduction to it. Rather, taken together, the book’s essays offer a very interesting token of Veblen scholarship and an eloquent exemplification of the cross-disciplinary appeal of Veblen’s genius. Furthermore, the essays comprised in the first part of the book reflect extensively upon the Nordic elements in Veblen’s life experience and intellectual interests, and should appeal to our journal’s Scandinavian readership, particularly in Norway.

R. Bohlin, De Osynliga. Det Europas fattiga arbetarklass; M. Linton, De hatade. Om radikalhögerns måltavlor; B. Elmbrant, Europas stålbad. Krisen som slukar välfärden och skakar euron (All titles by Atlas, Stockholm, 2012)


The feminist journalist Rebecca Bohlin has looked into the working and living conditions of the least paid workers within the service sector, although reminding to us that many other jobs in different sectors meet similar problems. She has met cleaners, kitchen attendants and cashiers in Stockholm, London, Hamburg and at the same time has interviewed scholars and as well politicians and union representatives about the rise in income inequality and the worsening of working conditions, across Europe and in Sweden.

And to Sweden indeed is devoted the first chapter (Hur mår RUT?). The question of rising inequalities has become hot after 2007, when tax deductions for domestic service (RUT) were introduced, with the argument that the black market was to be stopped. In fact, however, according to the unions and to some research, the outcome has been an increasing in the number of workers (often asylum seekers or anyway migrants, very often women) exploited and with no safeguard: their formal job contract is legal, but their actual working conditions are definitely different, and for the worse. Yet in Sweden, as Bohlin acknowledges, living conditions of the low-paid workers are better that in most other countries.

In the second chapter (Så pressas lönerna neråt) Bohlin analyzes, again through witnesses and interviews, migration policy at the EU level and in some of its member States. She insists on the paradox of a rhetoric stressing the need of labour force from outside Europe, in order to face demographic challenges and to make companies more “globalized”, while at the same time the actual policy is based on a military defence of the “fortress Europe”, at the cost of thousands of human lives every year. And those who succeed in reaching Europe are often exploited both economically and, when women, sexually. And that even in a country that is a world master in workers’ rights and gender equality such as Sweden.

How are trade unions tackling this backward trend to a degree of workers’ exploitation similar to that in the 19th century? Around this unavoidable question the third chapter (Facket famlar efter en ny solidaritet) is built. The answer is not at all self-evident; on the contrary, here one goes on attempt by attempt. However, what comes out from the talks that the author has had with union leaders and members, in Sweden and in the UK, as well as with scholars, is that a trade union like the Swedish one, service-oriented, is not well-equipped to face the challenges that labour movements all over the world have to meet. More interesting it seems the experience of the “Social Movement Unionism”, a strategy that has been tested in South America and is made up of a mix of mobilization, learning, dialogue with local society, negotiations – and protest actions. Exactly what many all over Europe – either workers or unemployed, migrant or local – call for.


An even darker side of Europe is the subject of Magnus Linton’s work, that he describes in his Introduction as a book on “majorities and minorities, absolutism and relativism, boarders and lack of them, fantasy and reality”. The author, well-known in Sweden for his reports after the carnage in Utøya, has carried out an inquiry about right-wing radicalism in three European countries: Hungary, the Netherlands and Norway, moving from the awareness that the current economic crisis increases its appeal. Linton has met the main targets of xenophobic and neo-nazi groups, respectively Roma people in Hungary, muslims in the Netherlands and left-wing intellectuals in Norway. The first section (Parasiterna), after reminding shortly the persecution of Roma in history (culminating with their, neglected, massacre during World War II) and the recent deportation of Roma in countries such as France, Italy and Sweden, introduces the reader to the disturbing world of the Hungarian neo-fascist party Jobbik (Movement for a better Hungary), whose programme is openly “roma-centered”, so to say, and that in 2010 established itself as one of the main political forces in the country with 17% of votes. Jobbik’s growing influence resulted in a situation that Linton, with reference to what happened in the municipality of Gyöngyöspata, tells in the following way: “in 2011 in the middle of Europe fascists in uniform marched and families belonging to one of the poorest and most persecuted minorities in the continent were forced to escape what otherwise would have turned into a pogrom”. And Gyöngyöspata was only the beginning. However, the political scientist Zsolt Enyedi, interviewed by Linton, points out that these developments in Hungary were at the same time astonishing and predictable. Their roots can be found in a historical process starting from the fall of the Berlin wall; since then, populism has been a constant presence in Hungarian life and in the end has exploded due to the economic crisis. The fact that in 2010 the nationalist and authoritarian party Fidesz won 2/3 of the votes has made the situation even worse and transformed Hungary into a stronghold of radical Right in Europe.

Another country, another scapegoat: in the Netherlands, as it is well-known, the thesis that “our” problems could be solved if only “we” got rid of Muslims has found one of its most prominent champions, i.e. Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party and major pointer for Dutch politics for years (see the section: Ockupanterna). Though making sure to distinguish himself from people like Anders Berg Breivik (who pointed at Wilders as his ideological source of inspiration) by stressing his own democratic attitude, Wilders has steadily run down Islam, equating it with Fascism. Together with Pim Fortuyn (murdered in 2002 by a left-wing extremist), he has personified the idea that multiculturalism is a luxury only the privileged few can afford and has transformed the Netherlands into the headquarters of islamophobia in Europe.

The Dutch historian Thomas von der Dunk, here quoted, urges to take into account that politics’ highest aim is economic security, as well as the capability for society to accept cultural uncertainty; but when the former decreases, then the need for a strong cultural identity rises.

