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Institutional change in a democratic society (completed)

How is modern society constituted? Sociological theory is characterized by a 'top-down' perspective or of individual characteristics. This project will choose an alternative approach, from the bottom up, to describe how large social institutions hang together.

For more information visit the project's Norwegian pages

About the project

Three areas are chosen to focus upon:

  1. Mechanisms and patterns of institutional change
  2. A limited set of institutions
  3. Democracy as constitutive of processes in modern society.

Empirically, the emphasis of the research is on the society of the Scandinavian type. Scandinavian societies have a government that is strong and liberal at a time, making social life differs from the basic features of the international literature. This requires extensive comparative perspectives.


The project is divided into three main parts:

Part A clarifies normative theory of democracy and theory of institutional change. A major inspiration for democratic theory is John Rawls' normative theory which addresses specific institutions, such as public organs, employment and welfare. The understanding of institutional change is developed in the light of theories of variations in capitalism and welfare regimes.

Part B goes into the changes in public life. One line points towards to general problems related to freedom of expression and political communication, rationality grounds and standards for political debate. Another points towards effects of new social media, both in mobilizing people to participate in democratic society and in the flow of information in society.

Part C addresses institutional change at work and in the welfare state, and what characterizes Scandinavia, compared with Continental Europe and the Anglo-American world. Typologies that separate these forms are well known, but are predominantly static. The project will better understand the dynamics, and thus what creates stability and change in the Nordic combination of work and welfare.

The project builds on extensive empirical research at all three collaborative institutions.


The project is a collaboration between the Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Institute for Social Research, and Fafo

Funding scheme

The total grant award was for NOK 2 874 000.

Project period

October 2014 - December 2017

Published Nov. 1, 2012 2:05 PM - Last modified Oct. 25, 2019 9:23 AM


Visiting address

Moltke Moes street 31
Harriet Holters building
2nd floor

Postal address

P.O. Box 1096 Blindern
0317 Oslo

Phone og e-mail

22 85 52 57 (phone)


Detailed list of participants