Accepted paper:

The Norwegian oil fund and the contemporary social contract

Authors:

Knut Myhre (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates how the Norwegian oil fund conducts a custodial finance that is constitutive of the contemporary social contact and that always already entails questions of ethics and politics.

Paper long abstract:

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) - better known as the 'oil fund' - is currently the world's largest sovereign wealth fund. In this paper, I investigate ethnographically the complex relationships that the operation, governance, and use of GPFG involve. In particular, I explore the ways in which GPFG closely connects monetary, fiscal, and labour policies, and how it subjects these to democratic governance and decision-making. I moreover investigate how these relationships entails that the fund conducts a 'custodial finance', where it has a duty of care to act with the Norwegian public in mind, and serves to meet a multitude of social commitments. On this basis, I investigate how GPFG is central to the relationship between the individual and the collective, and to the relationship between past, present, and future generations of Norwegians, and thus plays a constitutive role for the contemporary social contract. In addition, I propose that the fund poses a profoundly anthropological problem, as it renders continued social co-existence a matter of concern and an object of experimental intervention. Finally, the paper aims to shed light on how finance plays a central role for the everyday functioning of the contemporary welfare state, and how questions of ethics and politics are always already immanent to this mode of finance.

panel P011
Renegotiating the social contract: ethnographic explorations of the contemporary welfare state [Anthropology of economy]