Roma people and Muslims are easy scapegoats in a continent affected by geopolitical and economic turbulences; but how came that in the rich and enlightened Norway a right-wing extremist killed more than 70 young left-wing activists? What Berg Breivik aims at with his double attack (a bomb in Oslo and the carnage on the Utøya island) was, as Linton explains, to murder at the same time three generations of “betrayers” (hence the title of the section, Förrädarna), i.e. three generations of Social Democrats: the forthcoming (the young activists who met in Utøya), the present (the governmental headquarter in the capital), and the former (Gro Harlem Brudtland, former prime minister, who escaped assassination in the island due to a delay in Breivik Berg’s plan).

What has been betrayed are Norwegian culture and identity, quite obviously. Breivik Berg defines “cultural Marxism” what could otherwise be summarized as “politically correct”, in other words the idea that there are some topics that cannot be questioned, above all feminism and multiculturalism. Linton points out that coinciding with the perhaps unstoppable march of right-wing extremism in Europe is the discontent caused by what has been perceived as the hegemony of political correctedness, which has become more and more centered upon universities. After all, right-wing radicalism is not interested in discussing rationally a question (which is supposed to be the academic approach) but, on the contrary, in imposing its own understanding of reality. And it is succeeding in doing this. Linton recalls our attention to the fact that what is striking in Breivik Berg is not his insanity, but how much he reflects stereotypes and plot-syndromes related to Islam that unfortunately are represented in more or less all the European parliaments (as well as in the EU one).     


Not even the book by Elmbrant, one of the most prominent Swedish journalists, is intended to bring comfort to the reader. Here as well the impact of the economic downturn is looked into in a European perspective, yet with a particular attention to countries such as Greece (see chapter 1, Ett land faller sönder) and Ireland (chapter 3, Irland på liv och död). In chapter 2 (Hur hamnade vi här?) the author follows the making of the Euro and then compares the faith of two countries, Ireland and Iceland; both hit by the crisis, but the latter (outside the common currency) recovering better. Italy is not at all forgotten in this account: the doubts about its financial soundness have been recurrent amongst EU – and German in particular – leaders, for many years. However, Elmbrant warns (chapter 4, Skenbilden av krisen) against those, in Brussels as well as Berlin and Paris, who blame upon some countries ? the Southern European ones primarily ? the European financial difficulties, as the problem were simply that if one spends too much, then one has to pay back sooner or later. Elmbrant is well aware that Greece, with all the stereotypes surrounding it, has worked as a perfect scapegoat, but insists on the European dimension of the economic crisis. The trouble indeed is not the Greeks’ unreliability, but the EU powerlessness in the face of much bigger transnational financial powers. In this connection, it needs to be said that left-wing parties have definitely not been united and consistent in their (often late) condemnation of the abuse of power from private banks and finance at large.

It cannot miss, in this critical report about the EU state of health, a chapter on Angela Merkel, significantly entitled She who decides (5, Hon som bestämmer) and on Germany’s hegemonic role. The outcome of financial powers’ and Germany’s supremacy are described in chapter 6 (Europas stålbad), again focusing mostly on Southern Europe, but raising a more general question: the changing role of the Nation-State. Here Elmbrant mentions an article on The New Left Review by the German social scientist Wolfgang Streeck as crucial: the dismantlement of Europe’s social policies has restricted the ability of the State as far as mediating between citizens’ rights and Capital’s diktats is concerned, and by this move increased further the latter’s authoritativeness as well. There have been massive demonstrations against budget-restriction policies, at least in Greece, Spain and Portugal (chapter 7, De unga på marsch), but Elmbrant does not forget that up to now it is the Radical Right the political actor who seems to have taken more advantage from the crisis, and not the Left. Are the European Central Bank and Merkel right when presenting austerity as the only way out of the crisis or can young people protesting in Athens, Madrid and Lisbon point out to an alternative? The last two chapters are built around this question. 

After summarizing the different proposals currently discussed in the EU (in the end all related to the dilemma: more or less unity among member States? See chapter 8, Stopp i Brysseltrafiken), Elmbrant closes his report by handling the question of the future of the common currency (chapter 9, Har euron en framtid?). After looking at expert analysis and people’s mood his answer (well reflecting Swedish attitude to the EU) is: the Euro is doomed to collapse ? after all it has been a mistake from the beginning ? with consequences that in some cases will prove to be devastating.  And thinking at what is going on in many European countries we can easily believe that this apocalyptic scenario is not simply a kind of snobbery from the rich Nordic countries.   

Juha Manninen and Friedrich Stadtler (eds.), The Vienna Circle and the Nordic Countries. Networks and Transformations of Logical Empiricism (Vienna: Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook vol.14, Springer, 2010)

In the years preceding the Second World War, European philosophy was at the high point of its intellectual vitality. Everywhere philosophical societies promoted a dense network of connections among scholars, with international meetings and strong links among individuals and associations. In this context, the Vienna Circle emerges as one of the many, also if probably the most well-known, centres of diffusion of a new style of philosophy, closely linked to the new logic and with a strongly empiricist attitude. At the same time, empiricism, formal logic and psychology constituted (and still constitute) the common background of most of the Nordic philosophers, a background which permitted them to develop connections with Vienna’s cultural environment (well known also for the work of psychologists such as Sigmund Freud, but also Charlotte and Karl Bühler). This piece of history, although limited to the connection between Nordic philosophy and Vienna Circle, helps to clarify the history of European philosophy, and the sharp difference of Nordic philosophy in respect of the development of philosophy in Southern and Central Europe in the half a century following the Second World War. The editors say in the introduction:


. . . one of the least known networks of the Vienna Circle is the “Nordic connection”. This connection had a continuing influence for many of the coming decades, beginning with the earliest phase of the Vienna Circle and continuing with a number of adaptations and innovations well into contemporary times. Some of the individual members of this network are remembered, such as Georg Henrik von Wright. But little attention is now given to the fact that these individual members communicated intensively with each other as well as with the Vienna Circle and its international continuation in the Unity of Science movement.


The volume here reviewed, dedicated to Arne Naess, is intended to fill the historical gaps and provide a more complete picture of this rich network, which even the Second World War was unable to destroy. In what follows, I will not discuss the second part of the volume, which contains a paper on the unit and disunity of science by Gerard Holton and a series of reviews of relevant books on different topics related to the Vienna Circle. I will instead offer some remarks concerning the main characters of our story, that is: Eino Kaila (1890-1958), Arne Naess (1912-2009), Jørgen Jørgensen (1894-1969) and Åke Petzäll (1901-1957), who founded the Swedish Journal Theoria. However, instead of following the order of the individual articles, I will reconstruct the content of the volume dealing with individual countries, to see their relative contribution to the continuity of the philosophical network in the Nordic Countries.



From Norway to Denmark


I begin with Norway, not least because the volume is dedicated to Arne Naess. Arne Naess is a typical example of a European Intellectual of pre-war times: he studied in Paris and Oslo and went to Vienna in 1934-36 to write his dissertation on Knowledge and Scientific Behavior (published in Oslo 1936). Then he participated in the third Conference on the Unity of Science in Paris, discussing with Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) and Otto Neurath (1882-1945) about truth. He then went on to Berkeley and returned to Oslo, where he was active in the anti-Nazi movement, and he continued to work there after the war, both as a professor and a political activist; he became a UNESCO representative in the East-West conflict, and was a promoter of the international peace movement and later of the ecological movement. Meanwhile he published frequently in Theoria, worked as editor of Synthese and founded and edited Inquiry. Although primarily thought of as a founding father of Norwegian philosophy, Arne Naess may be also considered as central in the development of the Social Sciences in Norway. As Fredrik W. Thue remarks in “Empiricism, Pragmatism, Behaviorism”, shortly after the German invasion, Arne Naess gathered an interdisciplinary group of students to work on foundations, and, after the war, the agenda of the group changed from philosophy towards social research: Naess’ epistemological program, and the experience of resistance against Fascism brought about a strong interest in the practical and normative challenges to postwar society, and an abandonment of his links with Logical Empiricism. Thue analyses Naess’ influence on the organization of studies (with psychology, logic and the history of philosophy as mandatory for all university students in Norway) and his naturalistic behavioral epistemology, nearer to American sociology and antagonistic to Popper’s “principles” of the Open Society. According to Naess, “Spontaneous reactions of empathy between humans presented deeper and more universal moral wellsprings than philosophical dogmas” (p.222). The paper tries to show the strong connections on the one hand between Naess and his pupils – where much space is given to Stein Rokkan (1921-1979) and his criticism of Karl Popper (1902-1994) – and on the other hand between his group and the American liberal-progressive tradition, following the path of John Dewey (1859-1952). From this connection a new attention to sociology and social reform arose.


Thue devotes too little space to exploring the links between the intellectual environment around Arne Naess and the optimistic faith that society could be improved by means of an interplay between economic growth, social welfare and political democracy. Hints about the “liberal innocence” of Naess are unfortunately not adequately explained. In any case, an anthology is unlikely to give a coherent account of the career of a complex philosopher. The idea of Naess’ progressive abandonment of Logical Empiricism is rejected by another paper of the anthology, by Friedrich Stadler: “Arne Naess – Dogmas and Problems of Empiricism”. According to Stadler, although Naes apparently stopped working inside the frameworks of traditional Logical Empiricism and the Unity of Science program after World War II – mainly on account of his interest in the social sciences and the ecological movement – he had kept in continuous touch with his Logical Empiricist roots, for instance in his correspondence with Neurath (up to 1945) and with Carnap (up to 1969) and in his many papers on A. J. Ayer (1910-1989) and Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994). Although his criticism of Logical Empiricism anticipates the famous critique of Quine (1908-2000) in “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, Stadler shows how Arne Naess never abandoned Logical Empiricism as a style of thinking and, especially in his later years, returned to his former ideas. A discussion of the 10 volumes of Naess’ selected works confirms the complexity of his overall philosophy.


While philosophy in Norway tended to be also closely linked to sociological studies, the role of Finland in the development of philosophy seems to be the most “foundational” of all other countries. Long before Arne Naess gave Norway a steady logical and empiricist foundation in philosophy, Eino Kaila was building a steady ground for cultivating analytic philosophy and logic in Finland as in Sweden and Norway. As Juha Manninen writes in the paper, “Between the Vienna Circle and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The philosophical Teachers of George Henrik von Wright”, the logic textbook used by Kaila for many years was the Abriss der Logistik by Rudolf Carnap, and many books by Carnap were recommended to the students, including Henrick Von Wright (1916-2003). The curriculum included the study of Wittgenstein (1989-1951), mainly the Tractatus. Besides chairing a logic club with advanced students, including von Wright himself and Herick Stenius (1911-1990), Kaila influenced Swedish philosophers, criticizing their psychologism in a strong address given at the University of Uppsala. Together with Jørgen Jørgensen, he convinced the appointments committee in Oslo to give the chair of philosophy to the young Arne Naess in 1939. Actually Kaila’s philosophical career begun when he wrote to Hans Reichenbach (1891-1953), who suggested that he contact Moritz Schlick (1882-1936). Kaila had some correspondence with Schlick, who then asked him to come to Vienna in 1929. Kaila had already written on Shlick, Einstein and Carnap’s Aufbau. Carnap found Kaila’s criticism surprising and interesting, and over a long period the two philosophers met several times. Kaila insisted on the importance of inductive inference and probability, while Carnap was – at the time – very distant from this topic that was to become a primary concern during his last period. Perhaps it was Kaila who moved Carnap in that direction. Kaila’s attention to induction culminated in his Finnish translation of Hume’s Inquiry Concerning the Human Understanding. His critical book on Carnap’s Aufbau was discussed in Berlin by Reichenbach and by the young Carl Hempel (1905-1997), and later in Vienna by Hans Hahn (1879-1934), Felix Kaufmann (1895-1949), Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) and Rudolf Carnap, who reviewed the book in Erkenntnis. Kaila went many times to Vienna and collaborated with Charlotte and Karl Bühler, defining what it is now called “the Kaila effect” – the attention area of the two eyes of a moving person from a child, who typically did not use that area if one eye was covered. (p.58). Between psychology and logic, working on intentionality, Kaila was always critical of Carnap, since his review of Carnap’s Logical Syntax; he did not completely accept physicalism and always asked for a space for a phenomenological language dealing with subjective experience.


