Rawls in the Nordic Countries

What has been the impact of John Rawls’s work in the Nordic countries? This paper argues that in spite of difficult preconditions, the normative contract theory of Rawls has influenced the shape of government and welfare regimes. It is suggested that the relevance and impact of Rawlsian theory to the Nordic countries will increase with the process of Europeanisation.

ARENA Working Paper 15/2002 (html)

Andreas Føllesdal

This paper discusses the significance of philosopher John Rawls to the Nordic polities; it is argued here that the impact of Rawls’s work in the Nordic countries has been wider than expected. Section 1 identifies some legal, political, and cultural features that would lead us to expect little interest in Rawls’s work: Scandinavian Legal Realism, the Social Democratic Welfare state regimes, and pervasive ethnic and cultural homogeneity. Section 2 gives an overview of the reception of Rawls’s work, both in the academy and in public fora, on the basis of extensive but not exhaustive searches. Section 3 offers some conclusions and speculates that Rawlsian contributions – and political philosophy in general – will increase, largely due to Europeanisation. Appendix 1 provides bibliographical information about first translations and presentations of Rawls’s work starting with the 1955 article ‘Two Concepts of Rules’. Appendix 2 lists appeals to Rawls’s work in the academy and the public sphere, ranging from the substantive principles of Justice as Fairness stated in 1971 through the Law of Peoples (1999). Neither appendix claims to give exhaustive accounts.

Tags: normative political theory, welfare state, minorities
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM