Accepted paper:

The welfare state, an obstacle to a diverse society?


Ditte Strunge Sass (Mahidol University International College)

Paper short abstract:

If an articulated focus on sameness or ‘equality of worth’ holds the possibility of undermining diversity and emphasising the very differences it set out to eradicate, then to what extent does the welfare state represent a vehicle for the development of neo-nationalism in a Danish context?

Paper long abstract:

A high level of redistribution, and relative economic equality as a result, characterize the Scandinavian Welfare states. This paper investigates whether there is a relationship between an emphasis on 'equality' and a perceived need for a homogeneous culture, i.e. the implications of the welfare state for diversity. The discussion will be rooted in 12 months of fieldwork conducted in connection with my PhD project in a Danish school. An egalitarian educational ideology was observed facilitating a process in which equal opportunities were endeavoured and characteristics of inequality identified. This process, I suggest, relates to an attempt to erase those characteristics that are 'not equal' and subsequently to identify right and wrong ways of being diverse. Gullestad has addressed this conundrum, proposing that 'in many ways the ideal of sameness produces a solution (demands for sameness) to a problem it has itself contributed to creating.' (2002:59). Subsequently, this paper will engage with ideas of nationalism and neo-nationalism, discussing a growing ethnification of national identity in the light of an understanding of equality as intertwined with notions of sameness, and the transmission of nationalism through everyday activities and symbolism. Two understandings of nationalism appeared in my fieldwork; 'inclusionary', as expressed through the often-heard statement 'everyone should really have it like us' and 'exclusionary', advocating that 'you must be like us, or leave the country'. Both of these ultimately emphasise that all citizens, regardless of their ethnic background, must be 'equal', as they must (or at least should) 'have it like us'.

panel P086
Cultural strategies and social conditions of neo-nationalisms in Europe