As an historical influence, Kaila was also important for the development of the Swedish journal Theoria, founded in 1935. Kaila suggested that Theoria could take the place of Erkenntnis, which was in difficulty for political reasons. In fact, Erkenntnis lasted two more years before being provisionally closed; its contributors went mostly to the US, where they contributed to new journals, such as Philosophy of Science (founded in 1934) and the Journal of Symbolic Logic (founded in 1936). We will come back later to the history of Theoria.


Kaila’s influence in philosophy in Finland was wide; in the book we find reference to two main figures among his students, Oiva Toivo Ketonen (1913-2000) and George Henrick Von Wright. Ketonen was more devoted to logic than philosophy and went in 1938 to Göttingen, where he met Heinrich Sholtz (1884-1987). In Göttingen he studied under Gerhard Gentzen (1909-1945), and then received his PhD in logic during the 1944 bombing of Helsinki. In the paper “Young Ketonen and His Supreme Logical Discover”, Michael von Boguslawski suggests that the impact of the war was a reason for Ketonen to pay more attention to ethics than to philosophy of science. However his early logical work was well received: Haskell Curry (1900-1982) said that Ketonen’s work, extending Gentzen’s calculus, was the best thing in proof theory since Gentzen. Paul Bernays (1888-1977) and Arend Heyting (1898-1980) also appreciated his work. Ketonen remained in contact with Kaila, working on topics such as the problem of analytic and a priori knowledge.


However, the influence of Kaila was much more relevant to Georg Henrik von Wright especially at the beginning of von Wright’s career, when Kaila compelled the young student to study logic and gave him English texts to read. Certainly he was also influential in von Wright’s interest in induction and probability. In 1939, the year of the Russian invasion of Finland, Kaila (then in Helsinki after having taught in Turku) published his introduction to logical empiricism, Human Knowledge, translated into Swedish by von Wright. Despite the invasion, Finland survived as an independent democracy and was able to keep its leading scholars linked together, including a new arrival from the US, Jaakko Hintikka (1929-), described by von Wright (who had met Hintikka in Cambridge) as a “a very gifted young man”. In short, as Manninen says in his paper, “there is an unbroken lineage from Kaila and the Vienna circle to present day philosophy in Finland”.


More on Kaila’s philosophy can be found in the papers by Ilkka Niiniluoto, “Kaila’s Critique of Vitalism”, and by Arto Siitonen, “Kaila and Reichenbach as Protagonists Of Naturphilosophie”. Hintikka, without whom it is almost impossible to speak of Finnish philosophy, gives a rather personal account of the connections between himself and Kaila in an interview in The Philosophy of Jaakko Hintikka (in the Library of Living Philosophers collection). Hintikka identifies Kaila as his original inspiration, discusses his connection with von Wright, and makes some remarks on Vienna Circle’s influence coming to an end (referring obviously to the original Vienna Circle project). His interviewer, Simo Knuuttila, is able to put provocative questions that evoke interesting responses on a variety of topics, including reflections on Carnap, Wittgenstein and Quine.


Sweden must be considered not only for those Universities — in particular Uppsala and Bergenl — that established strong links with logical empiricism, but also as the country that produced the first Nordic philosophical journal in the analytic style: Theoria. The history of Theoria and its founder, Åke Petzäll, is well told by Johan Strang in the paper, “Between the National and the International – Theoria and the Logical Empiricists”. Over a long period, Theoria could have been described as a “journal of one man alone”; and Petzäll himself heavily influenced the general orientation of Swedish philosophy, based on a style of philosophy in the old tradition of the University of Lund – the so-called “Oxford of Sweden”.


Petzäll visited Vienna in 1932 and wrote a small book reflecting upon his conversations with Viennese philosophers, especially Friedrich Weismann. Theoria was launched just three years later, in 1935, becoming an important forum for the exchange of ideas and criticism between the networks of Logical Empiricism and the philosophers of the Nordic countries. By the end of the thirties Theoria had become closely linked with Logical Empiricism. Works by Carnap, Ayer, Hempel and Oppenheim, Popper and Tarski were typically reviewed in the journal, and many logical empiricists, like Neurath and Hempel published in it. A curiosity: the first publication of Hempel’s paradox of confirmation was in French at the request of Petzäll who wanted to promote the journal at the 9th International Congress in Philosophy in Paris (1937). Also Victor Kraft (1880-1975), a member of the Vienna Circle who was to become later the supervisor of Paul Federated (1924-1994), published on Theoria during a period when Petzäll sent monthly packages of food to Vienna. Unlike Erkenntnis, which was the official journal of Logical Empiricism, Theoria continued to publish papers reflecting different philosophical trends and hosted a debate between Uppsala Philosophy vs. Logical Empiricism, both of which emphasized the importance of logical analysis. Neurath had been contacted by the Danish philosopher Alf Ross (1899-1979), who had studied with Axel Hägerström (1868-1939), one of the chief representatives of the Uppsala school and influenced by neo-Kantianism. Neurath subsequently promoted the diffusion of the Uppsala antimetaphysical position. In a detailed report (pp.78-88), it is shown the development of Uppsala School: at the beginning, one of the most relevant representatives of Uppsala School, Einar Tegen (1884-1965), presented a very antagonist stance towards Logical Empiricism, but later other scholars like Ingemar Hedenius (1908-1982), a pupil of Adolph Phalén (1884-1931), developed a more sympathetic attitude.


