Globalisation and increased migration to and within Europe have led to a growth in nationalisms and anti-equality, anti-diversity and anti-human-rights agendas inside and outside the EU (Banting and Kymlicka 2006; Rydgren 2012b; Wodak et al. 2012). Migration from non-Western countries has changed the social and political landscape in the Nordic countries. Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have a democratic tradition of including peasants, workers and women in politics and society (Bergqvist et al. 1999). With their universal welfare states and strong egalitarian traditions, these countries are often included among the most equal societies in international rankings, particularly by class and gender.
Nordic welfare states have been successful in economic terms, and the basic components of extended welfare policies and redistribution are today supported by mainstream political projects. Since the 1970s, the countries have developed extended gender equality policies which are supported by the political left and the right. Social equality, democracy and gender equality have today become crucial elements in the Nordic sense of national belonging. Yet there are serious problems in relation to accommodating ethno-cultural and religious diversity and including immigrant minorities as equal citizens (Brochmann and Hagelund 2010).
Multicultural policies for accommodating ‘complex diversity’ point to social and political contexts in which diversity has become a multidimensional and increasingly fluid empirical phenomenon (Kraus 2011). The challenge that multiculturalism presents for social democracy – to renegotiate principles of economic redistribution with recognition of diversity – has entailed intense debates within the Nordic contexts.
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