Traditionally Sweden had an anti-metaphysical tradition, centered mainly in the University in Uppsala; but this tradition was not intrinsically connected with the development of modern logic. Although it is normally accepted that Swedish analytic tradition was originated by Alex Hägerström, the paper of Johan Strang shows the relevance of other influences and the important role of Åke Petzäll and his efforts in the diffusion of new ideas through Theoria. Petzäll may also have had an indirect role in the development of formal logic, which was missing in Uppsala. But Petzäll was not only the founder of Theoria. A relevant part of the history of the role of Petzäll within Logical Empiricism is told by Thomas Umbel, in “The Nature and Status of Scientific Metatheory. The Debate between Otto Neurath and Åke Petzäll”. In 1936 Theoria published a debate between Petzäll and Neurath – who wrote a review of Petzäll’s Zum Methodenproblem der Erkenntnisforschung (1935), where the author had given a strong criticism of both the physicalistic and naturalistic trends within the Vienna Circle. One of the main worries of Petzäll was the difficulty of keeping genetic or causal and normative issues sharply distinct; their purported distinctiveness was for him a myth, just like the distinction between analytic and synthetic. Empirical and logical considerations need to find some space within which they connect or at least work together; Neurath, in his replies, eventually reached the idea of the distinction between two types of metatheory, making this debate a direct contribution to the overall debate within logical empiricism.


Another influence came from Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), who was a refugee in Sweden, and a friend of Petzäll, and was thus “able to continue his unique neo-Kantian career and dialogue with the logical empiricists”. Cassirer settled down for a time in Uppsala; but with the possibility of a German invasion of Sweden, he left for the US, where he lived until 1945. In this connection, Thomas Mormann discusses the debate in the theory of concepts between Cassirer, Schlick and the Swedish Philosopher Konrad Marc-Wogau (1902-1991), who was Professor of philosophy in Uppsala from 1946 to 1968. The debate between Cassirer, Schlick and Mar-Wogau took place mainly in Theoria with many papers published between 1936 and 1940. Mormann’s article explores the details of this debate, explaining the criticism Marc Wogau devoted to Cassirer’s theory of the formation of concepts, and defending, in the end, Cassirer’s theory. The discussion supports the claim that “Begriffstheorie was a topic where philosophers of quite different orientations met. It exemplifies that once upon a time philosophers, who today are classified as belonging to allegedly quite different traditions, were engaged in discussing similar problems.” (p.179).


Denmark played a foundational role for Logical Empiricism in the Nordic Countries mainly through the work of Jørgen Jørgensen, who started his philosophical career with a break from neo-Kantianism that would have been critically received in Sweden. Jørgensen was important in the diffusion of the style of analytic philosophy and the strict interest in the analysis of scientific languages. He also had a promotional role in organizing the Second Congress for the Unity of Science in Copenaghen in 1936. In the paper, “Jørgen Jørgensen and Logical Positivism” Carl Henrik Koch offers a wide analysis of the work of Jørgensen, showing also the relevant connections between Jørgensen and the members of the Vienna Circle, met in 1930 at the 7th international congress of Philosophy in Oxford. After having been invited by Reichenbach in Berlin to give a lecture, Jørgensen arranged for both Carnap and Neurath to give lectures in Copenagen. He suggested to Carnap the title of Die Logische Sintax der Sprache, a book that Jørgensen reviewed in Erkenntnis.


In the thirties Jørgensen was a full a member of the neopositivistic movement, participating to the organizing committee of the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science and being an associate editor of the Library of Unified Science (with Carnap, Frank and Morris). He had already done a profound work of reformation of the teaching of philosophy at the University of Copenaghen, where wide space was given to the science, including formal tools of logic and mathematics. He opposed Dilthey’s emphatic distinction between natural sciences and human sciences, stressing the similarity of method in both of them: the unity of science is methodological. Given these attitudes, it is easy to understand how Jørgensen’s ideas were welcomed by Neurath, who in 1938 wrote that “Jørgensen emphasises that all the complicated and most important scientific theorizing starts with the experience and language of our daily life, that we also have to test all the theoretical results of all the sciences by means of the same aids. Jøgensen givens in his lectures not only a program of the Unity of Science but also shows this Unity as an actuality”. (p.166)



The Netherlands and Iceland   


The Nordic countries are closely linked by history and, for all of them except Finland also by linguistic connections (and even Finland has Swedish as a minority language). In addition, some other countries bear important similarities to the Nordic countries. The Netherlands, for example, exhibits some similarities in philosophical culture, whose explanation might be of interest. Therefore, also if the anthology of northern countries does not have a space for it, some remarks may complete the landscape. It is reasonable then to devote some attention to the development of the Signific group, one of the main factors that helped to provide some kind of common core with the Nordic countries. A discussion can be found in a paper by Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen (“Significs and the Origin of Analytic Philosophy”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 70, 2009), on which I rely in what follows.


Significs was a circle founded in 1922 by Frederick van Eeden (1860-1932), Jan Brouwer (1881-1966), Gerrit Mannoury (1867-1956) and Jacques van Ginneken (1877-1945). It was composed mainly of mathematicians with strong political interests (in socialist or communist ideas) and philosophical interests in natural language and in psychology. This last aspect is mainly due to the founder Van Eeden, who had contact with William James (1842-1910) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Among those who participated in the Signific group we may mention the mathematician David Van Dantzig (1900-1959) and the journalist Jacob Israël de Haan (1881-1924), a Jewish communist who was assassinated probably for his anti-zionist stance. The connection between the Signific and the Vienna Circles were mainly through Brouwer’s teacher, Gerrit Mannoury, who was in close contact with Neurath and contributed to the forums associated with the Vienna Circle and the Unity of Science movement. Although Mannoury and Brouwer had strong theoretical differences in the philosophy of mathematics, Mannoury accepted Brouwer’s claim of the supremacy of intuitionistic logic in the analysis of natural language, as compared with classical logic (Frege-Peano-Russell). Brouwer himself, as is well known, gave a talk in Vienna that strongly influenced the transition to a new phase of Wittgenstin’s thought. Another link was through Fredrik Waismann (1896-1959), who, together with Otto Neurath, was members of the International Group for the Study of Significs from the 1930s.


Notwithstanding the persecution of communists, most of these authors did not leave the Netherlands and represented an element of continuity in the kind of philosophical culture – with its links with the analysis of language and logic – that is still typically found in Dutch departments of philosophy and in centers like the Association for Logic, Language and Information (FOLLI). Therefore, although not, strictly speaking, “part” of the Nordic countries, the Netherlands evidently represent a historical continuity with the past of Northern Europe, continuity which – as mentioned earlier – was broken in Germany, Poland and southern Europe.


But there is still a gap in the analysis of Nordic Countries presented in the volume here discussed: what about Iceland? It is true, as Manninen and Stadler evidently assume, that there does not appear to have been any very direct or robust connection between Icelandic philosophers and the Vienna Circle. Research reveals mostly negatives, but with some relevant positives, not reported in Manninen and Stadler’s volume.


The University of Iceland was founded in 1911, at which time few Icelandic scholars had philosophical training, although Guðmundur Finnbogason (1873-1944) and Ágúst H. Bjarnason (1875-1952) studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Copenhagen.


Wittgenstein visited Iceland in 1912 with his friend David Pinsent and spent much of the time instructing Pinsent in aspects of what was to become an important part of the Vienna Circle’s philosophy. However, Wittgenstein did not interact with any Icelandic philosophers during his visit, or later, as far as we know.


Philosophy was not taught as a degree subject in Iceland until 1972. Prior to that, philosophy professorsthe first of them being Ágúst H. Bjarnasonwere, for most of the time, in charge of a course in philosophical propaedeutics, following a Norwegian model and therefore with a link to the tradition fostered by Arne Naess.


After the establishment of a B.A. degree program in philosophy at the University of Iceland in 1972 and the assumption of the professorship by the Belgian-educated Páll Skúlason (1945- ) in 1975, the Philosophy Department of the University of Iceland has grown to eight members, with interests and specializations in both Analytic and Continental philosophy, and in the history of philosophy, in a friendly mixture.  


Þorsteinn Gylfason (1942-2005), who from 1972 until his death taught philosophy at the University of Iceland, was an undergraduate at Harvard and later a student of Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) at Oxford. He was personally and philosophically acquainted with Peter Geach (1916-) and Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001)—both students of Wittgenstein—and with Willard van Orman Quine (1908-2000), whose thought was, as is well known, directly influenced by that of Wittgenstein. All of these philosophers paid philosophical visits to Iceland at Þorsteinn’s behest and interacted with Icelandic philosophers. Þorsteinn himself taught and wrote robustly about Wittgenstein.


Mikael M. Karlsson (1943- ), who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Iceland, where he has taught for nearly 40 years was, from early in his career, an admirer of the late Wesley Salmon (1925-2001) and was Salmon’s informal colleague at the University of Pittsburgh. Karlsson has taught and written about certain of Salmon’s ideas. Salmon wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1950 under Hans Reichenbach, who had founded the so-called Berlin Circle, a philosophical group whose orientation was similar to that of its Austrian counterpart; and, in many respects, Salmon continued and developed the work of Reichenbach. This is perhaps a weak, and rather indirect, link with the Vienna Circle, but is not entirely negligible. Mikael M. Karlsson has also been heavily influenced by Quine, both through Quine’s writings and through personal interaction; and he was likewise an advisee of Stephen Toulmin (1922-2009), who was influenced significantly by Wittgenstein while at Cambridge.


With these indirect links, Icelandic philosophy, too, can claim some connection with the philosophers of the Vienna Circle. The particular geographical position of Iceland, between US and Europe, is another element of the connection with analytic philosophy, although the term is not so relevant in countries where there is a continuity of philosophical tradition from the pre-war environment. The term “analytic philosophy” is not a sound category and is typically avoided in the Nordic countries and in the US, where the tradition stemming from the Vienna Circle has a strong grounding, although—as Hillary Putnam has remarked—the term may be useful in southern countries or in Central and Eastern Europe, where connections with the tradition were severed after the Second World War. These last remarks bring us to the general background behind the publication of this volume.



The Analytic tradition and the Continental Break


It is well known that World War II had a disastrous impact upon the development European philosophy during the second half of the twentieth century, an impact that has lasted until today. The war destroyed the wonderful net of connections among philosophers and among other academics: the Vienna Circle, the Berlin Circle, Significs, the Peano School, and the Warsaw School interacting on the European Continent, with strong ties also to Great Britain. With these connections largely destroyed by the war, the great debates in the philosophy of logic, language and science were abandoned, and Continental philosophy became heavily pervaded by hermeneutics under the influence of Heidegger, amalgamated with remnants of Marxism and phenomenology.


Many of the best philosophers from Austria, Poland and Germany left Europe during the Nazi period and developed their careers in the United States, where their contribution to the development of American philosophy was enormous (just think of Rudolf Carnap, Kurt Gödel, Carl Hempel, Hans Reichenbach and Alfred Tarski), or alternatively in Great Britain (think of Wittgenstein, Waismann and Popper).


There was a mainstream of European philosophy that was stimulated by the discovery of the new logic and was greatly interested in the development of science. Why did the Nordic countries — in contrast to the southern countries and Central Europe — resist what may be called “deviation” from the mainstream of European philosophy? Why was the analytic tradition that began, bloomed and expanded in pre-war Europe preserved after the war only in the Nordic countries?


The continuity with the analytic tradition in philosophical research and teaching in the Nordic countries is no longer a mystery, given the detailed history of the influential philosophical figures in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark in the post-war period presented in this anthology. Part of the reason for the continuity and robustness of the “Nordic circle” of philosophy is simply the fact that Nordic philosophers did not abandon Europe and kept the links among themselves alive within the Nordic sphere, while central and Southern Europe, deprived of many of their best philosophers, abandoned the neopositivist tradition, and the analytic style connected with it, and probably threw out the baby with the bath water.


The concentration of the present book on the specific relations of the Nordic countries with the Vienna Circle runs the risk of lapsing into an historical survey of old theories and missing the general framework which developed from the lively connections among European philosophical centers. I think there is a way of reading this book not only for the purpose of registering the links with the Vienna Circle, but to better understand the uniqueness of the contemporary Nordic tradition in philosophy as compared with other parts of Europe. The close and direct connections between Vienna Circle and some of the founders of philosophy in the Nordic countries help us to better understand the reasons for the continuity of philosophical tradition that came to link the Nordic countries more closely to American philosophy than to Continental philosophy so-called, although in fact there is nothing more “Continental” than analytic philosophy. The book reveals hidden connections, is full of details and quotations from personal communications and theoretical debates and helps us to understand the absolutely unique situation of philosophy in the Nordic countries after the Second World War, as compared with other parts of Europe. The anthology therefore represent part of a wider history of philosophy in Europe and gives Nordic countries a primacy of continuity of the European philosophical tradition in contrast to the “deviation” of the Continental philosophy (I refer to the thesis of Tugendhat, according to whom analytic philosophy is the proper heir of the great tradition of philosophy since Aristotle). But, due also to the return of the old traditions implanted in the US, the analytic style of philosophy is now coming back to its original home; and it is reassuring to see that not only central Europe and Eastern Europe, but also Southern countries, under the initiative of European Society for Analytic Philosophy, are beginning to recover their connections with the great European tradition, through a series of meetings devoted to fostering analytic philosophy – These are called “Latin Meetings in Analytic Philosophy”. This “Southern circle” recalls the tradition of meetings within the Nordic sphere that played an important role in the past and that have continued, and developed, up to the present day.


It looks as if “Mediterranean” Europe is “recovering” from a long period of philosophical turmoil and is ready to re-build and reinforce its broken connections with the past, following the example of the Nordic countries.


Philip J. Anderson and Dag Blanck (eds.), Norwegians and Swedes in the United States: Friends and Neighbors (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012)

The collection is divided into four distinct sections—Context, Culture, Conflict and Community—each undertaking a thorough examination of the relationships and interactions between the largest immigration populations from Scandinavian to the United States. As the subheadings suggest, a comprehensive study of the relationship between Norwegians and Swedes in the United States cannot be sustained on comparison alone. Indeed, as Donna R. Gabaccia outlines in the very useful foreword to the book, the narrative of this relationship continues to develop new strains due in part to increasing attention to “inter-ethnic perspectives” concerning American immigration history in general and Scandinavian interactions in particular. It is the developing story of Scandinavian “inter-ethnic perspectives” that the collection aims to uncover and narrate and as a whole this aim is successful. As Gabaccia rightly points out, however, the collection downplays the “importance of contention” between the two groups, by choosing to highlight “the Americanization that brought both groups of immigrates closer to each other.”


The first section on context contains two substantial introductory chapters: “Friends and Neighbors? Patterns of Norwegian-Swedish Interaction in the United States” by co-editor Dag Blanck and “Norwegians and Swedes in America: Some Comparisons” by H. Arnold Barton. The opening chapters strive to broadly describe the identities of each group and the patterns of interactions between them. Blanck develops a useful chronology for grappling with the complex issue, dividing recognizable patterns of interaction into three periods. Blanck emphasizes that although there has yet to be a systematic and comprehensive study of the history of the Scandinavians in the United States, certain patterns emerge from the studies that do exist. When division did occur between Norwegian and Swedish immigrants it was along religious lines, more so than national ones. In matters of the heart, however, Norwegians and Swedes found each other the most desirable and within the political sphere they were each others’ closest allies. Barton’s comparative study of the two groups is admittedly more speculative in nature, but no less productive in results by focusing on the differences between the groups. Some of Barton’s findings are less surprising than others. That the Norwegians were the more nationalist of the two immigrant groups makes sense in term of Norway’s political development over the nineteenth century ending with its independence in 1905. That Norwegian Americans wrote more novels than Swedes was unexpected. As was the conclusion that Swedish Americans generally outpaced their Scandinavian neighbors in the sciences and technology, the visual arts and business. As Barton states, differences such as those I have pointed out are compelling and open new lines of investigation for further research. How to assess why these differences occurred, however, is not as easy or apparent.


The second section examines the central position that diverse aspects of culture held in the Norwegian and Swedish immigrant experience. The following three chapters stood out: Odd S. Lovoll’s opening chapter, “Preserving a Cultural Heritage Across Boundaries: A Comparative Perspective on Riksföreningen Sverigekontakt and the Nordmanns-Forbundet” skillfully depicts how even as societies were started in both Norway and Sweden to promote home colonization, the two societies mentioned in the title were founded to cope with expanding populations outside the nation state. Lovoll’s explanation of how each society aimed to create a notion of worldwide nationality founded on the promotion of cultural retention within emigrant populations is thought provoking, particularly regarding the underlying conservative politics at its core, a point I would have liked to see more thoroughly developed. In “Freedom, Identity, and Double Perspectives: Representations of the Migrant Experience in the Novels of Vilhelm Moberg and O.E. Rølvaag,” Ingeborg Kongslien illustrates that although each author penned works of historical fiction and not historical accounts per se, due to the authors’ personal experiences the novels nevertheless provide ample and reliable insights into Scandinavian emigration, including those historical, psychological, sociological and existential. James P. Leary’s “Är Du Svenske?”–”Norsk! Norsk!”: Folk Humor and Cultural Difference in Scandinavian America” is the highlight of the section as it is rich with familiar jokes that become compelling examples of the development of cultural difference between Norwegian and Swedish Americans. Leary convincingly maps how “Scandihoovian” humor is more about negotiating relationships between Norwegians and Swedes in the United States than about any actual reference to the homeland. Indeed, he illustrates that what often appears as insider teasing is in reality a way to communicate cultural difference to the wider, and often undiscerning, American public.


The third section of the collection identifies areas where conflict arose between the Scandinavian immigrant groups. The first two chapters examine how Norwegian independence affected relationships between Norwegian and Swedish Americans, while the second two chapters scrutinize the complex divides, factions and mergers within the varying denominations of the Lutheran Church in the United States. Jørn Brøndal’s “We are Norwegians and Swedes Now, Not Scandinavians”: The Impact of Norwegian Independence on Scandinavian American Politics in the Midwest” and Ulf Jonas Björk’s “An End to Brotherhood?” Swedes and Norwegians in America Discuss the 1905 Union Dissolution” are complimentary chapters that detail the ramifications of Norway’s independence on political and social alignments between Norwegian and Swedish Americans. The conclusions of both chapters reflect back to my earlier statement concerning the collection overall: conflicts were limited and those that arose were short-lived. As each chapter suggests, pan-Scandinavianism seems to have post- dated any animosity, albeit at varying levels across time and place. Kurt W. Peterson’s “A Question of Conscious: Minnesota’s Norwegian American Lutherans and the Teaching of Evolution” is the stand out piece of the collection. Peterson targets the imperative position that Norwegian American Lutherans held in early twentieth century debates concerning the status of evolution in public schools and by doing so, places current discourse on the subject into a new, and nuanced historical context. The chapter is filled with—what was for me at least—compelling insight into how Lutheran history supported the separation of church and state, thus ultimately rendering null the scheme to legislate the exclusion of evolution in Minnesota’s public schools and universities. Peterson asserts that, “many Lutherans wanted nothing to do with [legislation] because they wanted nothing to do with the Reformed tradition. Their fight was not simply over the teaching of evolution; for them, the heart of their Lutheran theological heritage was at stake.” Equally compelling is the way in which Peterson details the close ideological ties between Norwegian American Lutheranism and the broader Evangelical movement.


The closing section of the collection is a fitting bookend to a study that casts a wide net as it examines both distinct features and broad trends within the Norwegian and Swedish American community. That this section is the largest reinforces the collection’s unifying intentions. Each chapter features a case study of a specific cluster of Norwegian and Swedish immigrants within the United States. The section is rich with description and details, demographics and specifics, whether investigating the nontraditional immigrant position held by many Norwegian and Swedish engineers and architects, as in Per-Olof Grönberg’s contribution, or chronicling the narrative of an insulated Scandinavian enclave on the shores of Lake Superior, as in Philip J. Anderson’s piece. All but one chapter, however, focuses on Scandinavian communities in the Midwest. The exception being Jennifer Eastman Atterbery’s “Scandinavian’s in the Rocky Mountain West: Pragmatic and Programmatic.” Atterbery’s very interesting examination of Scandinavian settlements in Montana and LDS Utah (touching only briefly on California) broadens the scope of what is an otherwise very regional-specific section. In fact, the exclusion of the West is one of the shortcomings of the collection as a whole and I would have liked the same rigorous scholarship that pervades the collection applied to Norwegian and Swedish communities in California, Oregon and Washington, or for that matter, to those in New York and the East. One of the most outstanding features in this section is the way in which personal narrative and family history interjects into large-scale and oftentimes characterless demographic statistics. In more than one instance, particularly in Byron J. Nordstrom’s “Norwegians and Swedes in Willmar, Minnesota, in the Early Twentieth Century,” general and sweeping statistical information is transformed from the tedious to the compelling by granting the dates, numbers, and anonymous names on the page, a narrative. By fleshing out both the communities under study and particular individuals within those communities, the closing section is a fitting end to what is a comprehensive, informative and insightful study of Norwegians and Swedes in the United States. The information presented in this study will most certainly fuel and encourage subsequent research and publication in the field.